This is a huge weekend of racing throughout America and one of the best races on tab will be the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational. Until last year, when Winchester won, the previous four editions had been taken in succession by Grand Couterier and Telling, respectively.
Nine entrants will seek to take the spot in this $600k 1 ½ miles turf event.
#1 Al Khali (Medaglia d’Oro x Maya by Capote) 8-1: He finished professionally to end up third when last seen in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park. Despite that good effort, he has shown on a consistent basis that he cannot win against the best turf horses in America. A drop to Grade 2 company might do him a world of good. Junior Alvarado will pick up the mount for trainer Bill Mott.
#2 Point of Entry (Dynaformer x Matlacha Pass by Seeking The Gold) 5-2: Shug McGaughey training a top turf horse; big surprise, right? The master conditioner has prepared this guy perfectly and it culminated with a last out win in the Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes. It was his third consecutive win and fourth from his last five starts. John Velazquez looks to be in good position to help this colt bag another Grade 1. His running style fits well and he has proven he can get the distance. On top of that, he has already dispatched several horses in this race. Consider him the one to beat.
#3 Tahoe Lake (Know Heights x Tutto Charm by Roi Normand) 15-1: It looked like he had turned the corner after finishing third in the Man o’ War, but when sent out as a short priced favorite in the John’s Call Stakes he could not win. He is only two for 17 lifetime and one of those wins came via disqualification. It looks like he might be a pack runner. Best used underneath in trifecta and superfecta tickets only.
#4 Newsdad (Arch x Storm Tracer by Pulpit) 12-1: Turf efforts culminated with a win in the Grade 2 Pan American Stakes on March 24. He won by two lengths while dismissing three other foes. Since then he failed in the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes and was given some time off. Trainer Bill Mott got him back to the races in the Man o’ War, where the colt finished up to be fourth. With that race under his belt to get him some fitness, he will be much stronger. Jockey Joel Rosario is a positive sign as well. Live at a price.
#6 Center Divider (Giant’s Causeway x Meridiana by Lomitas) 5-1: Classy old runner has finished well in graded stakes company in the past, but has never seen the winner’s circle in such an event. His presence is important, as he figures to contest the early pace of the favored Turbo Compressor. Can he win this race after putting that one away? That’s probably not likely. Anna Napravnik rides for Chad Brown.
#7 Hailstone (City Zip x Weekend Storm by Storm Bird) 20-1: This Robert Ribaudo pupil has a similar record to Tahoe Lake in the fact that he owns only two wins from 17 career starts. He has raced 12 times since winning his last race. In that span of time he did hit the board in four graded stakes races. It looks like he is capable of grabbing a piece, but a win would be a shocker. Alan Garcia picks up the mount.
#8 Brilliant Speed (Dynaformer x Speed Succeeds by Gone West) 6-1: Since finishing second in the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap he hasn’t been the same animal. He did grab a third place finish in the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, but other than that he has been lackluster. Getting him back near the pace could be the key to acquiring better finishes. I think JJ Castellano will realize that and make sure this guy is closer to being mid pack near the rear as the race progresses. Thomas Albertrani is the trainer.
#9 Turbo Compressor (Halo’s Image x Dixieland Event by Wild Event) 2-1: Kicked home quickly in the United Nations despite setting a decent pace early on. That was his second consecutive win with the other coming in the $500k Colonial Turf Cup. This Todd Pletcher trainee is the definition of a “need the lead” type. If he doesn’t make the front then his chances of winning are severely diminished. He will make the lead this time, but the pressure figures to be much stronger as several horses pursue him early on. That makes it hard to accept him at a low number.