Race 1: Claiming $14,000 at six furlongs
At first glance, Hold That Broad and Won Fast Bullet appear to be coming into this race in the best form, but I think it may be an illusion. Particularly, I have a problem with the speed figure they were assigned on October 14th. According to the Beyer numbers, the winner Won Fast Bullet tied his highest career speed figure, an 87, and Hold That Broad came back from his layoff in the same form he had left. But I’m not buying it. First of all, Hold That Broad was allowed to set a dawdling early pace of 23 flat and 45 3/5 seconds and still came up empty in the final furlong, so I don’t think that was really one of his better efforts. And Won Fast Bullet’s large figure just doesn’t make sense when it’s placed in the context of his past performances. In four other starts since March, he hasn’t cracked a 75 Beyer. Furthermore, the horse that split them that day, Emily’s Twist seems a dubious prospect to have run that well. So, let’s take a leap of faith and say they each ran ten points lower.
Now the race changes. Alston Gunter (#3) would appear to be the most likely winner seeing as he ran down Won Fast Bullet last time and apparently was waiting all year to get back on the dirt, a surface over which he is 8 for 20. Rudy Rodriguez usually keeps these types in good form when they start winning. I am also going to use the out-of-town shipper Jemaru (#1) who has run some competitive speed figures in the midwest and is taking a sneaky class drop in here. Combine that with the fact that he’s moving into the barn of a very sharp trainer, Jeremiah Englehart, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the winner’s circle. He could be present value in the win pool, but I really want to try and get these two home together in the exacta.
$5 Exacta Box 1-3
$5 Win 1
Race 2: Maiden Claiming $16,000 at six furlongs
You merely need to watch Tactical Saenz‘s (#5) most recent race from last Wednesday to see why his speed figure dropped off so sharply. He broke behind the field and had to play catch-up for most of the way in a race where he should have been placed up with the leaders early. Aside from that trouble, a mile may have just been too far for him and now he cuts back to his preferred distance of six furlongs. He had previously run numbers good enough to win this race and even has a chance to take a step forward now making his second start off an eighth month layoff. Horses like Tricky Slam and Revere also have chances, but do you really trust them? At least you basically know what you’re getting with Tactical Saenz and I doubt he’ll be favored.
$10 Win 5
Race 3: Maiden Special Weight at one mile for fillies and mares
I’m basing this play solely on pedigree and the likely pace scenario. There is a noticeable lack of early speed signed on here, especially from the two favorites, who figure to be Closing Move and Lady Kierkegaard. I’m going to hope that Clever Cookie (#3) is sent to the front by Javier Castellano and can rely on her pedigree to get her through those extra two furlongs. After all, she should have plenty of untapped stamina since she is a half-sister to 2002 Belmont Stakes winner Sarava. This race didn’t come up all that tough and I don’t think she needs to improve that much to fend off the favorites. Odds within range of 5-1 would be fair.
$10 Win 3
Race 6: NY-bred Optional Claiming $35,000/N2X at one mile on the turf for fillies and mares
This is my best bet of the day. I know a lot of these fillies have speed figures that make it seem like they’re close in ability, but from what I’ve seen, I believe Kibosh (#1) is just better than this field. Ever since opening day at Saratoga she has been a different horse. After her wide-trip runner up finish that day, she easily reeled off two victories in August and September before taking a crack at the best of her division in the Ticonderoga Stakes on New York Showcase Day. I doubt any of these fillies would have given as respectable an account of themselves versus such tough company as Kibosh did in that race. She made a strong run to the leaders around the far turn and held together pretty well through the stretch to be fourth. The horses who finished ahead of her that day–Hessonite, Shakeira, and Gitchee Goomie–would all be odds on in this race. She may go favored in here, but I think she’s a very likely winner and will be betting her to win and using her strongly in multi-race wagers.
$15 Win 1
Race 7: Starter Handicap $14,000 at six furlongs
This race looks like a real scramble and it would be wise to watch for scratches before finalizing your selections. As the field stands now, however, there appears to be an abundance of early speed, which may hurt contenders like W. W.’s Lady’s Man and Head Heart Hoof. I went searching for a closer and came down to Frazil (#4) and Take Down Two (#9). Frazil is a tough horse to like from a wagering perspective since he presents a real gamble at what is likely going to be a short price. His best races will win this, but we haven’t seen him in more than nine months and you don’t know what you’re going to get off the layoff. So I’m left with Take Down Two as my top pick. He has a versatile enough running style where he can come from off the pace if they go too fast early and he can be placed up close if that pace does not materialize. I also like the claim back by Bruce Levine, who conditioned him to run the best race of his life in August at Saratoga. I think it’s also a positive sign that he runs him in a protected spot, probably the first time in eons that Take Down Two has not been in for a tag. He should present decent value and I’ll bet him to win.
$10 Win 9