by EMILY GULLIKSON
#4 MOURINHO (2-1) is listed as the morning line favorite and arguably the horse to beat. He has been consistent and is improving with each start. His presence on the front end makes this race interesting from a pace standpoint. Of those projected to be forwardly placed he is the most likely “speed of the speed.” Should he be left alone, that helps his chance; should he be challenged he likely hurts those that choose to challenge. We will use both OptixPLOT’s Standard and Surface/Distance filters to evaluate the pace scenario.
Even with the most likely scratch of #3 who ran in the Risen Star there are still a good number of horses in Q1. This is confirmed in OptixRPM where many horses have the same E or EP running style. Based on position/square MOURINHO should be able to move away from rivals on front end and have some finish.
The other Square in Q1 is #6 SEVEN TRUMPETS. He was aided by FLOW last out over a muddy track at Aqueduct, and still came up short. His fast dirt sprints were high OptixFIGs and if those numbers are transferred to the two-turns he could be in the mix. #10 COMBATANT is a smaller square in Q1, but comes out of the Smarty Jones as # 4 MOURINHO. His race was quite good earning a B grade, and BTL keyword after making his MOVE through TRAFFIC. He GALLOPed out well after the wire and certainly could be played back off that race.
#11 EZ MOSH (12-1) will not have it easy with the post and the other E/EP types in the race. He is likely to be used and caught wide early. Maybe they try and teach him something from off the pace, but the circle shape might not do that strategy any favors. It is tough to take a negative stance here considering he ran such a game race last out, and saw his rival win the GII Risen Star.
#1 MY BOY JACK (12-1) is really the only horse that moves position. He moves from a small Square in Q4 into a larger Square in Q1. Most of his career has been over the turf. He has some decent (B-) Grades in stakes events. His OptixFIG are slightly below range, and the C+ earned in the GIII Sham would not cut it here.
#2 SPORTING CHANCE (9-2) moves off the Surface/Distance PLOT because he is making his debut at a route. In addition, this marks his first start since the summer at Saratoga when he ran a very fast (96) OptixFIG winning the GI Hopeful. He earned a B grade. The NO_LINE and GALLOP(-) may have played a role in the layoff. Based on that race alone , he is the class of the field. That said, this will be a tough test off the layoff. The connections could be using this race as a prep to the ultimate goal the Kentucky Derby.
It would seem that if things get heated, and bunched up early the beneficiary is #8 ZING ZANG (15-1); a big number for a horse that ran sneaky well in the GIII LeComte last out. Out of that Lecomte he looked like one of the horses to keep an eye on next out, and should get a favorable setup for his run style.
Emily does trip notes and analyzes races for OptixEQ; follow her on Twitter @Mayhemily1