Friday Races Have a Little Bit of Everything

As always I am focusing on longshots and value and who might sneak into the exotics at a big price. So let's cut right to chase.

JUVENILE FILLIES TURF - It's going to take a big effort to knock off both Aidan O'Brien fillies, especially Happily, as well as Euros Juliet Capulet and longshot Madeline, and Chad Brown's pair of Rushing Fall and Significant Form. This is a thick wall of talent for the longshots to penetrate. So while it's reaching to look for some monster price, there appears to be a couple of fillies who might offer good value.

I am intrigued by CAPLA TEMPTRESS, now in the hands of Bill Mott, which will cut down on her price. At 6-1 I can't consider her a longshot selection. She was not highly regarded early on in her career, running in a pair on novice races, one on the all-weather track and one on grass, and going off at 20-1 in her career debut. After winning both races, trainer Marco Botti took a big step forward and ran her in the group 3 Solario Stakes, run over seven furlongs at Newmarket. She ran a good race to finish third, a length behind runner-up Juliet Capulet, who came back to win the group 2 Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket.

Sent to America by owner Team Valor, she went up to Woodbine and captured the grade 1 Natalma Stakes with a big late run going a mile. She's been working well on the grass at Belmont and looks like she might be sitting on another big race.

Speaking of Woodbine, you have to give a shot to Dixie Moon, who beats the boys in the Cup and Saucer Stakes, especially at 20-1. But the daughter of Curlin is going to have to overcome the 12-post. She does have early speed and should use that get right into the hunt, but it's going to be tough to win this race on or pressing the pace with all the powerful closers in the field.

I am also taking a shot with the second and third-place finishers of the Miss Grillo Stakes, BEST PERFORMANCE and ORBOLUTION, the latter one of only three Todd Pletcher horses in the Breeders' Cup, all of them 2-year-old outsiders.

Best Performance and Orbolution may very well have cost themselves the Miss Grillo with tardy breaks from the outside, which can be tricky breaking from the chute on the turn. Both fillies were then caught behind a slow pace  of :49 1/5 and 1:13 3/5, but both closed fast and should improve with a more honest pace to run at.

Obolution, a daughter of Orb had to be used a bit early after get squeezed at the start, which may have cost her in the end. She is well seasoned, having already made five starts, three of them at 1 1/16 miles. The race I really liked was her victory in the P.G. Johnson Stakes, in which she was able to open up a clear lead at the eighth pole and kept drawing off to win by almost five lengths, albeit against lesser competition. She has been sharp in her grass works since the Miss Grillo and could offer value at 20-1 if she can get a good pace this time.

Best Performance is trying to break a string of four consecutive second-place finishes, all in stakes, the last two on the grass. She's been getting better the farther she goes and you had to be impressed with her turn of foot on the far turn in the Miss Grillo, in which she had to start her move a long way out behind that slow pace and was able to sustain it all the way to the wire. She was forced to circle the field, losing a great deal of ground by going six-wide at the top of the stretch and simply was outrun by SIGNIFICANT FORM, who had been closer to the slow pace. She drew the rail and could work out a ground-saving trip this time. Orbolution also put in a good run just inside her and the two battled down the stretch in pursuit of Significant Form, with Best Performance getting the better of Orbolution and finishing a length behind Significant Form. 

How Significant Form is listed at 8-1 and her stablemate Rushing Fall is 7-2, breaking from post 11, escapes me. Although Rushing Fall looks special and possesses a monster closing kick, I feel these two fillies are closer together than that. 

I loved the performances of all three fillies and can see improvement from each one. I don't know if they can beat the major players in here, but I am expecting big efforts from them, especially if Best Performance and Orbolution can get a good break and a clean trip, preferably saving ground this time.

I will try to land a big price by boxing Capla Temptress, Best Performance, Orbolution, and Significant Form in the exacta and also boxing each one in the exacta with Happily and Rushing Fall. If I were going to bet straight win I would go with the bigger odds and play Best Performance at 12-1 and 20-1. A win and place bet could also prove profitable.

DIRT MILE - They say this is a great betting race. But not having a clue who I like is not considered a great betting race. This race is just too wide open. I have always been a huge fan of Practical Joke, even around two turns, where he nearly pulled off the Haskell and Blue Grass and ran an excellent race when fifth in the Kentucky Derby. I'm just not crazy about the 10 post. Awesome Slew is another one-turn specialist and I don't know if he will have that same big kick in the stretch going two turns. Most of the others look very logical and it's hard separating Mor Spirit, Sharp Azteca, Accelerate, Cupid, and even Battle of Midway. Frankly, I don't see anyone outrunning Sharp Azteca early and he looks like the logical pacesetter...who has a tendency to keep going. If he wires this field it certainly will not surprise me at all.

Practical Joke will most likely have to take back from the 10-post with tactical speed horses Battle of Midway and Accelerate directly inside him. He will then need some pace pressure on Sharp Azteca and a contentious battle developing somewhere in the race.

So, at 6-1 and 12-1, I will hope for that scenario and go with PRACTICAL JOKE and AWESOME SLEW and hope there is a pace meltdown and that they can duplicate their one-turn performances going two turns.

JUVENILE TURF - Again fearing the Europeans, there are at least several American horses who could be live at least at a decent price, starting with CATHOLIC BOY, who has looked really good at Del Mar in the mornings and seems to have settled in here beautifully. I'll take the 12-1 morning line odds. The undefeated colt has a big stretch kick and has looked strong in both his victories, including the With Anticipation Stakes. The third-place finisher in the With Anticipation, UNTAMED DOMAIN, came back to win the Summer Stakes at Woodbine and he is also a colt on the upswing for Graham Motion. The fact that he is by Motion's Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom makes him an excellent story and moves him up in my mind.

Two other horses who have caught my eye are Hemp Hemp Hooray and Snapper Sinclair. Both will be up near pace, but both drew outside posts in 12 and 11, respectively. So they may have to be used to get position. Chad Brown has a big shot with Pilgrim Stakes runner-up Voting Control and I don't see him as an 8-1 shot.

Of the Euros I am looking for a big effort from JAMES GARFIELD, who has been sprinting, but is bred to go a distance. He showed a good closing kick winning the group 2 Mill Reef Stakes last time out. Mendelssohn looked to be headed to the Juvenile, being a half-brother to Beholder, but they elected to run him on the grass and his Dewhurst Stakes conqueror U S Navy Flag on the dirt. I am also surprised to see him at 8-1 and the Godolphin colt Masar favored at 9-2. I thought they would closer in odds. All the Euros look dangerous, but James Garfield and U S Navy Flag have never been two turns, so I'll look. Bottom line is this race looks like a grab bag to me. Check the odds board and look for the big overlays, of which there will e plenty.

But for now I will go with win bets on Catholic Boy and Untamed Domain and keep the bankroll to a minimum. Got to save some money for Saturday.

DISTAFF - If you're looking for a longshot, you've come to the wrong place. I have been convinced all year that this is Stellar Wind's time in her third try. How she will handle the three-month layoff I have no idea. And who knows how Forever Unbridled will do off a two-month layoff and having had only two starts all year. Both of them are exceptional fillies. So I am only going by what I have seen in the morning, and ELATE has taken my breath away with her overall appearance and demeanor and her work over the track. I can still see her busting her way through a narrow opening in the Beldame and exploding through the final furlong to win in a romp. Who knows how good she is now? There is no way she'll be a price, but this is not a race for longshots. For what it's worth, Champagne Room has looked sensational in her works and has matured from last year into a big powerful-moving filly. I don't know if she can compete with this bunch, but on appearance and works alone I have to at least mention her. She should be a key horse in that she looks to be the only filly who can possibly run with Paradise Woods early unless Stellar Wind is so sharp from being out so long. But her game is stalking.

Throw in Paradise Woods with her dangerous speed and Abel Tasman, who fires every time; you just never know when in the race and from where. Spinster winner Romantic Vision and Mopotism round out this extremely talented and competitive field.  But based on what I've seen in the morning I can't get past Elate.

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