Saturday, May 19, 2018
By Jeremy Plonk
Let's keep it green for the third straight week of major turf stakes, this time the Preakness Day undercard gem that is the tradition-rich Dixie. Long the lead-in race to the middle jewel, this year the Dixie was moved earlier in the card to Race 7 of 14. The rains have been significant all week in Baltimore and you can be sure the turf course will have plenty of give to it - handicap for yielding or soft ground. The Dixie should remain on turf, however, after talking with director of racing Sal Sinatra on Thursday afternoon.
WORLD APPROVAL is the defending champion in the Dixie and went on to Breeders' Cup Mile and Woodbine Mile G1 scores later in the year. DIVISIDERO is a G1 winner, while FROSTMOURNE is a G2 winner. The rest have a big mountain to climb in terms of class. It won't be easy to supplant this trio.
There's not a lot of pace to this 1-1/16 miles tilt, so you won't want to be too far out of the mix. Horses like FIRE AWAY and DIVISIDERO appear the most dis-advantaged given their deep-closing styles. Plus, soft-turf races often turn into pace plays as the horses who get good early footing are the ones who keep going while others spin their proverbial wheels.
WORLD APPROVAL was a world-beater at the end of 2017 and proved that in the Breeders' Cup Mile. But he was just okay in his Tampa return in February and disappointed greatly at 1-2 odds in the G1 Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita. He's won over yielding ground in the G2 Fourstardave, so the conditions won't beat him. But you wonder if he's an underlay on current form while spotting the entire field 4 pounds over testing ground. Respect him, but don't concede the race to him.
DIVISIDERO, like WORLD APPROVAL, has the resume, but with recent questions. He hasn't started since October's Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland and has lost 3 in a row since last year's big win on the Kentucky Derby undercard. DIVISDERO also has changed addresses from the Buff Bradley barn to that of Kelly Rubley. He's trained well at Fair Hill in Maryland for this and makes the short van ride to Pimlico.
FROSTMOURNE fired a bullet drill May 12 at Belmont Park that signals he may be ready for a big effort third time off the layoff. He won the Awad Stakes on yielding ground as a 2-year-old and an endurance conditioner in Christophe Clement who can keep one humming when the conditions are demanding. FROSTMOURNE was stuck behind a loose-leading star miler Heart to Heart at Keeneland last time out, but don't be surprised if he's close to the early pace or leading here under Irad Ortiz.
Most Certain Exotics Contender: WORLD APPROVAL may not be absolutely on top of his game, but it's hard to see him out of the superfecta.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender: JUST HOWARD has won on soft ground and won over the Pimlico turf, so this G3 winner for top turf trainer Graham Motion has a few things to like. He's a cut below on talent with the very best in this race, but is ambitously placed for his first start of the year by a trainer who you must respect.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll): Gambling on horses is about value. Sometimes you can create it yourself. I think Mitole is a stone-cold winner in the next race on the card. So instead of taking the win bet on FROSTMOURNE, I'm willing to double-down on the gamble and make him pay more if we're right about Mitole. $100 daily double in Races 7-8 with FROSTMOURNE (4) to Mitole (5).