03/15/2012 4:31PM

King: Inherit the Gold deserves respect in Excelsior

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Inherit the Gold, with Junior Alvarado riding, wins the Haynesfield.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Some handicappers view statebred horses racing in open company as pretenders, reasoning they're outclassed runners who have benefited from competing in restricted contests.

I hold a contrarian view: believing they represent value-based opportunities, provided they fit on other handicapping merits.

A talented New York-bred horse, Inherit the Gold, fits this profile Saturday in the Grade 3 Excelsior at Aqueduct, and warrants a wager.

A sure thing he's not, but a horse better than his 6-1 morning line odds? Indeed. This is a horse who is the defending champion in the race, and a runner that has proven his quality this winter, both in and out of the New York-bred ranks.

First or second in four of his last five starts, he was second in the Dec.  10 Queens County Stakes to eventual Santa Anita Handicap winner Ron the Greek, and after a lackluster effort that immediately followed, his efforts in his two most recent have been seemingly as good. He won in a gallop in the Haynesfield for New York-breds Jan. 22, and then was a close second in the Mr. G.J.G. Stakes Feb. 12 behind Stormy's Majesty, a horse who got loose on the lead.

Hung wide around both turns, he rallied to finish just a half-length behind the winner, who saved ground every step of the way.

The potential pace picture in the Excelsior looks better suited to his closing style, with three horses - Redding Colliery, Birdrun, and San Pablo - all being horses who are at their best when setting or pushing the pace.

Inherit the Gold, favorably drawn in post 3, just outside of Redding Colliery and Birdrun, looks in a perfect position to stalk them, while at least saving ground into the first turn.

A good trip may prove all he needs to notch a repeat Excelsior victory.

Private Term Stakes

Although the potential pace setup for my next selection, Hakama, isn't nearly as favorable as what looms for Inherit the Gold, his other strengths point to him as the best value play of a contentious Private Term Stakes at Laurel Park.

Having already won a maiden race and an allowance in fast time - running Beyer Speed Figures of 81 and 80 Beyer, respectively -- he has shown he is fast enough to win. Plus, he's taking a key drop, moving into an ungraded race after pressing the pace in the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct before fading to be last of six.

That race, for whatever reason, was not representative of his ability - though by no means is he anywhere near the same class as the winner, Alpha.

He is of Private Terms quality, and having twice run well over the Laurel strip, one gets the impression that a form reversal is in order. So, too, do his recent works at Fair Hill - which have been quick and consistent, coming every week or so.

Admittedly, this front-runner takes on a field seemingly inundated with speed - a concern for a horse who has yet to win from off the pace - but with him sitting at 5-1 on the morning line, that seems a risk worth taking.

Besides, the morning-line favorites in the one-mile Private Terms aren't without fault. The 5-2 Dangerous Lad hasn't scored beyond seven furlongs or won more than a starter $50,000 allowance, and 3-1 Raconteur, coming off a troubled seventh in the Gotham, is returning on two weeks' rest for trainer Todd Pletcher, a quick turnaround he typically doesn't do.

Pletcher likes to give most of his horses a month or so off between races, even more so with his stakes horses, whom he will often rest five to six weeks between starts.
Also bear in mind that Hakama has already beaten Raconteur, doing so in a maiden race Dec. 10 at Aqueduct on the inner track.

Rebel Stakes

Last but not least, the Rebel for 3-year-olds is Saturday at Oaklawn, a race that drew a deep field despite the presence of Secret Circle, one of the fastest 3-year-olds in the country.

He will be heavy chalk, however, and Sabercat will also likely take up a considerable chunk of the betting action - too much given that he is returning from a layoff - and this should create value on alternative plays.

I'll take a shot with Atigun, an allowance winner at the meet who is fresh and seemingly poised for a leap forward. Perhaps it won't be good enough to upset, but at fat odds, he is worth a flyer.