With the anticipated scratch of Better Talk Now from the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational due to a minor injury, the strong match-up between Graham Motionís gelding and English Channel that was highly anticipated wonít happen.

Figure the odds on English Channel (8-5) to be around 1-2 at post time. On paper, he looks unbeatable and we wonít try. But thatís not to say thereís not an interesting upstart in here.

His name is Always First and hails from the top Maryland outfit of trainer Tommy Voss. What makes him a little special here is his affinity for todayís marathon route and an ability to handle less than firm footing, which is the prospect today.

Six-year-old gelding is in top form, has earned most of his money at todayís route, going seven-for-eight in the money at 12 furlongs, including three victories, and his best figure was earned over soft ground at Arlington Park last out in the G3 Stars N Stripes.

He has a puncherís chance with Cornelio Velasquez in the boot but will be hard pressed to beat the favorite thatís won four Grade 1s in the last year.

Taking English Channel to win, no price restrictions, and the only play weíll make is an exacta box with Always First, an additional ticket with the favorite on top.

Running Totals: (77) 34-16-10 Dollar Return: $197.70 [win selections only] (Friday results not included)