03/09/2017 1:56PM

King: Recency gives Fifty Five advantage in Florida Oaks

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
King Kranz may get an ideal stalking trip behind a contested pace in the Tom Fool Handicap.

It is the Grade 3 Florida Oaks and not the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby that holds the most wagering appeal to this horseplayer at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday. That’s because the two morning-line favorites, graded stakes winners La Coronel and Daddys Lil Darling, are unraced since November and are seemingly being prepped for even more notable contests at Keeneland or somewhere else.

Next time, I might want to play them, but they are not for me on Saturday, though I do respect their class, particularly La Coronel, who was one of the top 2-year-old fillies last year and was a wide sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in her final start of 2016.

Instead, I’m going with an active horse – one making her third start of the year and already in top form: 6-1 shot Fifty Five. After winning a first-level allowance at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 1 over fellow Florida Oaks starter Tamit, Fifty Five rallied to be third in the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant Stakes, losing by only three-quarters of a length.

With the winner of that race, Rymska, bypassing the Florida Oaks, that leaves runner-up Compelled as the only filly in Saturday’s race who finished in front of Fifty Five in the Sweetest Chant, and though she did, it wasn’t by much. Compelled held her off by just a nose for the place.

Throw in a few extra bonuses – the presence of two speedballs in the lineup, a stretch-out from a mile to 1 1/16 miles on grass, and the addition of Jose Ortiz in the saddle – and the late-running Fifty Five takes on even more appeal.

Her price is likely to drop from 6-1, but coming from a relatively small barn and being a New York- bred, I suspect some bettors will view her with enough skepticism to where she starts at 9-2 or so.

King Kranz the pick in Tom Fool

Saturday’s Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap for sprinters at Aqueduct is a contest in which little separates the leading contenders, suggesting the race may come down to who gets the best trip. And that horse may prove to be King Kranz.

A pressing/stalking type drawn in post 3, King Kranz looks perfectly suited to follow the quick Green Gratto to his immediate inside and lay right off him. Should he do so, King Kranz can probably sit just a couple of lengths behind Green Gratto, Chief Lion, and The Great War – horses who are all at their best when they make the lead.

If this scenario unfolds, the leaders could be weakened from their taxing early efforts, putting King Kranz in position to pounce and get first run on the deep closers.

Beyond style, King Kranz looks ready to improve off a Feb. 17 comeback race, his first start since July and a race in which he finished fourth, not far behind the victorious Chief Lion and runner-up Sassicaia – two returnees in the Tom Fool.

A two-time stakes winner and Grade 3-placed behind Unified last year, King Kranz also seems as classy as any entrant in the field.

Benner Island live longshot

An abundance of speed in the Honeybee at Oaklawn also has me looking for a horse to win from off the pace, particularly since every one of the 11 entrants is stretching out to race 1 1/16 miles for the first time as 3-year-olds.

In great part due to her 15-1 morning line, I like Benner Island. Although an uninspired sixth in her first start this year, she looked sharp at times last year, especially in winning an allowance at Churchill Downs in November.

Benner Island adds blinkers, a move I typically don’t support at the betting windows, but given her fat morning line and a bullet work last Saturday – a move one would think came with the blinkers on – I’m inclined to give her a try.

Elate and It Tiz Well are the most probable winners of the Honeybee, but both have too much hype surrounding them to offer much value. Elate is the 5-2 favorite and It Tiz Well the 3-1 second choice.

Given those relatively short prices in a deep field, I will take my chances that they might get tired chasing fast splits – presumably set by either Perfect Wife or Tapa Tapa Tapa – two fillies who have won stakes on the lead.