Hanson: Spot Plays for the Randy Romero Memorial and Swale
The three Road to the Kentucky Derby preps rightly take center stage on Saturday, but there are several other interesting stakes across the country with potentially vulnerable favorites. Here are a couple I'll be looking at.
Randy Romero Memorial -- Fair Grounds Race 5
#4 Hieronymus exits a salty allowance win in which he defeated next-out Texas Turf Mile winner Bodecream, as well as future dirt allowance hero Blackberry Wine. Although benefiting from his successful 12-1 run that day, his 5-2 morning line price here is not as enticing.
The Into Mischief colt #1 PERFECT STAR (9-2) has blown hot and cold in five starts so far, but his two dirt attempts seem excusable. The latter of these was the Lecomte (G3) two weeks ago, where he broke last and beat only a few stragglers as a 94-1 outsider.
Out of Grade 3 winner Chic Dancer and a half-brother to Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) winner Her Emmynency, Perfect Star has won two of three on the grass, the latter an allowance over this course three weeks before Hieronymus'. He endured troubled in his other run at Churchill Downs, in which he out-finished Hieronymus.
Both are speed types, but given the state of the ground I don't expect the pace to be especially fast. That could potentially blunt the effectiveness of the closers, and if so, I'll take the longer price of the two with the most early foot.
Swale (G3) -- Gulfstream Park Race 9
Although a fan of Saratoga Special (G2) winner and Champagne (G1) runner-up #4 Green Light Go, this is a deep comeback race he'll be trying to win as the possible favorite. #2 Untitled is potentially dangerous after he smoked a Florida-bred maiden by 11 lengths in mid-December, but the pick is #1 MISCHEVIOUS ALEX (7-2).
Ignoring his two-turn tries for trainer John Servis, Mischevious Alex has two wins and a second around one turn, and the neck loss second out at Laurel can be excused due to repeated trouble in that 5 1/2-furlong.
The Into Mischief colt exits a 9 3/4-length win in the 7-furlong Parx Juvenile, in which he defeated Vanzzy, who took the Display at Woodbine in his next start. That was Mischevious Alex's first race with blinkers and he showed plenty of speed from the start, but the presence of Untitled and Green Light Go here suggest that jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. might try and avoid an early duel and instead opt to rally from slightly off the pace. He's the potential value in the field.