Our Friday quest in search of Pace Meltdown glory - that moment when you see the embattled front-runners start to waver and your horses have barely even started to run - takes place at Oaklawn. The 7th race is a maiden special weight to be run at a mile over the main track. The Pace Projector shows the predicted leaders lined up in a row like members of Congress eagerly waiting to announce their retirement.
That group up front includes the three top choices in the morning line: #1, Six Spot (4-1), #2, Loud Cat (5-1), and #4, Grateful Life (9-2). We are additionally grateful to report that all three will be running beyond six furlongs for the first time, which makes them uncertain value propositions at their predicted odds under any circumstances.
Each of the trio have earned triple-digit early pace figures with their efforts in sprints.
Horses who have shown speed in sprints get extra Pace Projector juice when stretched out to slower-paced routes, and all three figure to be quite keen early here. Add into the mix #3, Denali South Peak (20-1), who actually has a higher early pace figure (114), and chances are that the action will be frenetic up front early on. Amongst the candidates to pick up the pieces is #5, Stonecrusher (10-1). This gelding's best two efforts came in his first two career races, on grass; a nice second in his debut, and it looks like he moved a tad early next time out. He was outclassed and lost contact in the hot-paced Grade 3 Iroquois. We'll presume that something went wrong at Keeneland before he was sent to the sidelines. Still, he's done enough to earn the best late pace figure (69) in this field. Stonecrusher returns now, off a steady series of stamina-building works on dirt, for trainer Gary Hartlage, who has solid ratings at Oaklawn, in dirt routes, and off layoffs. (The white box means that it is based on less than 20 relevant starts over the last two years.) As far as the horse's prospects on dirt go, that is still a matter of conjecture based on his form. He does however have a good pedigree rating, for dirt routes, of 79, which one might expect from a son of the Belmont/Travers winner Birdstone, out of a mare by the Preakness winner Gate Dancer (also second under the wire in the great inaugural Breeders' Cup Classic). In addition, and not figured in to his rating, his dam is a half-sister to the three-time champion Skip Away. So there's plenty of reason based on his breeding to think that Stonecrusher will do just fine on the main track.