It’s PRK Time After Two Weeks That Were Set On Fast

The PRK (Grade 1)- $1,500.000 Purse
PIM- For Three Year Olds
One Mile and Three Sixteenths on the Dirt
May 16, 2020

Welcome to the storied PIM race track for the second jewel of the virtual triple crown. For many, what happened in the KYD is still fresh on everyone’s minds, but for Nakamura Stables, the opportunity to win the TC is at the forefront. Royal Assembly surprised many people when he took home the KYD two weeks ago, and now with a good post in the starting gate for the PRK, we’ll see if he can do something that no horse has ever done in our virtual world. In real racing, we see the KYD-PRK double pulled off often, leading us to wonder if we’ll see a triple crown winner in the BEL. On HRP, we’re still looking for the first horse to win the first two jewels. There have been greats that we have been excited about coming into the race, and some very close calls, but none that have accomplished it. For the last two weeks, there has not been much chatter about Royal Assembly taking the PRK as well, and perhaps that is just the way that Nakamura Stables wants it. The effects of the KYD took a while to wear off, leading to the game undergoing some changes because of it; therefore we can’t talk about the PRK without referencing what we all saw in the KYD. Right from the starting gate, it seemed like half the field burst out of the of the gate, and the other half was “off the viewer” almost immediately. When the early fractions went up, everyone knew what was going on and the trouble that the lead group would be in. That’s not a knock on Royal Assembly, who took charge from the back group and was in the best position to take home the victory. Things have changed, and the fast instruction has been suspended in select races. That action by the game was telling for me and for many in that they also understood that the early fractions in the KYD did not completely reflect online realism. Many horses return from that race, and it will be interesting to see how this race is run differently. Let’s meet those runners now in our full field of fourteen.

#1- Chai Morning (Aer Stables, ridden by S X Bridgmohan)- The post draw was kind to Aer Stables, and he’ll be able to bring three to the starting gate, all of which are within the first five posts. Chai Morning was a highly touted horse by many people heading into the KYD after winning the Fountain of Youth and then finishing second in the FL Derby. In the KYD, he was part of the lead group, and ran two lengths off the blistering 1:08 1/5 time after six furlongs. That would doom him for the race, and he would wind up in the 18th position. We all know he is better then that, so the bigger question is how he does with the short layoff. However, he will be very happy to have a familiar person in the saddle as regular rider S X Bridgmohan is aboard once again.

#2- Sars (Aer Stables, ridden by A Beschizza)- This horse will not have to wear a face shield in the race or while running, which is good news for the trainer. He was running well as a two year old, and seemed destined for better things, but around the time the current pandemic began, Sars began to tail off. In the Gotham, he was a complete non factor, running eighth in an non eventful run from gate to wire. He was a little better in the Wood Memorial, getting up for third, but never threatened for the win. Works have slowed this year, ever so slightly, but in a field like this, that matters.

#3- Immoral (Mb Stables, ridden by J K Court)- Likely the best horse that did not run in the KYD, as he was a victim to the rule which limited Mb Stables to just three horses in the field despite having more qualified to run. In the top 12 lists that were provided, many thought highly of Immoral, but Mb Stables felt that the No Doubt About It gelding had to earn it, and he was not impressed enough with his works leading in. This now leads Immoral to be a feared challenger that will be well rested, but what about those concerns about the works? Have they gone away? Not sure if they have fully, but he still seems to be in a good position here.

#4- Graveyard (Mb Stables, ridden by D Davis)- As early picks get made in the Smokey Stover Survivor competition, we are seeing both Immoral and Graveyard getting a lot of positive play. It is pretty easy to see why that is the case, as he looks poised to run a big one right here. He is fresh, having not run since finishing second in the AR Derby, but on this one there is no concern about works. A day before the KYD was run, Graveyard was at BEL, and turned in a big time mile work, and he followed that up with another impressive work, this at six furlongs, ten days later. He also seems like a horse that is going to like this distance. Definitely much to like about this one.

#5- Night Creature (Aer Stables, ridden by N Juarez)- This gelding by Brutal ran on the turf for the majority of his two year old campaign, and he was good enough to be able to take part in the BC Juvenile Turf. That’s about all there is to say about that race for him, and thankfully he was brought back to the main track in time for the TAM Derby in early March. In that race, he looked comfortable on the dirt immediately, and finished second in the race, missing in a photo to Immoral. A month later, he ran in the BG Stakes, and impressed there too, finishing third. However, Aer Stables also needed to cut his KYD entries to three, and Night Creature was the odd one out. Now, the trainer has a promising and well rested horse of his own in this field, and he should do well.

#6- Royal Assembly (Nakamura Stables, ridden by A T Gryder)- All eyes will be on Royal Assembly here in the KYD to see if he can be the first horse to win the first two legs of the virtual triple crown. He was respected by many going into that race, but because of the overall depth of this division, he may have been lost in the shuffle a little bit. He did what he needed to do, being in the right position to take advantage of the crazy pace that was being set in front of him. That result was not a fluke, as won the Grade 3 Southwest at OP in February, and then followed that up by running third in the FL Derby. He has always had ample time between each of his starts, so the question about how he handles the short rest here is the biggest issue.

#7- Geronimo (Nakamura Stables, ridden by A Cedillo)- Ran in the KYD as well, and was one of the main horses at the very front of the field; running times for four and six furlongs that may have made people think they were watching the BC Sprint. Geronimo collapsed, as could be expected, and finished dead last. The trainer insisted that he did not use the questionable fast instruction, and there is no reason to not believe him as he has been an owner of high integrity here for 14 years. We’ll see what is different about Geronimo here, but I do think he’ll be near the front again.

#8- Mexican Swagger (John Henry, ridden by T Gaffalione)- This one is an interesting entry because he is also coming in here on just two weeks of rest, but that is not because he ran in the KYD. Instead, he ran as a part of the undercard, in the Grade 2 Day Mile. That’s fine, but then you see that he finished dead last in that race. This has led to many in the Survivor contest that have picked early to use him as the “behind” horse. It’s hard to be excited, but I do like his works. They aren’t any different then what the established horses of the division are doing, but they show he can run with the field. Ran fifth in the Wood Memorial, which is a better race to look at, and with that I could consider him a spoiler here if he did not just race two weeks ago.

#9- Steak And Potatoes (Tiratzo, ridden by R Chirinos)- While many horses in this field that are coming back from the KYD are concerned about a two week rest period, Steak And Potatoes takes that another step and makes his third start in five weeks. It is often that third start here on HRP that is the tough one, but I can understand why Tiratzo is doing this. After being victimized by the early place, the trainer has to see what his horse can do in a TC race that probably is not going to be run in the same manner. He’s hard to pick because of all the racing that he has done lately, but if it works out then it can fare well for him at this distance.

#10- Anoush Command (Fractious, ridden by J R Velazquez)- I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be in Fractious’ shoes during the KYD in regards to Anoush Command. He had what was seen as the favorite, or one of the top favorites by mostly everyone in the game, and he had acquired him with a very large investment to begin with. Then, at the start, he is way back, at one point, 21 lengths from the lead. He had others in the field, so maybe that made it a little better, but I can’t imagine the aggravation there. Anoush Command then did well in the stretch to get up for fifth, but it was too late at that point. This is a great horse that can and will do more great things, and as long as he is ready to go after two weeks, then my thoughts about him go back to where they were before the KYD, and that he is the best horse in the division.

#11- Boardwalk (Fractious, ridden by D Van Dyke)- The race of Boardwalk was a little better then Anoush Command for his trainer, Fractious, and getting the fourth place check from him was a small consolation. Boardwalk, who impressed in his second place finish in BG Stakes in April, is an up and coming horse that I feel is going to be one to watch over the summer months and beyond. In the KYD, he was not as far back as Anoush Command but he was still 18 lengths back, and closed to get fourth. I’m not sure what to expect from him here, since it seems like this race could go either way for him. Therefore, I am interested in how it unfolds for Boardwalk.

#12- Angelsinheaven (Angelos Stable, ridden by R Bejarano)- A rare autogen in the field, something that you don’t see much of anymore in any stake. The right combinations came for Angelsinheaven when he was generated, and Angelos Stable was able to get him cheaply, claiming him for $20.000. He has yet to win a graded stake, but consistently finds himself near the front of the field. His career highlight right now is his second place showing in the Grade 2 Rebel at OP, but then a month later at the same track, and just slightly more distance, he tired to ninth in the AR Derby. This makes me concerned about him getting this distance, but perhaps a tactical adjustment is going to make that be a non-issue.

#13- Socrates (Mb Stables, ridden by G Franco)- This is another horse that comes out of the Day Mile, something that is also true for Mexican Swagger. However, unlike that rival, Socrates actually ran well in the Day Mile, finishing second, a half length behind the winning Grandstand Jockey. Two starts before that, he won the Grade 3 Gotham, but in between that he could only be tenth in the Wood Memorial, and in the Mb Stables barn, that’s enough to not see the KYD. His works don’t stand out at a mile and while factoring in the Gotham, as well as this post, I am not very optimistic about his chances here.

#14- Stark- Scratched

#15- Laffin Hero (Alyar Stables, ridden by D E Centeno)- Getting into the race after the scratch of Stark, Laffin Hero was a horse that also fell victim to the early pace of the KYD. It looked like he was in more of a stalking mode, and he would tire in the stretch. This is a horse with plenty of potential, and Alydar Stables paid a big price to get him from Aer Stables, spending $750.000 a couple weeks after he won the Sham Stakes in January. He has not won since, but picked up at least a part of the purse in each of his prep races leading up to the KYD. Getting a lot of play in the Survivor competition as a “behind” horse, something that I think is quite risky to be doing because I think he’s going to have a good race.

Prediction: 4-10-3-5

— NS

Categories: Grade I, STAKES ARTICLES, TC 2018-20, THE TRIPLE CROWN

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