Best Bet: BIG MARA (8)
Best Value: INDYGO TIGRESS (9)
FIRST: David Jacobson entry: Storm the Shore wheels back in a hurry after speed and fade versus pricier on New Year’s Day and mate Joywave could be in the garden spot if pace meltdown ensues. Schott was a tough-trip fourth in last; dangerous. Acoustic moves to dirt in first start for Rudy Rodriguez; must consider.
SECOND: Port More compiled tight work tab for first start since claimed by Charlie Baker; primed and ready. Cinderela El Crome is fresh and owns speed and fast figures; very playable. Breeze Burner makes first start for Rodriguez after 5-length win in debut at Delaware in September; right in the thick of this.
THIRD: Spotty Zealous needed last and projects as the main speed with aggressive ride. T Loves a Fight is rested and owns fast numbers on best efforts; dangerous. Giant Rocks should pack amplified late kick with cutback to 6 furlongs.
FOURTH: Celtic Serenade logged improved late-pace figure in last (albeit on turf) and makes third start of form cycle. Chateau Lafite has been idle since the Fourth of July but could play out as the main speed on the fence. Pure Gemmz also should be favorably positioned near the front in weak field.
FIFTH: Bombshell bested a next-out winner when a fast-figured second in last; more to give. Familyofroses has the benefit of the rail and would be aided by hot fractions. Daisy Cutter also would be aided if pace meltdown ensues.
SIXTH: Branded Hand tallied improved internal figures in last and will prove very tough if able to secure an uncontested lead today. Tizquick owns two wins on the inner track and looms the prime beneficiary if top selection hits the wall in the lane. Yakov takes two-level class drop after even sixth versus a pricier field on New Year’s Eve; dangerous.
SEVENTH: Only You was a determined, front-end maiden winner in last and projects as the controlling speed on the rail. Toohottoevenspeak packs solid late kick and easily could take this if top selection gets embroiled in pace battle. Holding Aces has finished second as the favorite in last two; logical, short-priced player. Shuffle Up could be ideally positioned in the stalker’s seat; must respect.
EIGHTH: Big Mara was overmatched in Grade 3 Comely Stakes last time; class drop and turnback to 6 furlongs make the difference. Woodville has been sidelined since winning first two starts at the Spa by a combined 14-plus lengths; very dangerous. Splendid Gold took backward step in last after fast-figured, front-running win in previous start; bounce-back threat.
NINTH: Indygo Tigress was a non-stressful sixth when making first start since seven-month layoff last out; forward move predicted. Causeway Cutie bested top selection by 10 lengths when a strong second on Dec. 16; regresses today? Mood Swing compiled tight work tab for return to dirt and drop to lifetime low; very interesting. Mama’s Red Hat is 0-for-24 but owns competitive numbers on best efforts; worth long look at long price.