(4) Ezmosh: The barn of trainer Brad Cox ships in this three year old son of Tizway to face seven other colts in this year’s edition of the Arlington Classic (G3). While Ezmosh did begin his career racing on dirt (in fact his first seven starts were all on dirt), several of the fields that he faced in those races were filled with quality opponents including Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes contenders: Bravazo, Free Drop Billy, Lone Sailor and My Boy Jack. However, it was not until his most recent start on March 25th at Fair Grounds, in a $50k Optional Claiming race run at eight and a half furlongs, that Ezmosh finally made his turf debut. Under the guidance of Florent Geroux, Ezmosh initially sat back and stalked the pace, all the while going three to four wide through each of the turns. As the field hit the 3/16ths pole, he made his move to bid for the lead and then managed to grind out a victory down the stretch, winning by a length. For his efforts, Ezmosh earned an 85 Bris Speed Rating and an 85 Brisnet Late Pace figure which are among the best in the entire field at today’s distance. Throughout his career Ezmosh has displayed good tactical speed and his running style is quite versatile as he can either sit off the pace and rate before challenging late or he can be forwardly placed and play the role of pace setter.
Although the TimeForm Pace Projector seems to indicate that Ezmosh will be up front pressing a fast pace set by Alternative Route, it is more likely that he will be taken back a bit further and given a good stalking trip with jockey Jose Valdivia aboard. Furthermore, it should be noted that while offspring of Ezmosh’s sire Tizway win 15% of their turf starts, Saturday will be just his second trip over the surface and it is likely that trainer Brad Cox will instruct Valdivia to not involve him in a speed duel early on. Meanwhile, Cox has some fairly impressive numbers as a trainer thus far this year. He is winning 29% of his starts with runners coming in off a layoff of 46 to 90 days and he boasts a 25% win rate (over 727 starts this year) as a shipper. Additionally, while Valdivia’s numbers as a jockey racing on turf have not been great (just a 6% win rate), he does win with 22% of the E/P type mounts he rides on and he possesses a 23% win rate (over 40 starts) early on in the meet at Arlington. Moreover, Ezmosh’s last three workouts this month, all at four furlongs over the main track at Churchill Downs, have been incredibly workmanlike and should serve to indicate that he is in good shape despite the long layoff. If Ezmosh’s true-calling is as a turf runner and if Valdivia can give him a good stalking trip, then he appears to be the horse to beat in this field and an off the board performance would be fairly shocking.
(3) Alternative Route: Trainer Albert Stall Jr sends out this three year old son of Tiznow to compete on Saturday in hopes of using this race to serve as a prep for the ten furlong $1 million Queen’s Plate Stakes up at Woodbine next month. Although, Alternative Route has won two of his four lifetime starts, he has never raced before on turf. However, his damsire is Storm Cat whose offspring win 17% percent of their turf starts and 18% of their starts when trying turf for the first time. Furthermore, Alternative Route is a full brother to Enstone who was a Grade 3 stakes winner on turf last year. In his last start on March 17th over the eight and a half furlong Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park, Alternative Route broke very well with jockey Mitchell Murrill aboard and initially sat a stalking trip just off the early leader. Prior to entering the final turn, Murrill moved Alternative Route up to take command of the lead and despite being briefly challenged in the turn, he would never relinquish that position and eventually won the race by one and three quarters lengths. While the Rushaway Stakes was held on an all weather track, Stall is likely hoping the same form that garnered Alternative Route an 84 Bris Speed Rating in the race will carry over when making his first turf start Saturday.
Alternative Route’s preferred running style is to sit back and stalk the pace early on, yet the TimeForm Pace Projector appears to indicate a much different role for him on Saturday. The Pace Projector suggests that Alternative Route will be taken to an early lead by Murrill despite the presence of other early speed types in this race including Papa Rizzo, who will break from the far outside. It is more likely that these two horses will each be vying for the lead early on, though it may be in Murrill’s best interest to let his competitor do the heavy lifting thus allowing Alternative Route to rate just off the pace without getting into an unnecessary speed duel. Moreover, Murrill has been fairly consistent this year with E/P types, winning 15% of his starts onboard and he also has been off to a hot start early on in the Arlington meet, winning at a 20% clip from 40 mounts thus far. Alternative Route will be adding blinkers for the first time on Saturday and as a trainer, Stall has won 18% of all starts this year with this condition. Additionally, Stall boasts a 21% win rate with runners coming in off of a 46-90 day layoff. The big question mark surrounding Alternative Route is whether or not he will take to running on the turf, yet there appears to be ample evidence that his first try on the new surface will be a successful one provided Murrill can initially avoid engaging in a speed duel. An in the money finish is a likely outcome for Alternative Route on Saturday.
(2) Kitten a Gettin: This three year old English Channel colt will be sent out by trainer Eoin Harty on Saturday. Kitten a Gettin is one of just two colts entered into the field that can claim to have run all of their races exclusively on turf and in fact Kitten a Gettin has finished in the money twice in his four tries on the surface. Moreover, he has been bred through and through to be successful on turf as his sire is English Channel, his grandsire is Smart Strike and his damsire is Kitten’s Joy all of whom were either accomplished turf runners or are outstanding turf sires. Kitten a Gettin prefers to do most of his running late from well back in the pack and can truly be considered a deep closer. In his only prior attempt at Saturday’s distance, three starts back in a $16k Maiden Claiming race at Tampa Bay Downs, Kitten a Gettin was well behind early and only with a strong closing kick did he manage to get up late and win the race by half a length. His performance in that race earned him an 89 Brisnet Late Pace Figure which is one of the best in the Arlington Classic field. Over his last three starts, Kitten a Gettin’s Bris Speed Ratings have steadily moved upward, although they still are one or two notches below the top competitors in this field. Additionally, the Pace Projector has indicated a fast pace for the Arlington Classic and this should help Kitten a Gettin immensely as quick early fractions will likely wear down some of his rivals and allow him to pass tiring horses down the stretch.
Kitten a Gettin’s trainer, Eoin Harty, has some decent stats this year. He is winning at a 16% clip with shippers (from 157 starts) and he has a 10% win rate (261 starts) with runners racing on turf. However, Harty has acquired the services of one of the top turf jockeys at Arlington, Jermaine Bridgmohan, to ride Kitten a Gettin. Bridgmohan currently boasts a 22% win rate when racing on turf and has finished in the money in five of his first fifteen starts in the Arlington meet so far. Although Kitten a Gettin may not have the flashiest speed figures or the best trainer and jockey stats, unlike many of his rivals, he has been fairly consistent in all his efforts (and not thrown in a clunker in his last race) nor is he just trying turf for the first time. Kitten a Gettin’s speed figures will need to continue to progress for him to have a chance on Saturday, but if Bridgmohan can have him rolling late following an initially fast pace then there is a definite chance that he can hit the board.