09/05/2016 2:06PM

Vulnerable favorites in Centaur, Indiana Grand stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Giant Run has a chance to upset Wednesdays' Centaur at Indiana Grand.

A Wednesday afternoon in south-central Indiana, and there is big money on the line at Indiana Grand.

Featured on the Wednesday card are two $200,000 stakes races going a mile on turf: the Centaur for 3-year-olds and the Indiana Grand for 3-year-old fillies. Both drew full, wildly competitive fields, and the two open stakes are supported by a pair of $100,000 turf stakes for older Indiana-breds.

Indiana Grand has been bitten by plenty of wet weather this summer, but the midweek forecast shows heat, not rain, and the turf course Wednesday should be firm and fast-playing.

The Centaur goes as race 6 and has Surgical Strike as the 5-2 morning-line favorite, and bettors have plenty of reasons to try to beat him. Surgical Strike has put together an admirable season, winning three races and more than a quarter-million dollars, but he is drawn in post 12, which in the entire history of Indiana Grand racing has produced three winners from 89 starters in one-mile grass races. Moreover, Surgical Strike ran well below his best form last out, finishing seventh in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes, which was his eighth start of 2016, a busy campaign that followed a minimal winter break. Surgical Strike probably has little room to improve Wednesday and plenty of room to regress, though the presence of several pace players could land him a one-run closing trip that he might appreciate.

:: INDIANA GRAND: Get PPs, watch Wednesday's card live

Nearly sure to be a lower price than his 5-1 morning-line odds, and a good bet to finish in the top two, is New York shipper Giant Run. Like Surgical Strike, Giant Run is down in class Wednesday, having set the pace and held fourth Aug. 5 in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame at Saratoga. Trained by Tom Albertrani and with Joe Bravo named to ride, Giant Run looks better off chasing a target than setting the pace, and he should have at least one horse in front of him Wednesday while turning back to what probably is his best distance.

Zapperini holds some appeal at double-digit odds. Racing with blinkers added and making his turf debut last month at Ellis Park, Zapperini rallied to beat older first-level allowance horses with a decent finish, and if even most of the pace shows up Wednesday, he should be closing late on tiring horses. Uncle Guy’s recent form is spottier than Zapperini’s, but he was right behind the capable Monster Bea earlier in the summer and should also get a favorable setup.

Holding Gold is sure to attract support for trainer Mark Casse and jockey Florent Geroux, but none of his six starts has been longer than seven furlongs. He is exiting a fast-paced Saratoga sprint, and he could easily get swept up into what projects as a demanding pace.

◗ Auntie Joy is the deserving 2-1 morning-line favorite in the Indiana Grand, which goes as race 4, but like Surgical Strike in the Centaur, she fared poorly in the draw and must break from post 11 with a short run to the first turn.

Auntie Joy had a somewhat troubled stretch run and finished a decent third last out in the Grade 3 Pucker Up at Arlington, but she has the look of a horse who might have peaked in late spring and early summer and has, for now at least, hit a developmental plateau. All of which makes Auntie Joy another short-priced play-against Wednesday.

Queen Caroline, based in Maryland with trainer Michael Matz, shipped to Indiana in July to win the $100,000 Ta Wee Stakes by three-quarters of a length, and she rates a solid enough chance Wednesday while well drawn in post 2 to get covered up just behind the pace.

But the pick to win the Indiana Grand is Believe In Bertie, especially if she goes to post anywhere near her 8-1 morning-line odds.

Believe in Bertie is a Louisiana-bred in name only, a Klein family homebred by Langfuhr out of the Street Cry mare Saint Bertie. Her last two starts came in Louisiana-bred competition, but the filly debuted last summer with a turf-route win in a straight maiden race at Saratoga and was beaten a head this spring in a Keeneland allowance race. She has been working with aplomb for trainer Brad Cox, whose high-percentage strike rate extends to stakes races, where he has won at a 26 percent clip the last three years.

◗ Defending champion Lady Fog Horn should make short work – at a short price – of the $100,000 Florence Henderson to start off the stakes action in race 2. She not only is the best horse in the race but is in line for a ground-saving trip closing into what looks like a fast, contested pace.

The $100,000 A. J. Foyt, race 8, feels far trickier. The 3-year-old Derby Express faces older rivals for the first time but was an impressive Indiana-bred stakes winner in his turf debut earlier at this meet. Jeff Greenhill trains him and also sends out Derby Express’s older half-brother, Needmore Cash, who upset the 2015 Foyt and is not without a chance Wednesday. Huntstown could be favored under Geroux but must overcome post 12 to win.

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