Here is my horse by horse analysis for the Dirt Mile:
(1) Iron Fist: Seems to run his race nearly every time out. Has good tactical speed that has served him well throughout his career. Comes in from two listed stakes at Remington and Mountaineer. He consistently stalks the pace and makes his run at the top of the lane. My fear is that he has never faced horses anywhere near this caliber. He ran into Mor Spirit in Lone Star and got buried. His speed figures are a cut below and he would need to improve greatly to get a piece here. Pass.
(2) Giant Expectations: He seemed rather jumpy throughout the warm up of the Santa Anita Sprint Championship last out. I will give him a pass. He ran an incredible race two back in the Pat O’Brien but that was against much less than what he will face Friday. I think he will be out run early and be chasing all the way around and weaken. He would also need to improve greatly to get any piece of things. Pass.
(3) Sharp Azteca: This horse will be cooking up front early. Has run giant figures in his last 6 races. If he runs back to them he will be very tough in this spot. He worked the typical Navarro bullet in his last work over the Del Mar surface. Paco is an aggressive rider and will send this horse for better or worse. He beat Tom’s Ready last out handily who came back to win the Bold Ruler last Saturday impressively. He is 9/2 on the Morning line and is my top pick. There are horses who figure to take money so we should be able to get at worst 4/1 in my opinion.
(4) Gato Del Oro: Will be a giant giant price and deservedly so. Has speed figures that aren’t competitive. Only thing I can say is he is lightly raced and has a license to improve. Not much else positive going for this one. Would be shocked if he ran in the top 4. Pass.
(5) Awesome Slew: This is my longshot play to hit the board in this spot. He in an ultra consistent horse who fires every time out. Didn’t get much pace to run at last out and still swung wide and run like a 3/5 shot should. The Player, who ran second to Awesome Slew in the Ack Ack, came back to romp in the Fayette on Saturday. This gives me even more confidence that Slew will fire a big race. He will be flying late and if the pace collapses this one could pick up all the pieces and shock at a big number.
(6) Mor Spirit: He is the big question mark in the race. If he runs back to the Met Mile everyone else is running for second. That was 5 months ago and also his last race. Baffert said that race took a ton out of him and that is the reason for the layoff. He has had 6 consecutive gate works which is a little curious. He only had 1 lifetime gate work before them. That is a bit of a red flag to me. Why not just get a prep in him? As a short price favorite I will take a shot against on top. There are too many question marks for me to suck chalk on this horse and put him on top. He certainly can win but this is a kind of spot I will let him do just that.
(7) Cupid: Last out in the Awesome Again he raced evenly. Never really made up ground but never lost too much either. Hasn’t really impressed since the Gold Cup all the way back in May. He will need to run back to that to have any chance in here. Anything else and he’d be lucky to hit the board. The Classic was the target but a combination of Baffert having 4 in there already and him not performing well means this is the backup plan. I typically don’t like putting horses up top when it’s plan B. For me he is third at best.
(8) Accelerate: He ran third in this same race last year at a giant price. He will be a fraction of that Friday. Will be forwardly placed and most likely on the hip or a length or two off Sharp Azteca and the other speed. Should get a good stalking trip in this spot and will be tough here. Romped home 2 back over Arrogate but was no match for him and Collected last out. The cutback in distance should do wonders here. Has never missed the board at a Mile and I don’t see a reason why that would change. He’s my second choice in this spot.
(9) Battle of Midway: Has good early speed but I’m not sure if he’s fast enough to get the lead in here. He certainly does not need the lead to do his best running as he can stalk the pace. Raced against lesser last out and should have won but just didn’t fire his best in the lane to finish second. He won for fun at this distance two back in his only career start at a mile. Maybe this is exactly what he wants. His speed figures are a little light and would need to improve some to take out the top few choices in here. Has the ability to stay on and I’ll play a bit on the bottom of tris and supers.
(10) Practical Joke: This horse fires his shot every time out regardless of his distance limitations. He was a very impressive winner last out in the Jerkens. However he had a tremendous setup as the leaders absolutely dueled up front and set it up for his late kick. This will be his career finale so Chad will definitely have every screw tightened here. Takaful did come back and win next out but he did the Dirty work in the Jerkens and stayed on well for second. I’m not necessarily sure that exactly flatters Practical Joke. My guess is this horse will take money and I don’t want him at anything shorter than 6/1. I will use him underneath but am leery about playing on top.
How to play the race:
For multi race wagers I think you can get away with just using Sharp Azteca and Accelerate. They are both in good form with no real question marks surrounding them. If you have a small budget I would take a stand against Spirit in here for the reasons listed above. If you have a bigger budget I would also include Awesome Slew and Practical Joke. If you don’t want to let Baffert beat you here then I would only include Mor Spirit simply because IF he does run back to his last he wins for fun and I’ve never been a fan of Cupid.
I will play Sharp Azteca across the board and have a nice size exacta box on the 3 and 8.
My $2 tri will look like this:
Selections straight: 3-8-5-6