This time last year none of us were aware that Morning Line existed. He had made only a single start and was fourth against maiden special weight company. Since then the son of Tiznow romped home by 8 lengths in a maiden race at Monmouth, won an allowance 11 lengths and then got the victory in the Pennsylvania Derby. After that he narrowly missed in the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile.
Morning Line made his first start of 2011 in the Donn Handicap where he was second to Giant Oak. He will turn back to a more suitable distance here at 7 furlongs as he attempts to win his first Grade 1 race for trainer Nick Zito in the Carter Handicap. At first glance I wasn’t crazy about his chances here. The Donn just didn’t impress me and I don’t think of much of the winner and the third place finisher, Rule. However, after a second look I realized Morning Line did very well to hold on for second and was doing so while racing past his natural limit in distance. This colt is at his best going 7 furlongs or a mile. The Carter affords him a chance to race under his ideal circumstances.
While the Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable owned Morning Line looks tough in this spot, I am going to look another direction in search of a better price. Apriority will be my top pick for trainer David Fawkes. The trainer also has 2010 Breeders Cup Sprint winner Big Drama. Apriority was last seen winning an optional claiming event at Gulfstream Park by 4 1/2 lengths after stumbling at the start. He took down two good colts in that raced in Aikenite and Tahitian Warrior.
Before that race he was second to Amazombie in the Sunshine Millions Sprint. Amazombie followed up on that win by taking the Potrero Grande Handicap defeating the deepest field of sprinters we have seen thus far in 2011. Apriority has enough tactical speed for jockey Luis Saez to place him wherever he likes, but I expect him to be racing mid pack early on. One of the most impressive things about this colt is that his BRIS numbers have gone up 6 times in a row. Coincidentially he has been in the Fawkes barn for 6 races. Apriority is a strong play here and I will have win money on him.
Another interesting entry here is the son of Southern Image, Calibrachoa. Owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher have the favorite for the Wood Memorial in Uncle Mo later in the card. Calibrachoa has won three in a row since joining Pletcher’s barn taking the Gravesend, Toboggan and Tom Fool Handicap. He has raced at 6 furlongs for 9 consecutive races. Its tough to know how he will fare at 7 furlongs, but given that he finishes very strong in most of his races I don’t think it will affect him. He has to be included on exotic tickets.
Laysh Laysh Laysh should get plenty of backing, but he looks like a money burner to me. Last out he was second as the favorite in the Grade 2 General George Handicap. The fact that he was sent off as the chalk after racing for a tag only two races back really speaks to the weakness of that field. I really don’t like the fact that Cornelio Velasquez is getting the mount. While he rides 19% winners (he must win them all when I’m not looking) I am not a fan of his style.
The same can be said for Kensei and jockey Edgar Prado. While Prado is a good rider, he has been very cold lately and is riding only 11% winners. Kensei was most recently second to Misremembered, but doesn’t look good enough to win here. I believe he needs more ground to perform at his best.
While I don’t like Laysh Laysh Laysh, Dutrow’s other entry, Yawanna Twist, looks very strong. This distance suits him perfectly and he is making his third start after a long layoff. That means he should be ready to fire his best shot. First off the layoff he was impressive in victory while taking an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park. After that he stretched out to 9 furlongs in the Kings Point Stakes and was second to Inherit The Gold. If he moves forward he might find the winners circle for the fourth time in his career.
Who do you like in the Carter Handicap? As I previously said my top selection is Apriority. I’ll use Morning Line, Calibrachoa and Yawanna Twist underneath for the exacta.