Chances are strong a new graded stakes winner will emerge in Sunday’s $300,000 Steve Sexton Mile Stakes (G3) at Lone Star Park.
Only one starter in the ten-horse field—#10 Shotgun Kowboy—has ever broken through at the graded level, but the 7-year-old gelding is a 12-1 shot on the morning line. He has finished no better than third in his last five starts, including three allowance races at Oaklawn Park this year. Can Shotgun Kowboy rebound to his winning form? Possibly—he did prevail in the Lone Star Park Handicap (G3) last May—but I’m not sure I’d want to bet on it.
The main danger could be #4 King Abner, who ships in from California for trainer Philip D’Amato. If you excuse his defeats in sprint and turf races, it becomes clear that King Abner is a dirt miler at heart, with two wins and a close second in three starts under these conditions. Last time out he just missed in the one-mile Tiznow Stakes at Santa Anita Park, where he came up a half-length short against the talented Edwards Going Left, while posting a career-best 100 Brisnet speed figure.
King Abner has speed and figures to use it in the Sexton Mile, though he’s also tractable enough to settle into a stalking position if another horse goes crazy up front. That’s a good thing, because #5 Analyze This Jet, #8 Minister of Soul and #9 Mocito Rojo all figure to show speed from the get-go.
Another logical contender is #1 Title Ready, trained by the three-time Sexton Mile winner Steve Asmussen. This graded stakes-placed 4-year-old has shown steady improvement over the last six months and has been particularly effective going a mile, the distance at which he finished second behind the classy Vino Rosso in Aqueduct’s Stymie Stakes last month.
Unlike King Abner, Title Ready is a late runner, but he’s been effective in that role. With at least four clear speed horses in the Sexton Mile field, Title Ready could be poised to receive a better pace setup than King Abner. A ground-saving run around the first turn should also be in the offing with his rail draw. With two triple-digit Brisnet speed figures from his last three starts, Title Ready is a deserving morning-line favorite.
I’ll make King Abner and Title Ready the key horses in my wagers, boxing them in the exacta and playing them with “ALL” in a couple trifectas. The hope will be to catch a longshot for second and third:
$5 exacta: 1,4 with 1,4 ($10)
$2 exacta: 1,4 with 10 ($4)
$0.50 trifecta: 1,4 with 1,4 with ALL ($8)
$0.50 trifecta: 1,4 with ALL with 1,4 ($8)