The opener on the first Wednesday of the meet is a ponderous 3yo filly race for 20k claimers. So ponderous that I actually took a peek to see who Dave Litfin liked in the Form. I don't generally look at his, or any public handicapper selections; and that's not meant at all as a dis. I just don't, it's not my thing. But sometimes if I get really confused, I'm just fishing for some kind of hook.
ANNELLE ran a new top winning Beyer first time off a claim, beating Shebop, who is a four-time winner. She has been on turf or synthetic ever since.Annelle is the 3-1 morning line favorite, and I'm thinking that ol' Dave just mailed this one in. As I've said in the past, I can't possibly imagine handicapping every single race every single race day, and I'm sure these guys have to, at times, simply default to one of the favorites when they don't really like anyone. I'd guess that one could throw darts at the logical choices in those cases and come up with a respectable percentage of winners over an extended period of time. And again, I'm not trying to be critical, just saying that it's gotta be part of the job just in order to maintain one's sanity.
So, I don't think that's a serious analysis, and it ain't doing it for me. Annelle beat a short field in a mile race in March at GP despite lumbering home in 51 3/5 for the last half-mile. The "four-time winner" thing is particularly weak considering that Shebop won all of those races before the GP race, and most recently ran up-the-track in a conditional 7500 claimer at Penn National. Trainer Mark Casse is 4 for 41 lifetime at the Spa, 1 for 12 with horses that have gone off at 4-1 or less. So I'm against Annelle.
And now, since I devoted 317 words to explain why I don't like this horse, you should probably be wheel-barreling cash to the track to bet on it. As for me, I'll try Mess in a Dress (8-1). This daughter of Henny Hughes won at this distance in her first race for Jacobson in March, and later ran a couple of seconds with Beyers well fast enough to win here. She was claimed by Charlton Baker after finishing a distant 4th behind a couple of horses who would similarly destroy this field. Been off since that May race, but appears to appreciate time between races, and goes here for a good layoff barn. Looks well-spotted dropping slightly in class, has a bullet work for this, and adds blinkers which will hopefully have her a bit closer to the pace. Bit of a stretch in a tough race, but 8-1 would do.
In the 8th, Cease (5-2) returns to his favorite distance and to a surface over which he's two-for-two (albeit over sealed off tracks). Repeats a winning pattern from last year for trainer Albert Stall (a winner from two starters at the meet thus far), returning off a similar-length layoff after a turf race at Churchill. Should be going well at the finish, perhaps at a better price than his morning line due to the presence of the sluggish 2011 Belmont Stakes winner......(quick, can you name him offhand?)...... Ruler on Ice (8-5), one of my favorite horses in training to bet against. Schoolyard Dreams (6-1) could be dangerous for R Dutrow and R Dominguez, but his two-turn form on fast dirt tracks just hasn't been that good. Best of luck, and have a great day. If you're up there and the weather is nearly as nice as it is down here, you surely will.