The Jury: Bets and fades for Aug. 5
A condensed TwinSpires Jury pool have taken a look at major races on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend in their deliberations.
What is your best bet?
Vance Hanson: Trainer Paulo Lobo is enjoying a solid Ellis Park summer meeting, primarily with maidens, but #5 Nom de Plume (5-1) is worth a look in Saturday's third race, a first-level allowance for three-year-old fillies over a mile on the turf. Although she hasn't run in six months and has never run on grass, Nom de Plume showed budding talent in two starts over the Tapeta at Turfway last winter and is by Uncle Mo, a 15% turf debut sire. Also, Lobo saddled Gunton Roe to a 15-1 upset win in a turf allowance at Ellis last month off of a similarly long layoff, so the conditioner is quite capable of getting his charges to fire fresh.
Ashley Anderson: #6 Cody's Wish (1-2) is the heavy morning line favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Whitney (G1), but the Curlin five-year-old's record beyond a mile is 0-for-2, with his lone try at nine furlongs resulting in a distant third at Saratoga, albeit in his second career start. The Bill Mott trainee comes into the event on a six-win streak, including four straight Grade 1 victories between seven furlongs and a mile, with triple-digit Brisnet Speed figures during his streak, but Mott admitted the stretch back out in distance is something "we’re just guessing (he can do)."
While the late presser type looked like he had plenty of run left last out in the Met Mile (G1), I'll stand against him here and take a shot with #2 Charge It (5-1). Per my colleague Vance's Whitney trends article on Edge, early speed has dominated the Grade 1 event recently, with six of the past 10 winners earning victory in gate-to-wire fashion, while three others were no worse than second at every call. Charge It led at every call last out when winning the 1 1/4-mile Suburban (G2) at Belmont while recording a 109 BRIS figure (a point below Cody's Wish's last-out Speed rating), and he put in a sharp four-furlong workout on July 29, indicating he's sharp and ready for the Whitney. Moreover, trainer Todd Pletcher is a four-time champion of the Whitney, and three of his scores came with jockey John Velazquez, the rider of Charge It.
Who is the horse to fade?
VH: For a pro tem leader of the three-year-old filly division, #1 Pretty Mischievous (9-5) is taking an unusual and gradual backtrack in distance from the nine-furlong Kentucky Oaks (G1) three months ago to the seven-furlong Test (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday. Connections insist it's by design, and perhaps the longer Grade 1s at this meet would be testing her stamina, but there are enough legitimate one-turn specialists in this race to give her a serious challenge. Despite her 2-for-2 record since adding blinkers, Pretty Mischievous appears worth taking on as the early favorite.
AA: #11 Raise Cain (3-1) in the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer on Sunday. Last out, the Violence colt was beaten a nose by Verifying in the 1 1/16-mile Indiana Derby (G3), but he's failed to finish in the money in two tries at today's distance, plus his only two career victories were at seven furlongs and a mile. Trainer Ben Colebrook is also just a 4% winner in graded stakes and an 8% winner with horses racing on Lasix the first time.
With the likes of #3 Tapit's Conquest (4-1), who's eligible to step forward off an allowance win at today's distance; #2 Lord Miles (6-1), who races on Lasix the first time for Saffie Joseph; and Preakness (G1) fourth-place finisher #4 Red Route One (7-2) in the mix, I'll look elsewhere and fade the morning line favorite.
What else is worth noting?
VH: Returning Saturday from an extended layoff in the 11th at Saratoga is the promising #2 Signator (6-1), a $1.7 million juvenile purchase who flashed promise last fall at Aqueduct when breaking his maiden second out by more than four lengths for trainer Shug McGaughey. A son of Tapit and from an old Phipps family female line, Signator remains with a high ceiling, though he's in tough Saturday as he faces a few quality older horses as well as some fellow three-year-olds with a recency edge. Nonetheless, I expect him to run well at a decent price.
AA: Ellis Park will host a trio of stakes on Saturday as part of Kentucky Downs Preview Days, including the Ladies Turf Sprint, the Turf Mile, and the Dueling Grounds Derby Preview, where Godolphin's #10 Wadsworth (8-5) will look to score his second career win in as many tries at the track, after he claimed the American Derby on July 1. The Brad Cox pupil is a nose shy of a 2-for-2 record on turf since switching to the surface, and he'll retain rider Florent Geroux, who's been red hot at Ellis (12-5-1-1 to start the meet).
But I'm also intrigued by #7 Anglophile (12-1) as an upset pick. The English Channel colt recorded his second win in three career starts at Ellis last out while flashing a career-best 97 BRIS figure, as well as a 101 Late Pace figure, in a 1 1/4-mile turf allowance. For Anglophile's move back up in class, Brian Lynch (18% winner this meet) will add blinkers for the first time, a 16% winning move for the trainer, and he strikes at a 23% rate in non-graded stakes. Declan Cannon (28-11-3-4 to start the meet) will also stay in the saddle, giving Anglophile plenty of chance to score victory here and at a good price.