Far from the feature race on the card, though a competitive claiming event for older seasoned race horses will be contested at 9 furlongs. The distance is notable here as there are not many races run at this distance throughout the meet and can often favor runners from off the pace. Looking at OptixPLOT2020 there is a “Sun” Contention paired with a higher 50 SpeedRate with more than half of the field positioned to the left of the y-axis. This scenario on its own can also assist runners from off the pace and worth giving a look to #1 EXEMPLAR and #5 COUNTY COURT.
EXEMPLAR has some upside following his most recent races this meet. He turned in a solid effort coming off the bench to make his meet debut on February 1 with the WIDE trip and making up ground (against the flow) after tracking a slow early pace. There figured to be some regression coming back just three weeks later and did not help running at the higher condition on February 22. Capable to rebound with some rest, he returned on March 27; however, he did not have much of any chance to compete in that race following a slow start (SLOG), again chasing a very slow early pace, and in a race shape with little change in running order from start to finish with #2 HARDLY A SECRET benefiting with a perfect trip. With a different pace scenario, one with a faster and more contentious early pace, EXEMPLAR has the ability to compete in this spot.
COUNTY COURT will make his second start of the meet and capable to rebound from that March 13 event. Perhaps a little “rusty” off the bench and 112-day layoff, he hesitated at the start (SLOG) and after being distanced early on, raced on hold from the back of the pack with minimal ask from Joe Talamo not asked to compete. The winner of the race won as the “best of the speed” and by open lengths, with the overall race and speed figures for those involved coming back strong for the level. Distance is not any issue for him, and he has run races last season competitive in terms of OptixFIG to compete this afternoon. It is also worth noting Thomas Vance had him entered in a much tougher $50k claiming event last weekend and perhaps scratched for this spot. The barn is still looking for its first win of the meet and could find that here.
RACE 9 – BACHELOR STAKES:
A lot of the conversation for this race starts with #7 EIGHT RINGS, the Baffert shipper coming back off the layoff and cutting back in distance from the Breeders Cup Juvenile (G1). There was really no excuse for him that afternoon in terms of “trip” tracking a moderate pace before losing ground. With that said, there was the chance of some regression from his front running LONE win in the American Pharoah (G1). He dominated that event earning a B+ OptixGRADE for the win, however, did show some signs of a distance limitation that afternoon and flipped leads late (NO_LEAD) while clear in the final furlong. That is notable as he does cut back to a sprint and could present himself as one that does his best work around one turn. He is shown on OptixPLOT positioned in Quad I and with the change in “shapes” with Standard representing recency (the NO_FINISH in the BC Juvenile) and Square on Surface/Distance for his debut win last summer at Del Mar earning a 96 OptixFIG, his highest of the series to date.
#1 LITTLE MENACE and #3 ECHO TOWN both will go out for Steve Asmussen and have contender status in their own right. ECHO TOWN expects to get more attention of the pair and rightfully so based on his three races to date and strong allowance win last month, and speed figure earned in the process; and even off his show finish back in February with a less than ideal trip (TACTIC-) which could have cost him a better finishing position that day. This will be a much stiffer test than the race last month, and he will have to show his class pairing up efforts to compete here. He is shown on OptixPLOT in that Quad II/IV position and while Contention is rated “Fire” Santana will still be required to find the right trip this afternoon.
LITTLE MENACE could sneak away at a price with his stablemate in the field and with the place finish last out in the Gazebo with the “less flashy” speed figure sitting on top of the PPs. Overall he did not have the most ideal trip in the Gazebo, and still turned in a quality effort behind the front running winner #9 LONG WEEKEND. He will find a rider change here with Elliot taking over. The change from the last race makes sense, and worth noting Elliot has had some live mounts for the barn this meet. In terms of trip he looks capable to get the right trip tracking as a Square from Quad I/II looking to get first run sitting behind that first flight of rivals including LONG WEEKEND and EIGHT RINGS, and even #4 GINOBILI looks to be ridden more assertively here and capable to mix it up on the lead.