Saturday, Parx, Race 11, Scheduled Local Post Time 5:45 pm ET
The G2 Pennsylvania Derby, 1 and 1/8 Miles, Dirt, 3-year-olds
By Douglas Salvatore
Do your best Dr. Evil impersonation because one million dollars is on the line in the Pennsylvania Derby at slots-fueled Parx.
The 2/1 morning line favorite, Will Take Charge, and the 5/2 morning line second choice, Moreno, were separated by only a nose at the finish in the Travers. They were also the second-place and third-place finishers behind Palace Malice in the Jim Dandy, and they probably would have been second and third in the Travers had Palace Malice not stumbled at the start and inexplicably tried to revert to closing-wide tactics.
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It's hard not to respect the chances of those two horses, but since they're on just four weeks' rest, we're going to play against them at short prices today.
The two horses who offer the best value are Transparent and Fury Kapcori, both of whom are a generous 8/1 on the morning line.
Transparent was assigned a speed figure of 111 two starts back and 110 three starts back. However, he simply didn't fire at all in the Travers Stakes. It's worth nothing that Transparent gets first-time lasix today, and his trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, has a trainer rating of 100 with horses receiving first-time lasix. McLaughlin also has an outstanding 98 trainer rating with horses making their third start off of a layoff.
Fury Kapcori was assigned a spectacular 109 speed figure in the final start of his two-year-old season, when he finished a brave second to the Todd Pletcher-trained Violence in the Grade 1 Cash Call Futurity. That was an especially outstanding performance because he survived a very hot and contested early pace and defeated pace rival Oxbow, who faded to fourth.
Fury Kapcori has yet to find that type of form in his two starts as a three-year-old, but the first came at just six furlongs and off of a 229-day layoff. He was assigned a 105 speed figure at Del Mar in his most recent start. This son of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow, out of a Go For Gin mare, certainly has the pedigree to handle the stretch-out to nine furlongs. He merits strong consideration in this his third start off of a layoff. Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has an excellent 95 trainer rating with horses switching from synthetic to dirt.
Betting Strategy: Exacta Box of Transparent and Fury Kapcori.
Saturday, Belmont, Race 9, Scheduled Local Post Time 5:17pm ET
The G2 Gallant Bloom, 6.5 Furlongs, Dirt, FIllies and Mares, 3-and-up
By Douglas Salvatore
The 2/1 morning line favorite is the red-hot Dance To Bristol, an admirably consistent four-year-old filly who has won seven races in a row. Dance To Bristol has also finished first or second in each of her last twelve starts. Her main opposition comes from a pair of brilliant four-year-old fillies who both have wildcard looks and enter this race off of long layoffs.
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It's hard not to have a great deal of respect for Dance to Bristol. However, today is the day when you must look to oppose her. Dance to Bristol has never run a speed figure faster than 105, and now she's drawn on the far outside and is conceding between four and eight pounds of weight to her rivals.
The toughest decision in this race is not whether you should oppose Dance to Bristol. Rather, it is whom you oppose her with. The undefeated Cluster of Stars is the speed of the speed and draws a rail post position on a track that has been pretty inside-speed friendly so far this meet. Cluster of Stars ran a dazzling 123 speed figure two starts back, and a repeat of that performance will certainly be good enough to win. However, the 161-day layoff is a genuine concern, especially because trainer Steve Asmussen has a much better trainer rating overall than he does with layoffs.
The brilliant filly Dance Card is another who has an obvious wildcard look. She's won four straight races, including a Grade 1 in her most recent start: when she captured the Gazelle despite drifting out badly through the stretch. In her seven and a half length stakes victory two starts back, she ran a 113 speed figure despite drifting out extremely wide through the stretch. Since then, she has had chips removed from her ankle. There is no telling how she performs now in her first start off of a 301-day layoff.
Holiday Soiree is the other logical contender. She's less of a wildcard, but doesn't have the dynamic level of talent of a sound Cluster of Stars or a sound Dance Card. Holiday Soiree made her first start for the Todd Pletcher barn last time out, and responded with a dominant victory at 2/1 odds in the Shine Again. She was assigned a 106 speed figure, a number that makes her very competitive with Dance To Bristol.
Betting Strategy: Exacta Box of Cluster of Stars, Dance Card, and Holiday Soiree.