BEST BET OF THE DAY
Aqueduct, Race 8: Optional Claiming $50,000/N2X at one mile on the turf
It’s often easy to say how you would campaign a given racehorse when you’re not actually the owner, and I’ve made many a remark about the management of Ya Gotta Have Soul (#4) during his career. Now 6 years old, he obviously has many physical issues to have only made 14 starts in his lifetime. I get that, but what baffles me is how this horse has never been tried on the grass until today. I know that he’s a half brother to Tale of Ekati, who was a G1 dirt stakes winner for these connections, but even he had a fabulous turf pedigree. It just never made sense to try it with him because he was already good on the main track.
Ya Gotta Have Soul is by Perfect Soul (Ire), whereas Take of Ekati was by Tale of the Cat. Tale of the Cat can get a great turf runner for sure, but he is better known as a dirt sire. Perfect Soul, on the other hand, lends much more of a turf influence. His overall statistics are a bit skewed since many of his best progeny are Charles Fipke homebreds that compete up in Canada on the Polytrack surface, which, we all know, plays more strongly to turf runners than dirt runners. In the U.S., he is probably best known as the sire of Perfect Shirl, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf. You would think Perfect Soul would have been a more fashionable sire since he is by the great Sadler’s Wells out of a Secretariat mare, but he just never really caught on in the United States.
Yet it is Ya Gotta Have Soul’s female family that really gives me confidence he will handle the lawn. His dam, Silence Beauty made a couple of starts in Ireland without any success, but it’s noteworthy that she is a rare daughter of Sunday Silence standing in Kentucky. Sunday Silence is arguably one of the greatest turf sires of the past quarter century despite the fact that his progeny were almost never seen outside of Japan. Silence Beauty’s dam was Maplejinsky, by Nijinsky, who won the Alabama Stakes (G1) during her racing career before foaling champion filly Sky Beauty. She is also the second dam of the Phipps homebred Matlacha Pass, who in turn foaled both Pine Island, a winner on turf, as well as 3-time G1 stakes winning turf star Point of Entry. There are a lot of good dirt horses in this family as well, but most of them never got the chance to show what they could do on turf. And keep in mind that those Phipps horses did not have a turf influence as strong as Sunday Silence as their broodmare sire.
Now, putting everything in perspective, Ya Gotta Have Soul does have to really turn it around to win today. He’s off form and hasn’t run a particularly good race since 2010, but Barclay Tagg does this well, the price will be right, and nothing has the potential to wake a horse up like a much needed surface switch. He also should sit a good trip off what should be a contested pace with Mia Poppy, Strong Impact, and Glass Art contesting the early lead.
$20 Win 4
As for the other races at Aqueduct today, I see opportunities in the other two turf races on the card as well as the finale:
Race 4: Claiming $16,000 at 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares
Little Red Rider is an obvious, logical winner of this race. She will also probably be overbet since any handicapper can see that she has run four races in a row that would probably make her the winner today. From a value perspective, I’m going to look elsewhere. Ezpz Lemon Squeeze (#10) piques my interest right off the bat due to the severe class drop she is taking. She has spent her entire career facing horses that are just much, much better than the ones she meets today. Horses like Shakeira, Karlovy Vary, and Medolina would all be odds on to win this race by 10 or more lengths. Now it appears that something went awry with her earlier in the year and she’s done no running in her two starts since the layoff. But today she gets a good pace scenario with those three speeds drawn alongside each other in the middle of the field and she may drift a bit higher than she’s supposed to in the wagering with the presence of the obvious favorite.
I would also be a bit interested in Bonatini (#11) if she happens to draw into the race. She is a bit harder to make, but also is taking a significant class drop. Those NY-bred allowance fields are still much tougher than these and she will also benefit from a duel up front.
$10 Win 10
$5 Win 11
Race 6: NY-bred Optional Claiming $25,000/N3X at one mile on the turf
It’s probably wishful thinking to come to the conclusion that the pace will meltdown in all three turf races on today’s card, especially with the way this jockey colony usually rides, but that’s how I’m viewing this race as well. How can there not be a quick pace with Writingonthewall, Quick Money, The Thinker, and Image of Disco all liking to be forwardly placed? If that situation comes to fruition, Idle American (#3) should be flying in the stretch. The fact of the matter is that this horse is just much better on turf and has displayed a turn of foot in each of those grass races that he has not shown on the dirt. The concern is that he has not been seen since April and it was probably not by design that he missed nearly the entire New York turf season. Pat Kelly’s numbers are not great, to say the least, off this type of layoff, but I just can’t find too many other places to go in this race.
The only other option that really appeals to me is Rocky F (#2), but he has even more question marks surrounding him than Idle American. He had gotten very good in the summer of July 2011 for trainer Jim Bond and looked like he might have a future in stakes races. Something obviously happened and he was laid up until June when he returned now in the barn of Seth Benzel. He was taken to the lead before fading that day in a race that he had to have needed, but then he was put away again for another five months. It’s good to see that he’s not being dropped in for a tag and if he can remember how to run the races he was running last year, he has a chance. He’s a real guess, but I wouldn’t let him get away at too big of a price.
$10 Win 3
$5 Win 2
Race 9: NY-bred Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs
The question you have to ask yourself when handicapping this race is whether or not you believe the Beyer speed figure assigned to that October 5th maiden race that Cousin Michael, M P Joe, and Papa Tom are all coming out of. It was a major improvement on the previous form of the latter two horses and the winner, Towering Moon, came back to tank at a short price a couple weekends ago. I’m going to take the stance that the figure is too high and that Cousin Michael will probably be overbet as a short-priced favorite. I’m going in a vastly different direction and taking two horses coming off very long layoffs. Down Broadway (#6) and Discreet Code (#12) faced each other as two year-olds last November 5th, finishing second and third, respectively, going this same trip. It was the fifth start for Down Broadway, who subsequently changed trainers a couple times and has not been seen since New Year’s Eve, and the debut for Discreet Code, who went on to register two fourth place finishes before being laid up after January 7th. They’re both back today and it would stand to reason that at least one of them has matured since their two year old season. Down Broadway had already run a figure that would make him competitive here last October so it’s not like they need to step forward that much. I’m going to hope that they can come back successfully off the layoff and take down the more familiar faces.
$5 Win 6
$5 Win 12
[3:03 p.m. update] – Well that’s a nice way to start the day. Ezpz Lemon Squeeze was barely best after sitting a perfect trip and getting the pace she needed. I was no genius to come up with that one, although my secondary pick Bonatini did run a close fourth at 22-1.
Even though I once again picked the winner in the sixth race, I was wrong about the dynamics. The hot pace that I predicted never materialized as everyone took back and let sprinter Quick Money set soft fractions. Idle American was in traffic at the back of the pack the entire way and seemed hopelessly beaten with an eighth of a mile to go. But then Alan Garcia steered him to the outside and he unleashed a tremendous burst of speed to mow down the leaders and win going away at a generous 7-1. This is a nice New York bred that has really found a home on turf.
[4:00 p.m. update] – Coming into the eighth race, I had Mia Poppy and Ya Gotta Have Soul covered in the Pick-4 with several in the last race after getting home two virtual singles in the first two legs. I was feeling pretty good about my chances–until the gates opened. For some reason Junior Alvarado decided to rate Mia Poppy, a one-dimensional frontrunner who on paper was the main speed, and allowed longshot Dominant Jeannes to waltz around the track through slow fractions and hold on late. Meanwhile Ya Gotta Have Soul found himself between horses early, had to check sharply into the first turn with Wilmer Garcia’s saddle appearing to slip forward briefly, and had no punch in the stretch. If he runs on the turf again, I’ll pay attention, perhaps at Gulfstream. I can’t complain too much, since I’ve had a good day so far, but it’s frustrating to watch your horses’ best chance get taken away from them.
[4:19 p.m. update] – Well, it’s some consolation that I would have lost that Pick-4 anyway since I ignored first time starter Cousin Adam in the finale. I was thinking Hushion wouldn’t name Ariel Smith on a well meant first time starter, but I was wrong about that. He certainly conjured up memories of The Lumber Guy’s impressive debut this past winter for the same connections. Overall, the successes earlier in the card made it a good day.