The A. P. Smithwick showcases the best of the best in US hurdle racing.
#1 Belisarius will scratch since he ran Wednesday. #2 Pravalaguna will also scratch to run in a stakes race at Colonial Downs. So a field of 7 runners will negotiate 8 fences around 4 turns.
This is the most accomplished field that I’ve seen in a long time with a total of 38 jump wins from 122 jump starts. Everyone has had a prep race in June except #3 Optimus Prime. The handicap scale of weights is very close to the NSA rating assignment however the minimum weight is 140 so #8 Winner Massagot should carry less weight with a NSA 130 rating.
#3 Optimus Prime has won off a layoff twice before, has fully recovered from a suspensory ligament tear and is the top pick for Ricky Hendriks.
#5 Moscato loves Middleburg and won his last 2 races there but is pace dependent. I don’t see a strong pace that he can run down. He has average flat track speed and faces a big challenge to close late to win.
#9 Redicean ran well at Great Meadow 6/27 and trainers Leslie and Paddy Young have all their runners in top shape and almost stole the Kiser stakes with Bodes Well on the front end Wednesday. He can hang around to run underneath in superfecta.
#7 Chief Justice had 2 strong races in June; a flat win at Middleburg and 2nd at Great Meadow losing to Kiser winner Snap Decision. He can run underneath in trifecta and superfecta.
#4 Gibralfaro also ran well at Great Meadow 6/27 and does OK on flat tracks so he can run underneath in trifectas and superfectas.
#6 Surprising Soul has been terrible since his Lonesome Glory win last September. I picked him that day but I see no reason to consider him today. He’s in to make sure there is some pace that #3 Optimus Prime can run down.
Race shape does not have much pace early, so #8 Winner Massagot and #6 Surprising Soul will set a moderate pace. #9 Redicean will be close behind followed by #3 Optimus Prime and #4 Gibralfaro in the next flight. #9 Redicean will force the pace issue early, going to the lead after the 4th jump and try to hang on as long as he can. #5 Moscato will make his run early on the 3rd turn. #3 Optimus Prime will wait until the final backstretch to make his move. #3 Optimus Prime and #5 Moscato will pull away after the final fence while #7 Chief Justice makes a late move behind the front 2. #3 Optimus Prime will grind away to win.
Good luck at the races!