07/19/2013 12:36PM

Steve Klein: Picks for Sanford, San Clemente, Nijinsky

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Debt Ceiling, winner of the Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs, is capable of adapting to any scenario that might develop in the Sanford at Saratoga.

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Three Grade 2 stakes races will be run Sunday under a wide variety of circumstances. The Sanford at Saratoga will feature 2-year-olds on dirt. The San Clemente at Del Mar will showcase 3-year-old fillies on turf. The Nijinsky is open to 3-year-olds and up on turf at Woodbine, but all of the entrants are older males.

Debt Ceiling is 3 for 3 with a maiden win, a stakes win, and a Grade 3 win. He ran a big race last time when he tracked a hot 20.93-second opening quarter-mile, then assumed command through a 44.57 half-mile, and five furlongs in 56.79 en route to a 2 3/4-length win in 1:10.66 for six furlongs on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor. He continues to train strongly.

All in Blue kicked past the early leaders and opened up a comfortable advantage on the turn on his way to an impressive 6 1/4-length debut win going five furlongs for Todd Pletcher.

Wired Bryan reached the lead shortly after the start, then increased the margin steadily when he beat New York-bred maidens by 7 1/4 lengths in his first start.

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All in Blue is the 2-1 morning-line favorite, and if he runs as well or better than he did in his debut, he will be very tough. Wired Bryan (5-1 morning line) looked good, but he has to prove he can handle opponents who will be faster both early and late (note that the track was playing fast on the day he won) than the New York-breds he defeated. I like the move Debt Ceiling (5-2 morning line) made into a fast pace, and I also prefer the fact that he has more seasoning than All in Blue and Wired Bryan. Debt Ceiling has won on the lead, from off the pace, and as a closer. He has a bigger comfort zone than the other two and is therefore less likely to be taken out of his game by an unexpected pace scenario or minor trouble. He’s my selection, with the other two beneath him in the exacta.

The San Clemente is a one-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar.

Iotapa has won 3 of 5 races and finished second in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks and Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks. She has done her best running around two turns and should be the class of this field. This will be her first race on grass, but her 268 turf Tomlinson is satisfactory, so I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on the surface switch.

Unusual Way has 3 wins, 3 seconds, and a third from her last 7 races. Four of those races were against California-breds, but she still ran well enough to be a big factor in the exotics, and if Iotapa regresses on the surface switch, this filly would be the one to beat.

Charlie Em won the Grade 3 Senorita two races ago, then regressed and finished fifth last time in the Grade 2 Honeymoon.

Lilbourne Eliza battled through a lively pace and finished a close second in a first-level optional $80,000 claiming race. A better pace scenario is likely here, and it would make her dangerous at what should be a square price.

I will select Iotapa to win and use her over the other three for second in the exacta.

The Nijinsky is a 1 1/8-mile turf race at Woodbine that attracted a field of 10 older male horses.

Riding the River has been successful at this Grade 2 class level with 3 wins, 2 seconds, and a fourth-place finish from 6 races since 2012. One of those wins was earned in this race last year. He also finished fourth in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile. That form should make him the horse they will have to beat, but modest odds wouldn’t be worth taking.

Pool Play was overmatched in three Grade 1 races, the Stephen Foster, Donn, and Breeders’ Cup Classic. But a return to the form he showed while winning the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup and finishing a close second in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope would give him a good chance to rebound. He won’t mind returning to the grass.

Hotep finished a fast-closing third, a neck behind Riding the River last time. He also finished second, a neck behind him, in this race last year. The move from a mile to 1 1/8 miles will give him a chance for the mild upset. I will bet him to win.