2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up, Za Approval, is a deserving favorite in tomorrow’s Grade 3 Poker at Belmont Park. Besides that notable second place finish to Wise Dan, the son of Ghostzapper also accounted for three graded stakes last season, but then again, the six-year-old has not looked quite as sharp this year, with only a pair of 4th place finishes on his record.
The California lightning bolt, Peace and Justice, looks to be a solid second choice breaking from the rail in the one-mile turf affair. In three races this year, he has set down blistering early fractions, on his way to a pair of wins in three starts, including a victory in 1:32 ? at Santa Anita. On the other hand, he has never won a stakes race, and backed up badly in his last try at Belmont back in October.
With the two clear favorites on the morning line showing vulnerabilities, I see the Poker ripe for a mild upset, and Jack Milton looks like the perfect horse to get the job done.
Unraced at two, the dark bay colt quickly moved into the upper echelon of three-year-old turf runners last year … well, sort of. Clearly talented and competitive, but the problem was, after winning his debut and the Grade 3 Transylvania in early April, Jack Milton finished the season with five consecutive losses in many of the biggest races available to his division. It seemed poor racing luck, and narrow losses, had become his norm.
That was then, this is now. In his only race so far at four, the Todd Pletcher trainee rolled from well back to win going away in an optional claimer at Churchill Downs. That confidence builder at the same flat mile distance as tomorrow’s Poker, should do Jack Milton 2.0 well. A look back at last year’s form also shows that many of his losses came at distances likely a little farther than the son of War Front appreciates.
Confident, more mature, and running at an ideal distance, Jack Milton figures to sit a good trip under Javier Castellano, and well off quite a bit of early speed tomorrow. As he winds up a strong closing kick on the far turn, it should come down to who has more punch in the stretch, him or Za Approval. I am confident that Jack Milton has what it takes to take the next step forward, and at 5-1 on the morning line versus Za Approval’s 6-5, I am ready to put my money where my mouth is.
past performances provided by TimeformUS