July 15, 2018

Awesome Slew the one to catch in Harlan’s Holiday

Awesome Slew winning the $300,000 (G3) Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx Racing. Photo By Taylor Ejdys/EQUI-PHOTO

Awesome Slew can put his speed to good use in Saturday’s Harlan’s Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream Park. His run style plays well at the distance, with 3-of-6 races being won wire to wire so far in the Championship Meet, and the 105 BRIS Speed rating he earned winning the Smarty Jones (G3) two starts back compares favorably to his main rivals, the Todd Pletched-trained threesome of Keen Ice, Stanford and Madefromlucky.

He’s really come on in his last two starts for Ed Plesa Jr., who wins at a 19% clip off a 46-90 day freshening, and I love the improved speed Awesome Slew has displayed.

The Awesome Again colt aired foes on the front-end of the Smarty Jones, romping by seven lengths, and he registered 104 E1 and 105 E2 Pace ratings setting the pace in the Pennsylvania Derby most recently. Awesome Slew dug in gamely when challenged before winding up a respectable fifth behind Connect and Gun Runner, who subsequently defeated elders in the Cigar Mile (G1) and Clark H. (G1).

Improving types stepping up is one of my favorite betting angles because horse players tend to dismiss them due to false class concerns. Awesome Slew fits the bill Saturday as the likely fourth choice among seven runners and I will tab the front-runner for a minor upset with Joel Rosario.

Pletcher is off to another fast start at Gulfstream (7-for-24) and I can’t dismiss the chances of Stanford and Madefromlucky, who have both run well at Gulfstream in the past. They’re worthy of inclusion in multi-race bets but morning-line favorite Keen Ice is a complete play-against.

The only horse to defeat American Pharoah last year, Keen Ice has been installed at 9-5 odds off a third in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), with Arrogate and California Chrome the only horses better than him in the championship event. However, both aforementioned efforts came at 1 ¼ miles and it’s easy to label the confirmed closer as a 10-furlong specialist.

He’s never been first or second from three previous starts at 1 1/16 miles and Keen Ice isn’t a horse that corners well in my estimation. Chances are good he’ll leave himself plenty to do in the short stretch at the 1 1/16-mile configuration.

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