08/02/2013 12:20PM

Steve Klein: Picks for the Vanderbilt, Best Pal, and Wonder Where

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Gentlemen's Bet (right) turns back Delaunay in the Iowa Sprint.

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Sunday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga attracted a field of five older horses running six furlongs. Gentlemen’s Bet and Delaunay, the first two finishers in the Iowa Sprint at Prairie Meadows, are expected be the leading contenders. Justin Phillip can also make an impact with a return to top form.

Gentlemen’s Bet has won 5 of 6 starts. His lone defeat was a third-place finish three races ago behind Justin Phillip. Gentlemen’s Bet has improved since that loss, winning his next two races with 107 Beyer Speed Figures. Justin Phillip finished second in the Grade 2 True North, then regressed and finished fourth in the Grade 2 Smile in his last start.

Delaunay had won six straight races coming into the Iowa Sprint, and was made the 3-10 favorite over Gentlemen’s Bet, the 19-10 second choice. Delaunay bumped the horse to his outside at the start and was fourth of five early. He moved up to challenge for the lead on the turn and poked his head in front, but he was outkicked the rest of the way and finished second, 1 3/4 lengths behind Gentlemen’s Bet.

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A clean break from the gate would make Delaunay tougher in the rematch, but he’ll still need to show more late energy than he did last time. It’s also a concern that Delaunay’s first workout at Saratoga was slow. He perked up the second time out, but he can’t afford to be at anything less than his best while running against Gentlemen’s Bet in his first start on this oval.

I’ll bet Gentlemen’s Bet to win, and I’ll use him on top in the exacta. A Gentlemen’s Bet over Delaunay exacta wouldn’t pay much, so I’ll look for value by using the improving Bahamian Squall and Justin Phillip, who is better than his last race indicates, for second.

Best Pal: Look to Alberts Hope

The Grade 2, $150,000 Best Pal at Del Mar should be competitive. Six of the seven runners won their last race, and the other finished a close second.

I like Alberts Hope. There should be a solid pace in this race, and he was able to rally from fourth to win his debut. The move from five furlongs to 6 1/2 furlongs should help.

Alpine Luck graduated two races ago in his third start, then was a game winner when he held off three challengers down the stretch to prevail by a half-length in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship.

Ontology is still a maiden. He finished second in his debut, then was a close second, a half-length behind Alpine Luck in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship. But he had easy trips in both of those races when he stayed on the rail throughout, and huge holes opened up in front of him turning for home. The addition of blinkers can boost his chances.

Guns Loaded fought hard most of the way and was tiring late, but the second horse tired more, so Guns Loaded edged away in deep stretch. The extra furlong is a concern today. He’ll have to rate more kindly to be effective.

I’ll bet Alberts Hope to win, and I’ll key him on top in the exacta with Alpine Luck and Ontology for second.

Wonder Where: Surtsey worth a shot

The $250,000 Wonder Where is a 1 1/4-mile turf race for Canadian-foaled 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine.

Spring in the Air is the most likely winner, and she will be well supported. She finished a close second as the favorite behind Nipissing in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks two races ago, then was much the best of the two when they battled males last time in the $1 million Queen’s Plate. Spring in the Air finished fourth, nine lengths behind the winner. Nipissing was eighth, beaten by 20 lengths.

Spring in the Air ran well in her lone previous turf race, finishing second last year in the Grade 2 Natalma. Nipissing has raced exclusively on Polytrack, but her 304 turf Tomlinson rating is a positive sign.

Surtsey is an interesting longshot. She won her first grass start on July 14 at 41-1 in the $150,000 Ontario Damsel. She stayed close to a quick early pace in that race, then was asked by jockey Jermaine Bridgmohan to take back. She did so, then rallied strongly on the outside down the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths. She has more early and tactical speed than her opponents do, and might not mind the extra quarter-mile in this race.

Smartyfly ran poorly at Keeneland in April in her lone previous turf start. That’s a concern, and I’d need a square price to be interested, but a better effort would make her a factor.

I’ll bet Surtsey to win, and I’ll use her on the top and bottom in the exacta with Spring in the Air, Nipissing, and Smartyfly. I’ll bet twice as much on the Surtsey and Spring in the Air exacta box as I will bet on the other combinations.