The nine furlong Grade 1 has drawn nine entrants and a half dozen of them have a chance ranging from most likely winner(s) to a puncher’s chance. We’re looking at two to top our tickets but more on that later.
The big Grade 1 question of the day is this: What the hell happened to Agave Kiss last time?
In our view, two things: First, and foremost, was the size of the Equiform energy figure she earned while winning the Miss Preakness Stakes on the third Saturday in May for his sixth career victory without defeat. How big was it?
How’s this for perspective? Looking at the Internal 6-furlongs sprint figures of 2011 Preakness and 2012 Met Mile winner Shackleford, who earned a 77 Internal figure in both recent starts, including the Met, those numbers paled compared to Agave Kiss’s 79 ¼ for winning the Miss Preakness.
Note here that we’re comparing the figures of a 4-year-old male to a 3-year-old female; to say that this is unusual, especially considering Shackleford’s obvious class, is to serious understate the case.
The second thing? The rail at Belmont Park July 7 was not the swiftest portion of the Elmont oval and Agave Kiss, coming off the monster effort was pushed through splits of: 21 2/5 and :44-flat, carrying high weight of 123 pounds under allowance conditions.
The difference Saturday is that Agave Kiss has the wide post in the field of six, a favorable draw, retains Ramon Dominguez, and her blowout of :46 2/5 for this, termed breezing, was fastest of 76 members of her peer group that week in Saratoga.
A filly with her kind of ability certainly deserves a mulligan considering the unfavorable circumstances, even if she was 3-10 to extend her career slate to 7-for-7.
As for the Whitney, there is Rule , good enough to win his first start in nine months, the G2 Monmouth Cup, after stalking an extremely low pace throughout.
Although that scenario was to his benefit, he finished his last half-mile in :48-flat around a turn. Common horses just don’t do that. Further, his best figures have come going nine furlongs at Saratoga. Very difficult test here, but not impossible.
The serious horses will all be various shades of favorites, although none are prohibitive.
Clearly, as the winner of the G1 Santa Anita Handicap and Stephen Foster, Ron the Greek is the most accomplished member of the group this year and a deserving early line favorite. There’s more than enough early speed to set up his late burst.
The same can be said of Hymn Book, a wild-horse finishing runnerup to Mucho Macho Man in the G2 Suburban following a very poor start. The Grade 1 Donn winner this winter also reunites with Johnny Velazquez, his South Florida partner.
The two runners that peak our interest are Ron The Greek’s uncoupled stablemate Flat Out, making his second start for the Mott barn, and Fort Larned, a revelation since he’s turned 4.
Flat Out, after an abysmal grass experiment from which he received no benefit and was no factor in Hymn Book’s Donn, was sent to Mott, freshened, and appeared at The Shore in Rule’s Monmouth Cup and finished second after breaking out of hand and racing in close on the fence throughout.
After finally securing room, his course was altered to the outside by Rosie Napravnik and the talented old pro finished extremely well after the fact. Subsequently, he’s been training lights out here and while his recent blowout of 1:02 1/5, termed breezing, was fast, but it was accomplished the right way.
Fort Larned, however, has been brilliant on several occasions this year. After he freaked winning the G3 Skip Away at Gulfstream, he returned to do most of the dirty work in the G2 Alysheba but had to settle for place behind then hot Successful Dan.
Following a horrendous adventure in the Stephens Foster, he dominated the Cornhusker in 1:47 2/5. Most notable, his best figures have come this year, at today’s distance or similar, and his recent five-eighths in :58 2/5, termed breezing, was fastest of 41 member of his peer group.
The Whitney figures to be competitive from end to end. The feeling is you will be rewarded no matter where you land.
We have an idea or two, so why not check out today’s Feature Race Analysis later on. Remember, I always pick ’em good; it’s not my fault if they don’t run any good.