Analysis & Selections By: Dean Keppler @Keppskorner
BEST BET: 7-Pray For Me Ray (Race #9)
Race #1: 6-Donner Lake is one of two Michael McCarthy-trained colts in Sunday’s closing day opener. This 4-year-old returns off a 7-month freshening and is back on grass where he showed some potential last summer. He’s been working smartly in the a.m. and attracts top rider. 9-Queen’s Code is the one to beat in here after just missing off a year layoff and earning the field’s best last-out grass Beyer (76). If he can avoid a regression off that game try, he should be tough right back for trainer Carla Gaines. The other McCarthy colt 2-Fore Flag comes off a career best grass Beyer behind next-out winner Talklessworkmore and should appreciate the cut back in distance.
Race #2: Unlike several of the colts and geldings lined up in here 3-Bag’s Gold is lightly raced and potentially still has room for further improvement. The 3-year-old’s May 28 effort was solid after racing wide for most of the trip and closing well to be third. He makes the all-important 3rd career start today; stretches out to a mile and goes 2nd time Lasix with improving Beyer numbers. 6-Poseidon’s Kid finished 2nd but was DQ’d to fourth after drifting out in the stretch when trying the mile distance for the first time. The 4-year-old gelding has run back-to-back (66) Beyer speed figures which is par for this Maiden $50k claiming level. He has speed and gets in light again with 10 lb. bug onboard. 1-Hotride Rod has not had the greatest of starts in last two 3rd place efforts but shows an improving Beyer pattern and could be a factor once again with an alert break from the rail.
Race #3: The improving 3-Queen Ofthe Temple adds blinkers today and drops out of the G3 Santa Barbara where she finished an even third. The 4-year-old filly was a sharp winner at this trip two-back and should be tough on the class drop. 7-Kuora (Per) comes off a sharp win against lesser and goes first off the claim today for trainer Doug O’Neill. This barn has above average numbers with new acquisitions and this 6-year-old mare is 2 for 3 at the distance. 5-Ever Smart comes off a career best Beyer (80) and has run consistently well at this class level.
Race #4: 1-Indict the Tiger showed brief speed before tiring on June 4 while attracting decent tote support that afternoon. He has since returned to work sharply with a “best of 24” 3-furlong blowout June 13. Trainer Luis Mendez is a strong 5 for 18 (28%) the past 4 years with 2nd time starters sprinting on dirt. Perhaps there’s more talent here than this colt revealed in debut. 6-Hacking It Up is by multiple G1 winner Nyquist and comes in with some decent works for barn that’s had two debut winners from last six starts. 5-Krixus Flash is on the improve and makes the all-important 3rd career start this afternoon.
Race #5: Multiple stakes winner 5-Neige Blanche is 0 for 7 at this distance but is an 8-time overall winner from 18 career starts and is simply the class of this field. The 5-year-old mare comes off a strong win in the G3 Santa Barbara where she earned a career and field’s best (92) Beyer speed figure. 6-Scarabea makes his Southern California unveiling after a non-threatening dull performance over the sloppy main track at Churchill in an allowance 1x. The 4-year-old returns to grass today (her preferred surface) where she finished 4th to multiple G1 winner Regal Glory in the G1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland two-back. It should be noted, however, that she’s still winless on turf with her lone victory coming on synthetic. 3-Freedom Lass has won two straight routing on turf but gets huge class test this afternoon for trainer Bill Spawr. The 5-year-old mare should be forwardly placed, however, if not on the lead in here.
Race #6: A quick reminder that the mandatory Rainbow 20-cent pick six starts here and it looks like many tickets will begin with a standalone single in 4-Besame Mucho. The 3-year-old gelding has speed and owns the field’s best last two main track Beyer speed figures (69,66). If he can repeat his May 29 runner-up finish, he’ll be tough to deny. A small case can be made that 3-Awkward Morning is slowly on the improve for Mullins who has 2 wins and 2 seconds from 8 starts with Maiden Claiming runners going route to sprint. 8-Arrest goes turf to dirt; takes a sizable class plunge today and gets in light with apprentice Emily Ellingwood taking over the mount. This young rider has quietly had a strong meet making the best of her limited opportunities.
Race #7: 7-Modus Operandi (Ire) heads west for trainer Brendan Walsh who has done an excellent job of placing his horses in winning spots the last several months. This 4-year-old gelding should relish today’s distance and he’ll be motoring home late. Upset chance. Trainer Phil D’Amato has had previous success in this G3 event and veteran 8-year-old 8-Red King has as well sporting a win and two thirds in three previous attempts. The 8-time winner comes off a sharp runner-up finish May 22; has trained well since then and looms a top threat in here. 3-Avenue moves up in class but has run some competitive grass figures that fit well here and makes 3rd start off the bench for trainer Michael McCarthy.
Race #8: The lightly raced 4-Fast Buck moves up seeking 3rd straight win after finding the switch to turf much to his liking. The gelding defeated next-out winner Johnny Podres in most recent start and looks like the dominant speed in here again this afternoon. 12-Goliad has not been out in 11 months but picks up Hernandez today who opts off Southern Horse who he’s ridden in last 4 starts. This 5-year-old gelding has proven he can run well fresh and Mandella excels with these layoff types. 5-Southern Horse has back-to-back wins but with the opposite running style as Fast Buck. He’ll be closing from off the pace again with his typical strong late stretch punch.
Race #9: 7-Pray for Me Ray looks ready to win in second career start after a strong debut prep on grass. He was off slowly; rallied nicely while very wide in the lane and was never actually scrubbed upon by Smith for any serious run. The 4-year-old gelding galloped out 2 lengths in front of the race winner and has since returned to drill 4-furlongs in an eye-catching “best of 56” :47 handily. In addition, the May 8th event has turned into a “key” race with three next-out winners. A twice beaten favorite in last pair 9-Hero Status cuts back to 6 furlongs and makes the all-important 3rd career start today for trainer Mark Glatt. He own’s the field’s best last out Beyer (82) finishing behind G3 stakes winner Hopper and in front of next-out winner Pioneering Papa. 10-Famous Star has speed; adds blinkers today; and is nicely drawn outside for Sadler.
Race #10: 9-After Midnight has good early zip; is drawn outside and returns to the races off a decent worktab for a barn that has excelled recently with lengthy layoff types. Trainer Carla Gaines has 3 wins and 1 second from her last 4 starters that have come off 373-, 261-, 287- and 335-days’ rest. An impressive record for sure. 2-Del Mar Drama looks for back-to-back wins this afternoon after a dominating score May 27 where she drew off late to win by nearly 4 lengths. She earned the field’s best last-out grass Beyer that afternoon (82) and has returned to work well in the a.m. indicating she remains in razor sharp form. 7-Feathers has been sidelined since November 2021 but has worked well for today’s turf return try and trainer Ruben Alvarado is a decent 3 for 11 (27%) with a $4.63 ROI the past year with new barn acquisitions returning off >180 days.
Race #11: The 34th race on the three-day race card ends with the very competitive Grade 3 American Stakes. 3-Vanzzy has run two excellent races since coming off the mini-freshening with Beyers of 93 and 96 and now makes first start for trainer Dan Blacker replacing Baltas. This 5-year-old is a multiple winner at the distance and might find himself in a garden spot stalking the pace just off the leaders. 1-Ecrivain (Fr) had no chance from post 14 in most recent effort at Golden Gate but was a solid beaten favorite 3rd two-back earning a (93) Beyer speed figure when making his first start stateside. He moves all the way inside today; makes 3rd start off the layoff and projects to work out a favorable ground-saving journey. 6-Kentucky Pharoah heads west for this and will take them as far as he can on the front-end. He should be much tighter today making 2nd start off the layoff. The major caveat, however, is that this 4-year-old has yet proven he belongs at this class level. Nonetheless, he’s a two-time winner at the distance and that merits some respect.