Given prevailing conditions, the “best horses” are the aforementioned Sun King, multi-millionaire Utopia, and the classy New Jersey-based miler, Park Avenue Ball.
Sun King has the best American class lines. Last year alone, he finished second and third to the classy late developer Premium Tap and failed by a nose to catch the eventual Horse of the Year, Invasor, in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Whitney Handicap.
Working well for his season’s debut at Churchill Downs, he’ll be partnered by California’s Corey Nakatani, who rode him to victory in last year’s G2 Commonwealth BC Handicap at Keeneland. Never off the board in four starts at the distance including two victories, any money finish will put him over the $2-million mark in career earnings. He is a worthy favorite.
Meanwhile, what to do with 7-year-old Utopia, making his first start since winning last year’s Grade 2 Godolphin Mile in Dubai? Eight victories in 31 career starts have resulted in earnings approaching $5-million. Plenty of class, first time Lasix, and a trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, who is 32 percent efficient with horses returning from lengthy layups.
Not as accomplished at the top two, the most interesting is Park Avenue Ball. Third to Sun King in the Grade 1 Haskell at three, he won half his six starts at four and comes into this making his third start off the layoff for Jimmy Ryerson.
While dull last out, his season’s debut prior was an excellent placing in a seven-furlong Grade 2 at Gulfstream Park behind the Pletcher speedster, Half Ours. Ryerson is a worthy 20 percent when stretching to a route off two consecutive sprints. ’Ball’ never finished worse than second in four of five starts at a mile, including a win, and is 1-for-2 over “Big Sandy.” He is the percentage play here and likely will offer some value.
Taking Park Avenue Ball to win, keying him first and second in exacta boxes with Utopia and Sun King, extra ticket with the latter.