Weekend Plays: Portrait deserves a Silverbulletday Stakes shot

January 17, 2020 02:50pm
Weekend Plays: Portrait deserves a Silverbulletday Stakes shot
Photo: Coady Photography
When it comes to young horses, sometimes all it takes is more seasoning to get the longer trip, assuming the pedigree doesn't scream “sprinter."

For example, Portrait will make Saturday's $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds her third start in a route race. She will face seven other 3-year-old fillies at 1 mile and 70 yards on dirt, and it will mark her first start since a third-place finish in the Pocahontas Stakes (G2). 

Portrait leads off these five Saturday selections across Fair Grounds, Aqueduct and Laurel Park.

Fair Grounds Race 12: Silverbulletday Stakes

While Portrait lost both of her previous route attempts, she ran well in the first try at Ellis Park over turf last July. From last before the first turn, she gradually kept making up ground to finish third by 1 ½ lengths in a good effort.

After blitzing a seven-furlong maiden dirt sprint by 12 ½ lengths with a 99 TimeformUS Speed Figure in her next start, the connections gave the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) a try at two turns again. This time, Portrait stuck closer to the pace and made a looming far turn move before flattening.

For what it is worth, some called the rail biased on that card, which might explain His Glory's runner-up effort at 43-1 on the inside and Portrait fading.

Portrait went on a break afterwards. In any case, she deserves another shot from bettors, especially with Finite figuring to attract so much money. 

If Ursula or His Glory can weaken Finite on the front end, Portrait will attack from a perfect stalking position around third or fourth and take over.

Fair Grounds Race 4: Allowance Optional Claimer

If it rains, I consider this the most likely winner from this column.

Two races ago, Blackberry Wine dominated an off-the-turf maiden race at Churchill Downs to win by 5 ¾ lengths over slop with a 107 TimeformUS Speed Figure. In the stretch run, he only needed a few minor hits with the whip.

The runner-up, Shared Sense, previously lost a maiden race to Lecomte Stakes (G3) contender Lynn's Map by half a length.

One month later, Blackberry Wine regressed on turf locally with a flat third after pressing the pace. In three career turf starts, he owns three thirds.

Given Blackberry Wine's damsire is A.P. Indy., it makes sense that running on wet dirt suits him. The forecast currently calls for showers.

With the $2 million New York-bred Chestertown likely to eat money along with maiden winner Digital, Blackberry Wine is a great value assuming a wet surface.

Fair Grounds Race 7: Maiden

Because there is a chance the nine-furlong turf race could move to the main track, I've made two selections here.

If the race stays on turf, then Coach Bahe is an interesting choice. He closed for second in a local off-the-turf maiden race over slop.

Coach Bahe's second dam, Just Reward, is a half-sister to Good Reward, who won the 2004 Hollywood Derby (G1) and 2005 Manhattan Handicap (G1), among other races on the lawn. Both of those races came over 1 ¼ miles as well.

His third dam, Heavenly Prize, also helps in the distance department. She won the 1994 Alabama Stakes (G1) by seven lengths over 1 ¼ miles on dirt, as well as other graded stakes races. Heavenly Prize is also the second dam of the active Instilled Regard, who's preparing for the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1).

The fact that Coach Bahe was entered for turf in the first place is a good sign too.

If the race is taken off turf, then Urbanite is the choice. He shows a slight "Z pattern" in the lone running line, moving up near the lead, then back, then closing for fourth in a dirt sprint.

Furthermore, Urbanite's pedigree leans toward dirt. This is the grandson of Urbane, who won the 1995 Ashland Stakes (G1) and 1996 John A. Morris Handicap (G1) over dirt. The latter race came over
1 ¼ miles.

At 8-1, Urbanite is a good value.

Aqueduct Race 8: Toboggan Stakes (G3)

Bon Raison is a longshot in this race at 20-1, but he could upset them.

First of all, Bon Raison is not bred for longer distances as a half-brother to Leigh Court, Star Hill and the active Flying Scotsman. With this family, one mile or less is ideal.

So you can cross out Bon Raison's fade in the nine-furlong Queen's County Stakes. He set a fast pace and got tired.

On his best day around one turn, Bon Raison can throw up a good speed figure. He proved this in the Tale of the Cat Stakes at Saratoga last summer, when he won by ¾ of a length with a 123 TimeformUS Speed Figure.

Bon Raison also ran second by half a length to Engage in the Bensalem Stakes at Parx Racing, and Engage went on to win the Phoenix Stakes (G2) at Keeneland.

According to TimeformUS Pace Projector, Bon Raison will contest a slow pace on the outside, and that is the perfect spot. At 20-1, it is worth taking a shot on him.

Laurel Race 6: Fire Plug Stakes

According to TimeformUS, Honor the Fleet won his local return race on Nov. 23 with the 101 Speed Figure. But the number is adjusted down from a raw 115 due to the slow pace.

Sometimes a slow pace hides the true ability of the winner, at least when it comes to adjusted TimeformUS numbers. A 115 can win here.

Also, Pace Projector places Honor the Fleet behind the expected pacesetters in fourth, and that is a good spot to attack once the leaders become tired.

A wet track should be fine, too, as Honor the Fleet finished second in the 2017 Concern Stakes over a muddy course with a 116 on TimeformUS.

At 8-1, Honor the Fleet is a good bet to improve in his second start off the bench.


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