Turbo Compressor and Point of Entry could turn the 38th running of the G1 Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap on Saturday into a virtual match race.
Both G1 winners headline a fine nine-horse field that will race at 12 furlongs for the winner's share of the $600,000 purse and the chance to become a multiple G1 Stakes winner.
Turbo Compressor will be slightly favored on Saturday and rightfully so. Although this will be the first time he will try to stretch his speed to 12 furlongs, there is no speed to challenge him upfront.
He comes from winning the G1 United Nations at 11 furlongs and did so with ease after setting up pedestrian-like fractions upfront. This gave jockey Joe Bravo the leisure of reserving his horse for the home stretch, and he had plenty of horse at the end.
He has a bullet workout of 47.2 for four furlongs over firm turf on Monday, which tells you he is going to be asked to take the lead right away. But Bravo will have to be careful not to use him too much early since he will have the outside post No. 9.
Phipps Stable homebred, Point of Entry, introduced himself to G1 win by taking the Man O' War Stakes at Belmont last month. Jose Lezcano was aboard filling in for injured regular rider John Velazquez, and he rode him perfectly in what was a visually impressive victory. He was well-rated, stalked the pace set by Center Divider and handled him at will, before entering the home stretch and drawing clear to win by 3.5 lengths. He was stepping up in class but had been improving his form constantly.
The colt has a workout of 48 seconds flat for four furlongs done also last Monday just before Turbo Compressor took the track for his work. He looks ready to take on this next challenge, and Velazquez will be back on the saddle.
Center Divider gave Point of Entry all he could handle until the final quarter-mile pole where he could only had enough to hold off the rest of the field.
He took advantage of the lack of speed and took turtle-like fractions and still couldn't wire the field. On Saturday he will see real fractions upfront and will be hard pressed to repeat his last race even with the repeat mount of Rosie Napravnik.
Brillliant Speed has one G1 win and that was 2011 Blue Grass Stakes over the Keeneland Race Course Polytrack. On his only start at Saratoga, he won the G3 Saranac Stakes last year, but he has failed to win again since and seems to be losing form.
He picks up the mount of Javier Castellano, who will ride him for the first time.
Al Khali has a 4-1-0-3 record over Saratoga's turf course, where he won the G3 Saranac Stakes in 2009 and has finished third on this race the past two years. He has one win in five starts this year, but he finished a troubled third in the G1 United Nations Stakes on his last start.
Tahoe Lake (BRZ) always shows up and has finished worse than third once in his last nine races. But he needs to take that next step in form to win here, as he has lost to Point of Entry all three times they have met on the track.
Newsdad, Game Ball and Hailstone complete the field, and neither one of them has yet to be in contention in top graded stakes competition.
Turbo Compressor will go for the lead right from the start. The question is, who will challenge him so that he doesn't set easy fractions and never looks back.
Point of Entry has enough tactical speed to follow him, but JohnnyV will most certainly hope for somebody else to take it to Turbo Compressor before he does.
He could see that being done by Newsdad or Center Divider, but with the long 12 furlongs to race, it's possible Turbo Compressor doesn't see anyone near him for the first half of the race.
The closers will have a hard time to win here and the stalkers will need to take an early stand on Turbo Compressor to avoid the gate-to-wire win.
Still the extra furlong could be just a tad too long for Turbo Compressor, who will have an outside post, have to be used somewhat early and could give the chance to Center Divider to possibly steal the lead from him.
Point of Entry is in great shape and will be close to the pace no matter which this turns out to be. He will take the race to Turbo Compressor or whoever is the leader starting the final turn. He will draw clear to win the race, and Al Khali will benefit from a clean trip to finish second with Brilliant Speed finishing third.
Win - Point of Entry
Place - Al Khali
Show - Brilliant Speed
The Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap will be the ninth race on the 11-race card at Saratoga on Saturday and has a post time set for 5:13 p.m. ET.
It will precede the $600,000 G1 Alabama Stakes where Grace Hall and Questing (GB) will headline a field of seven fillies.
9th Race | Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap | Grade I | Purse: $600,000 | Distance: 12 furlongs | Inner Turf | Post Time: 5:13 p.m. ET
|1||Al Khali ||Junior Alvarado ||William I. Mott ||116 ||8-1|
|2||Point of Entry ||John R. Velazquez ||Claude R. McGaughey III ||123 ||5-2|
|3||Tahoe Lake (BRZ) ||Eddie Castro ||Kenneth G. McPeek ||116 ||15-1|
Newsdad ||Joel Rosario ||William I. Mott ||118 ||12-1|
|5||Game Ball ||Jose L. Espinoza ||Naipaul Chatterpaul ||116 ||30-1|
|6||Center Divider ||Rosie Napravnik ||Chad C. Brown ||116 ||5-1|
|7||Hailstone ||Alan Garcia ||Robert J. Ribaudo ||116 ||20-1|
|8||Brilliant Speed ||Javier J. Castellano ||Thomas Albertrani ||116 ||6-1|
|9||Turbo Compressor ||Joe Bravo ||Todd A. Pletcher ||123 ||2-1|
Morning Line odds by drf.com.