MAX PLAYER broke aggressively, more aggressively than he normally does, chased MORETTI for the first three-quarters of a mile, took on the chalk in the stretch and beat MYSTIC GUIDE at the wire by a neck. The unexpected performance put MAX PLAYER in this year's Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar Park in November.
Another Belmontee with try to run from New York to California in the John A Nerud Stakes. The winner of Fourth of July feature race stamps his ticket into the Breeders Cup Sprint.
FIRENZE FIRE (PP: 1 ML 3/5) is the oddsmaker's overwhelming favorite to make the cross-country journey. The seven-year-old is having a productive 2021, winning a pair of graded stakes races at Belmont Park where he has won seven of 10 outings. He has seven wins in 23 starts outside of the Elmont, NY course.
The good news for the rest of the field is there a few potential negatives for the big-time chalk for this spot. This is his third-race after a layoff, Yeah, we know that's usually a positive, but FIRENZE FIRE regressed the in round three of his previous three-race cycle. That's not to say it's a lock he'll take a step backwards again. However, he is following the same pattern. Ran a solid race off the bench and then upped his numbers in round two.
He's seeking his third win a row. He's only won three in a row once in his 33-race career, but two of them were in non-graded stakes. So, winning a trio of graded affairs will be a first for the Kelly Breen trainee. FIRENZE FIRE has struggled at the 7 furlongs, winning just once is seven tries with a pair of seconds and a third. He finished second he last time he tries the distance and fourth in the effort before that.
The question is, if FIRENZE FIRE is beatable, which horse can get take John A Nerud trophy and head off to the Golden State? Three have shown they have the potential to match FIRENZE FIRE's firepower. MIND CONTROL (PP: 2 ML 5-1), WICKED TRICK (PP: 5 ML 8-1) and THREE TECHNIQUE (PP: 6 ML 10-1).
They are the only entrants aside from FIRENZE FIRE that have managed to find triple-digits on the speed gun at least once in their last 10 starts. MIND CONTROL is the one that's achieved the benchmark number most recently and most frequently. He popped a hundo-plus two races back in a second-place finish behind MISCHEVIOUS ALEX, who is running exceptionally well in 2021. MIND CONTROL followed that effort up with a stinker against more very good company, FLAGSTAFF and WHITMORE in a race with some quick fractions.
WICKED TRICK hasn't achieved the hundred reading since January 2020. Meanwhile, THREE TECHNIQUE managed to hit the mark in his first race of 2021. This will be third start off the bench, regressing a little from his career high mark in round two of the bench. The good news is that he followed the same trajectory in his last three-cycle and peaked in race three.
While FIRENZE FIRE's resume hints at some vulnerability, the three horses that have previously shown they could pull off the upset will need to run one of, if not, the best race of the careers to win and you are in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
THREE TECHNIQUE is probably in the best form of the trio, followed by MIND CONTROL and then WICKED TRICK.