The pace of this race is a little “muddy” with the lack of true pacesetting (E RunStyle) type horses, and yet the Contention has the “Sun” rating paired with the higher 58 SpeedRate. Class is playing a role in the position of the horses on the Plot with both #2 DR JACK and #6 PRIORITIZATION dropping from the higher level allowance races to run here at the claiming level. Both horses have been able to race and win on the lead; tactically along with the Quad I Plot placement could see that approach in this race with their riders utilizing their class up front to compete. This class change could be just what they need to find the win this meet; however, they still hold some overall concerns and the added contentious race dynamic to create a challenge.
#5 BIG THORN plays a role in today’s SpeedRate positioned above the par line. He is another that could be looking to show early speed in this race, as he will stretch back out in distance from the sprint race on February 27 and is shown clear to the first call in Quad I. #4 ALEX JOON has some tactical speed in his own right and is shown as a Standard Square stalking in Quad I/II as he makes the shift in class coming back today off the layoff. His current form cycle is less positive with the recent 56-day layoff line and gaps in works — especially, when combined with the Surface/Distance Plot where he is downgraded to a Circle.
#1 WHAT A COUNTRY could pick up the slack and sit first run on that Quad I/II group. His form is on the positive side as he finds class relief to run in this spot making his second start of the cycle. His OptixFIG have been consistent throughout his career and stack up on today’s OptixFIGRANGE/OFR. He projects to hold his form this afternoon, if not even take a step forward given the conditioning and potential trip. The February 19 Optional Claiming race so far has been productive, with two of the four as next-out winners and the other two holding their OptixFIG from that race into their next, both finishing fourth respectively.
#3 LAST MARTINI has the challenge with that deep closing trip and with the Plot picking up his two races from Remington Park last year, two effort and speed figures he has yet to translate elsewhere. #7 ALTERED projects to move forward today as he stretches back out in distance. That said, he still sits below this level and as a horse that typically races himself into shape, he could still be a race out. He is one to follow at the upcoming Horseshoe Indianapolis (formerly called Indiana Grand) meet that starts next month.
The warmup Plot in Race 6 is good preparation dealing with another “muddy” race shape, despite the “Green” PlotFit. In this event, there are no confirmed front running E or EP RunStyle horses, which makes the Quad I “Fire” Contention all the more interesting. While the Contention for this race is higher, with the Fire vs Sun in Race 6, the SpeedRate here is lower. That contrast can be seen visually comparing the two Plots with all of the runners below the Par Line for Race 8. Unlike a potential run from off the pace in Race 6, the lower SpeedRate for Race 8 makes things difficult for the lone Quad IV, C RunStyle, #1 IMPULSUS, one that lacks finish (Circle) in relationship to the others in this race. In addition, she sits below the OFR both on speed (OptixFIG) and class with the C OptixGRADE and DROP? Projection in the Past 3 Runlines.
The two Brad Cox fillies, #2 COM’ ON SWEET LUV and #7 ICY STARE DOWN, stand out visually as the two Large Square in that bunched-up group on the Plot. Of the two, Icy Stare Down, holds the class edge and local experience. She will return to make her third start of the meet and second start off the layoff coming back off the show finish (B- OptixGRADE) and TRAFFIC trip on February 26. She will be reunited with Florent Geroux, the rider aboard in her first two starts; Geroux was not present at Oaklawn Park that afternoon as he was riding the Saudi Cup (G1) aboard Mandaloun for trainer Brad Cox.
Com’ On Sweet Luv has the DROP? Projection coming into this race as she ships in from a similar conditioned race last month at the Fair Grounds. She has also been racing up close to slower early paces, as noted with the OptixSHAPE and the S (Slow) to VS (Very Slow) in the O4S — the opening half mile. Those softer early paces could have her flattered on the Plot in terms of finishing ability, especially if she is pressed early and forced to run faster than she is used to in the early stages of the race.
Those softer early race shapes carry to #4 PIPELINE GIRL as she returns from the common race with Com’ On Sweet Luv on February 26 at the Fair Grounds. Pipeline Girl recorded a new top 91 OptixFIG in her first start back in 105 days, tracking the eventual pacesetting winner through a slow opening half-mile (S O4S) and doing her best to hold place. As far as pace, she does not have any pace advantages here as a Quad I/II Circle and still must show she can repeat that return effort at this level and on this track.
Steve Asmussen will also be represented by a pair in this race with #5 BENEDICT CANYON and #6 PARLANCE, both fillies shown in a similar PLOT position as Quad I Circles. In contrast to Com’ On Sweet Luv, both of these fillies have been keeping pace in faster early race shapes (O4S) and that is playing a role here in their Circle on the Plot. Without much between them on the Plot, the case can be made for both as long as some compensation is made on the board.
#3 STANLEY MARKET also finds herself in the Quad I scramble lacking any advantages of that first flight as the Largest Circle in the group. She recorded a new top, the 90 OptixFIG, for the restricted claiming win last month. That figure could see the public gravitate in her direction, ignoring the factors of class, pace, and form cycle that could have her peaked for that win last month. She will step up in class today off that win — a big shift in terms of class and purse running here for $106k compared to the $32k purse on February 11.