#4 ABDAN figures as the horse to beat in this race and projects to be a heavy favorite for Diodoro. While his speed figures stack up strongly in this group, his current form will be assessed critically given that short price. He moves up in today’s group with the class drop, though the drop does come with reservations following a voided claim and returning today from an 82-day layoff. He will require a top effort to win and will need that class edge to carry as he projects to take pace pressure from #7 SUGGESTED as shown on OptixPLOT below. #5 MO HEAT sits right with that pair as a Quad I Square and offers value of the set. Holthus has been sending in live runners and looks well meant in second start off the claim after being protected at the Special Weight condition on closing week at Indiana Grand. #1 MOUNTAIN TIME has a lot of improving to do to compete in this race though capable of stepping forward making his second start off the claim, a key angle for Contreras. He has shown progression race to race, and while he has the habit of breaking slow (SLOG) and is something he will have to improve on, the off tracks in those first two starts could potentially be a factor.
#6 PRIORITIZATION could hold a sneaky pace advantage in today’s race shape. As we head into the second week of the meeting, it is worth looking at the results of the first week where Squares along with horses on or near the lead at the first call in the route races held an advantage. That trip looks favorable for Prioritization as a Quad III Square paired with the Snowflake Contention. His OptixFIG stack up in RANGE and the form from his maiden win back in October at Hawthorne has held up with three next-out winners. Becker has already picked up a win this meet and has sent out horses that have performed in a smaller opening-week sample.
#9 OPTIMUS KAT has similar pace advantages (Standard Quad I Square) and can be upgraded as he could be overlooked in this event. His maiden win came over this course back in March and off a similar layoff and form cycle pattern. Value should side with Optimus Kat over #4 LEADING WEST and #5 OUTLIER all holding a similar position on the Plot. Leading West is capable here though expect him to be favored without holding any strong edge over others in this field. Similar public attention could side with Outlier going out for the live Cash barn. Similar to Leading West, Outlier is capable in this spot though does not hold a strong edge and in terms of his current form cycle. There could be some concerns holding form today as he is asked to wheel back in two weeks coming off the Nov. 25 win at Churchill Downs finding a change in distance stretching back out around two turns.
#7 JAY VEE BEE is the proven type and connections show some positive intent returning to Oaklawn with some conditioning on the second start off the layoff. He has competitive races (B OptixGRADE) at this starter allowance condition from 2020 that stack up in terms of class and speed. Trip will be key with his off-the-pace PC Run Style for this course profile and Snowflake Contention. He is upgraded as one of the Squares on the Plot and the 40 SpeedRate could assist his run especially with Geroux taking over as he has been one of the leading riders to start the meet and is a live call for Van Berg.