I’m a day late with my new additions to the Horses To Watch list and I’ll get to them, but first let’s take a look at the two horses currently on the list who are entered today. This is the first time I’ll be handicapping horses running back in turf races. We have one at Gulfstream and another at Aqueduct to look at and I believe both of the horses from my list are going to win at fairly short prices.
First, in the seventh race at Gulfstream, a conditioned N3L Claiming $30,000-$25,000 at 1 1/16 miles, El Bendinat (#5) is running back after a disastrous stretch run at this same level last time. I was looking forward to betting her as the likely second choice, but after the scratch of morning line favorite Sovereign Crisis, she will probably go off favored. Nevertheless, she was best at this level last time when taking a drop in class and is supposed to win here with a decent ride from Joe Rocco, Jr. There is enough pace to set up her late kick and I expect her to get it done at odds of around 5-2. The bet:
$15 Win 5
Back up north, in the ninth race at Aqueduct, a NY-bred maiden special weight also at 1 1/16 miles on the grass, Elusive Rumour (#4) is making her first turf start after a dreadfully passive ride last time. Even though she probably should have won that race, it was a major step forward for her and now she switches to the surface she is bred to excel on. By good grass sire Elusive Quality, this filly is a half sister to four turf winners from five foals from this dam that tried it. One of them, Beebe Lake, was a stakes winner on grass. She has the tactical speed to be prominent throughout and there really just aren’t very many good alternatives in this spot. However, one other horse that I do want to use with Elusive Rumour in the exacta is Stock Fund (#2). Stock Fund ran some pretty decent races on grass at Saratoga and Belmont last summer and fall before spending the winter struggling in maiden claimers on the inner dirt at Aqueduct. She should wake up with the switch to her preferred surface. I also have to use her for sentimental reasons as I once made a big score with her dam at Saratoga. The bet:
$15 Win 4
$4 Exacta Box 2-4
Now I’ll quickly outline the horses I’m adding to the list from last week. There are only three of them this time:
- In Thursday’s fourth race, a NY-bred maiden claiming $25,000 at six furlongs, Utopian Dream (#5) was making his first start since his debut last summer at Saratoga. He ran last that day, but was dropping down and getting blinkers for the first time for trainer Colum O’Brien. After getting left about 3 lengths behind at the break, jockey Ruben Silvera rushed Utopian Dream up into a stalking position through a quick opening quarter in 22 3/5 seconds. Utopian Dream seemed done from there, dropping back along the rail as the field entered the stretch. Silvera then swung him to the outside and he actually made a mild late bid to take fourth. With a better break and a more patient ride, I believe he may have been best in this spot. If he comes back against a similar field we may catch a nice price on him.
- Two races later, in Thursday’s sixth, a NY-bred maiden claiming $50,000 at six furlongs, Fair Trade (#2) was making his debut for trainer Seth Benzel, who is not known for having his horses ready to fire first time out. Fair Trade was unprepared for the start and broke slowly, but then had to steady behind the horse just to his outside, causing him to lose even more ground. After only a few strides, Fair Trade was left seven or eight lengths behind the field. From there, he made a pretty good run up into fourth around the far turn and seemed poised to made an impact in the stretch before tiring in the final furlong. Although he had some pretty nice works coming into this start, none of them were out of the gate, and he apparently badly needed this experience. I don’t know what sort of value this horse will present going forward, but he looks like a horse that should be ready to break through next time.
- In Sunday’s fifth race, a maiden special weight at 6 furlongs, A McCoughtry (#3) had a similar first out experience to that of Fair Trade. Sent out by low-percentage first out trainer James Jerkens, A McCoughtry actually broke on top and then let a couple of the other speeds pass her. Without having any obvious trouble, she found herself in an uncomfortable position between and behind horses and three-wide from about the 5/8ths pole until the quarter pole. After being spun out even wider into the stretch, many first time starters would have thrown in the towel, but A McCoughtry stayed on fairly well to run up into third while not threatening the top two. She showed some grit in this spot while not doing anything flashy and should also move forward next time.
- I’d also like to mention that Cinder Cone, who ran in Saturday’s tenth race, will be staying on the list after running much better than even I thought he would in that spot. I didn’t bet him and handicapped the race for a pace collapse, which actually did occur, but Cinder Cone somehow survived the contentious pace and battled on gamely all the way to the wire. If he wasn’t already on the list, I’d be putting him on for that effort. This horse is back in form right now and very dangerous in these lower level claiming races.