Today’s stakes action includes races from Arlington Park, Indiana Grand and Saratoga. Here are some opinions:
Race 8, American Derby (G3): Seven of his 12 rivals have raced on or very close to the lead in recent starts and the American Derby should set up perfectly for #2 War Film (12-1 morning line), who has garnered 95 and 99 BRIS Last Pace numbers in the last two races with little pace. The Steve Asmussen-trained colt has kept fine company since opening the year with an allowance triumph at Fair Grounds, launching an eye-catching rally behind a solid pace, and I liked his closing fourth in the Transylvania (G3) three back. Miguel Mena picks up the mount and War Film could be finishing fastest of all.
Race 4, Michael G. Schaefer Memorial: #1 Pioneer Spirit (4-1 m/l) made his stakes debut a winning one here last year and looks more formidable this time around, recording a pair of close thirds in his last three stakes events. He’s tractable enough to sit close if necessary but with Flameaway being the only other speed entered, the six-year-old looks capable of seizing the initiative from his innermost post. Brad Cox and Shaun Bridgmohan have combined to win 12 of the last 23 starts entering Thursday.
Race 7, Indiana General Assembly Distaff: #6 Hanalei Moon (8-1) comes back from a freshening after recording a pair of strong efforts at Fair Grounds, winning a salty allowance and finishing third in the Marie Krantz Memorial. Mark Casse wins at an 18% clip off an extended layoff and Hanalei Moon is eligible to keeping moving forward at age 4. She should receive the proper set-up in speed-laden field.
Race 8, Indiana Oaks (G3): #1 Kim K (6-1) got back in form with a sharp allowance score at Churchill Downs, scoring by a widening 6 ¾-length margin, and registered a 94 BRIS Speed rating six points better than any other last-out figure. She brings high speed to this event for Peter Miller and with no other confirmed front-runners entered, the expected pace scenario favors her. Wire to wire with Brian Hernandez.
Race 9, Diana (G1): The race features three front-runners and I won’t go against #4 SIstercharlie (8-5 m/l), who race a huge race to win a Grade 1 by nearly three lengths when returning from a lengthier layoff last year and will be making a title defense today. My play here is a straight exacta over #5 Secret Message (12-1 m/l), who steps up in class for Graham Motion following consecutive stakes wins. Her BRIS Late Pace nunbers (103 and 98 last two) have clearly improved at age 4 and the progressing filly shows a six-furlong work in preparation. She should be making up ground late at a preferred distance can surprise with a runner-up finish.