Who can handle the track? That's the key to solving this week's Stronach 5, which covers five racing surfaces from three tracks nationwide. The $1 wager features an industry-low 12 percent takeout. Here's an early look at the action, with an update to follow after scraches Friday morning:
LEG A: (Santa Anita, race 3, 4:33 EST) -- HAIL COLUMBIA and ARDIS debut with Lasix after a series of weekly workouts dating back to the fall. Hail Columbia is by 2016 Preakness winner Exaggerator (6-15, $3.5 million) and Ardis is by multiple Grade II winner Mohaymen (5-13, $998k). SO IT WOULD SEEM gets blinkers, Lasix and class relief after stumbling in her first start three months ago. She worked in :59.1 from the gate to earn a spot on the ticket. HARDDIANE showed promise in her 4-1/2F debut last spring and was compromised by a wide follow-up trip. But she reappears after seven months away with a new rider and Lasix.
LEG B: (Gulfstream Park, race 9, 4:42 EST) -- RAKASA ran into an early traffic jam, recovered to advance steadily between rivals, had aim on the winner for the stretch run but settled for second best. She could return a quick claim dividend in her second start on conventional dirt. AMERICAN OF COURSE won three straight by a combined 18 lengths during a lightly-raced 4-year-old season and is strictly the one to beat. She came back from a four-month layoff, dueled through fast fractions and held third behind a next-out winner.
LEG C: (Golden Gate, race 3, 4:49 EST) -- HERE COMES RALPHIE improved some with Lasix as a 3-year-old, now returns off a 10-month layoff with a fastest-of-41 work in 1:01 over the track. LOVELY HUSSAR had no breathers on the front end in a near miss at 5F. She dueled 3-wide early, shook free of the 90-1 leader on the turn and repelled two stretch challenges before the troubled winner surged late between rivals. MARZANNA hasn't raced since last May, when she checked sharply at 3/8-pole, recovered quickly to finish third and galloped out in front. The two rivals that finished ahead of her, however, are a combined 2-for-22 to date.
LEG D: (Santa Anita, race 4, 5:04 EST) -- STREET RUCKUS returns to the turf, should get the jump on his main rivals and is today's solo play on the added strength of company lines that include recent allowance winners Barbwire and Offlee Naughty, allowance runner-up Prince Abama and MSW winner Crump.
LEG E: (Gulfstream Park, race 10, 5:14 EST) -- Going 5-deep in a crowded turf route to cap the Stronach 5. HAIL TO THE CHIEF ran poorly in her only turf start 16 months ago but can't be ignored in this barn off a pair of third-place rallies. STIRLING DRIVE makes the cross-country journey back to Gulfsteam and is a late-running threat to surpass $300,000 in turf earnings. OVER THE CHANNEL finished first or second in 9 of 16 starts on the grass, mostly at Gulfstream. ALLEY OOP JOHNNY dueled a long way at this level as the beaten favorite at Aqueduct and was claimed by Maker. ARCHER ROAD, third in the Sunshine Million stakes a year ago, showed little on the main track in his seasonal debut but remains a wake-up candidate.
Suggested $1 Ticket
Leg A: 3, 4, 7, 8
Leg B: 5, 7
Leg C: 1, 3, 5
Leg D: 7
Leg E: 1, 3, 5, 6, 9