Good Samaritan – Lightly raced son of Harlan’s Holiday could be something special. Loved the turn of foot he showed when winning the Grade 2 Summer Stakes at Woodbine. While he lacks seasoning, talent is there.
Ticonderoga – From a numbers standpoint, he is going to have to improve but I don’t think we have truly seen the best of the son of Tapit. Needs to mature a bit as he has raced green in two of three of his races. If Brown can get his head into the race, he is a logical contender.
Big Score –While I prefer the east coast sophomores, I can’t deny what the offspring of Mr. Big did when galloping away from the field in the Zuma Beach on the Santa Anita turf course. Numbers show an upward trajectory and he may be the local that has the best shot.
Lancaster Bomber – One of two that I like from Aiden O’Brien’s barn. While he has found the winner’s circle only once in five starts, he did run a good second to the top class Churchill last time out in a Group 1 at Newmarket. Does not care for a track with yielding turf as his two worst performances came on yielding ground. The turf will certainly be firm on Friday and he could step up with the best run of his career.
Intelligence Cross – I actually prefer this son of War Front opposed to his stablemate. He has never run beyond six furlongs but the pedigree says with distance, he will only get better. He has finished in the exacta in four of six career starts and I have a feeling this is the one O’Brien thinks can get the job done.
Dortmund – Finally gets out of the shadow of California Chrome and American Pharoah, the only two horses to ever beat him. Five of six on the Santa Anita surface and by far the class of the race.
Tamarkuz – While it took this son of Speightstown five starts to finally hit the board here in the US, his last two races have been impressive. He finished second to a leading sprint contender, AP Indian, in the Grade 1 Forego and then chased a loose on the lead, Anchor Down, in the Grade 2 Kelso. This will be his third start off the layoff and angle that McLaughlin strikes at a 28% rate. I expect this race to be his best performance to date.
Gun Runner – Although cross-entered in the Classic, this should be the race he lands in. The Candy Ride colt has had a solid 2016 with seven starts, three wins, a second, and two thirds. He hung a bit in his last start when finishing second in the Grade 2 PA Derby. Maybe the cut back to a mile is what he needs and he should get a good stalking trip behind the speed in the race.
Texas Chrome – While I doubt this son of Grasshopper can win the race, I have to mention him as I believe he could get a piece at a big price. He has reeled off three straight wins and I love his grit and tenacity. There is something to be said for a horse with a modest pedigree that has won 8 of 13 career starts and banked $842,462. A huge underdog but nothing will put a bigger smile on my face than seeing him pick up a paycheck in this race.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
La Coronel – “Wow” is the best way to describe her two turf starts with victories by a combined eight lengths. The Colonel John filly is the US’s best chance of keeping the Euros out of the top spot.
Miss Southern Miss – I am a bit intrigued with her even though she only has one turf start. She was okay on the dirt but looked lights out when she made her turf debut in the Surfer Girl Stakes. In that race, she sat mid-pack until turning for home, then easily disposed of her foes and was actually geared down at the wire, winning by 2 ½ lengths. Faces a huge step up in class but the price should be right.
Intricately – Trained by former Breeders’ Cup winning jockey and the son of Aiden O’Brien, Joseph O’Brien has a live contender in this race. The Fastnet Rock filly looks to be on the improve and is coming into this race off a Group 1 win at the Curragh. While Joseph won’t be taking the reins for this race, he might just get his first Breeder’s Cup win as a trainer.
Roly Poly and Promise to be True – Both hail from O’Brien’s barn. Ryan Moore has ridden both and I’ll go with whoever he chooses.
Stellar Wind – Has only raced three times in 2016 but has two Grade 1 wins to show for her effort. She has beaten Beholder in her last two starts and has been pointed to this race all year. Has proved she can show up and perform on the biggest days as she finished second in this race last year. Will have to hope that Curalina applies pressure to Songbird and then look to make her winning move on the far turn. My key horse.
Beholder – Has lost nothing in defeat in finishing second to Stellar Wind and California Chrome in her last three races. She is 13 of 15 lifetime at Santa Anita and continues to train lights out. There would be no better way for the mare to say goodbye to racing in her final career start than winning the Distaff. Win or lose, it has been a blessing to watch her run.
Songbird – The three-year-old undefeated daughter of Medaglia d’Oro is perfect in her 11-race career. There is beauty in perfection and Songbird has proven already to be special. No horse has ever gotten within three lengths of her at the wire and she has never been tested. The test comes Friday.