Jeff Siegel's Prime Picks for Friday, Feb. 20

The early Daily Double figures to produce a short payoff no matter who wins the 1st race. #6 One Vote looks good on paper but has been suspect under pressure in the final furlong, always backing up from the stretch call to the finish. However, his numbers are rising and this shortening up in trip could help. #9 Belongs to Gotham switches to Gomez and should be a pace presser outside throughout. He’ll be making just his third career start and may have more improvement in him than One Vote. Either one could win. Undefeated #3 Rail Trip takes another crack at conditioned allowance company in the 2nd race as good trainer Ron Ellis chooses the path of least resistance with the Jump Start gelding. In three lifetime starts, Rail Trip has yet to be extended and while this field represents a significant increase in competition, there’s nothing really in here that the favorite shouldn’t beat. Obviously Rail Trip will be too short to wager on straight but if you’re interested in cold-decking the exacta you probably should consider #2 Rocket Legs in the 2-hole. The Pletcher-trained horse ran into a roadblock when trying to rally in his recent comeback race and did okay to finish third while probably needing the outing. The winner of that race, Blue Exit, came back to run second in the Strub Stakes. The 3rd race kicks off the Pick-6 and #2 Dohnster gets back on the lawn after showing an affinity for turf when second in a maiden dash at Hollywood Park in November. He’s a very good mover and I’m sure grass is his preferred surface. In his only other route race, he was given too much to do after being taken back to last in the early stages; he’s much more effective when he’s within striking range. From the good inside post he should be prominent throughout and a bullet :47 flat half last week (fastest of 44) should have him on edge. However, in a field with lightly raced 3-year-olds, several of whom have never been tried on turf, there are a number of “stranger danger” entrants. #5 Remus hasn’t made any impact in two previous races but in neither case was he knocked about. I’m thinking there’s more to give than has been asked yet and I would use him the exotics. Also, #8 Nathanial was 7/2 in his debut at Oak Tree in a tough sprint and faltered badly after showing brief speed. He’s come back to work very well for Machowsky and I would suspect that he’s much better than that one race shows. The 4th race brings back #1 Bewitching Bartok and #3 Idaho Joe, one-two finishers in a $12,500 claimer earlier this month and both should be competitive on the one level raise. Bewitching Bartok, a consistent veteran gelding, goes from Mullins to Hollendorfer (that’s probably a push) but today draws the rail after enjoying an outside draw in his most recent win. Idaho Joe retains Rosario and should be part of the pace, but in 21 lifetime starts he has only two wins to go along 10 seconds and thirds. You also may want to consider the sharp #4 Make Mine Vodka in your exotics. He’s a first-off-the-claim for Avila following an impressive win vs. $10,000 foes; however he’s a devout late-running sprinter at an abbreviated sprint trip in a field without much speed. The 5th race is a good starter’s allowance event for 3-year-old fillies and while she may not have beaten much, #3 Bettyboomboom was visually impressive graduating with a strong figure last month and would appear to have the perfect pace prompting style for this seven furlong trip. She’s a “must use” along with #7 Melody Makin, second in similar company in her last two starts; and #8 Upper Manhattan, a closing 4th in a tougher $50,000 open claimer and clearly most effective when held up early and allowed to run late. The 6th race is a maiden downhill dash for 3-year-olds and a typical grass grab gab. #4 Black Feather exits a pair of fast heats and with Prized on the bottom of his pedigree should enjoy the switch to the turf. The Drysdale barn has begun to heat up. There are a number of first timers in the field, but none have been overly impressive according to the private clockers. Trainers with late running sprinters always are happy to see #4 Its in God’s Hands in the entries. At least they know they’ll have fast fractions to run at. Its in God’s Hands is as quick as they come, and he’s shortening up a furlong to today so he must be feared, but #3 Devoted Magic is a powerful late running sprinter who lost little in defeat when badly victimized by a lack of pace in the Palos Verdes ‘Cap last month. Under the circumstances, he did extremely well to finish second to Johnny Eaves and rather than tackle Georgie Boy in tomorrow’s San Carlos Handicap he surfaces in this much easier first level allowance. Bottom rung older maiden claimers compete in the 8th race and the two logical contenders are #4 Elusive Chief and #5 Stray Cat. Elusive Chief was beaten at 3/5 in his comeback and this wasn’t the first time he’s failed as the favorite, so he may be a hard one to trust. That’s one of the reasons we’ll prefer Stray Cat, who seems to be improving steadily with racing, retains Rosario, and seems set for another forward move.