Pan American Stakes 2021 Preview: Cross Border a strong play

The versatile Cross Border is in a good spot in the Pan American
The versatile Cross Border is in a good spot in the Pan American

Saturday at Gulfstream continues for us with Race 10 and the $200,000 Grade II Pan American Stakes. Trainer Mike Maker has two of the leading lights heading into this one but what does our in-house handicapper think?

Our Race Card is below along with all of his analysis ahead of Race 10.

I really don’t think much of the horses that have been competing in the turf marathon stakes at the meet, which is why it was an easy decision to make Cross Border (#1) my top pick in the G2 Pan American coming off a third-place finish in the G1 Pegasus Turf Cup Invitational. The Pegasus Turf Cup was hardly a true G1, however it did feature a much better field than this and Cross Border ran legitimately well to be third after having to deal with a bit of traffic. It’s been awhile since the last time he crossed the finish line first, which came last summer in a weak New York-bred spot, but this horse has been a model of consistency and I believe he’s at his best at these distances. His early speed should allow him to work out an ideal stalking trip, and I just think he’s classier than his competition in this spot.

Given the presence of Sadler’s Joy (#3), calling Cross Border classier is up for debate, but I think this old war horse’s career is starting to wind down. He actually ran pretty well in his 8-year-old debut in the G3 William L. McKnight, though yet again he was the victim of his complete lack of pace and could only manage a fifth-place finish. As has been pointed out ad nauseum throughout his career, Sadler’s Joy is a very talented horse but an unreliable win candidate as it’s difficult for riders to time his late run. At this point, if he’s truly going to be near his morning-line odds of 5-2, I think you have to let him beat you.

As an alternative to Cross Border, I much prefer the up-and-coming Moon Over Miami (#7), who took his game to another level in his 4-year-old debut in the G2 Mac Diarmida. I’ve never really been a fan of Moon Over Miami, but there’s no doubt he took a big step forward in the Mac Diarmida, rallying strongly to get third behind wire-to-wire winner Phantom Currency over a course that was intensely speed-favoring. His improvement was hardly unexpected considering the torrid run his Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott is on, and if he moves up off that effort he can definitely give Cross Border a run for his money provided he gets enough pace to run at.

Order of preference:  1-7-3-8

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