Hopefully Aqueduct will have recovered from the snowstorm sufficiently and will be able to re-open on Sunday because this group of races is much more intriguing than the abandoned Saturday card. Particularly, there are a few interesting maiden races that merit discussion. But let’s get started with the opener today:
Race 1: Claiming $15,000 at six furlongs
This is my crazy long shot for the day. Upon my initial run through this race I thought that I was going to end up picking Dawly but wasn’t really sure that I wanted to write about the race. Some horses who have run back out of his last race have proven that the figure was legitimate, but it was the first time in a very long time that he had been competitive. It also concerns me that he seems to have lost the early speed he once possessed and that could be a hindrance over this track, especially considering his wide post. I guess Lindell A. C. makes sense as well, but he wins so rarely and it feels like the others really need to not show up for him to get it done.
I’m hoping one of those “others” does show up with a complete reversal of his recent form. Equivocation (#1) at one time would have been pretty formidable this race. Perhaps he just can’t run anymore, but I can make excuses for each of his races since the layoff and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him step up with a much better effort today. He was placed way over his head in two tough optional claiming races that featured horses like Last Gunfighter, Big Business, Guilt Trip, and Brigand. The last of those came back to win a stakes at Laurel a couple weeks ago and the others are most likely stakes-bound in the near future. Then, this past Wednesday, when he was dropped into a more realistic spot, he took a wide path down the backstretch and around the turn on a day when you needed to be on the rail. You can also make the argument that he’s run most of his best races going one turn rather than two so the turn back in distance may help him. This is the lowest price Equivocation has competed for since last winter when he was in good form so I’m hoping he wakes up today and springs the upset at a huge price.
$5 Win 1
Race 2: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for New York-breds
The Beyer par for this race is a 77 and it’s pretty hard to believe that any of the more fancied runners in here will be able to match that number. Down Broadway may be able to improve second time back off the layoff, but Rick Schosberg doesn’t sport very good statistics with that angle. Van Tassel may handle the dirt, but is probably going to be overbet, and I don’t trust M P Joe or Papa Tom. I think there is one horse who may be a little overlooked in the wagering but could potentially take a big step forward here. Bob and Jim (#5) made his one and only start on Memorial Day during the Belmont Park meet and was not heard from again until now. He flashed some brief speed that day before the leaders ran away from him in the stretch. Even Got Quiet and Readthebyline, the first and second place finishers from that race, are both much better horses than what he faces here today. James Iselin is very good with second time starters and knows how to get a horse ready off of workouts. There is also a bit of pedigree in his second family that says he could be a decent horse. His dam never won a race but her full sister was twice G3-placed and earned almost $300,000. It’s a bit of a guess, but he’s the only horse I can bet in a race of shorter prices that I don’t want any part of.
$10 Win 5
Race 3: Maiden Claiming $35,000 at one mile for two year-old fillies
I am firmly against the two favorites drawn to the inside, Melody Lin and Go Olivia Go. Melody Lin is better on the turf, but really isn’t all that good in the first place. That 60 Beyer she earned three races back was aided by a pace meltdown that she couldn’t even properly take advantage of. She’ll probably clunk along for another minor award in here. Go Olivia Go, meanwhile, could go off the favorite based on her Keeneland debut, but I suspect that she is more turf meant and have questions about her switching to dirt. I’m going to gravitate towards the two class droppers, Stick to Your Guns (#5) and High Inflation (#6). Stick to Your Guns found herself in two very tough maiden races to start her career running into the promising Miss Patricia as well as subsequent Demoiselle Stakes (G2) winner Unlimited Budget. Not only is she dropping in class, but she owns the highest dirt Beyer in the field. Her 7-2 morning line odds would offer generous value on this likely winner. I’ll also make a smaller back-up wager on High Inflation, who hasn’t been seen in four months, but should appreciate the extra ground she gets today. She could also be the lone speed with the perceptive Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard. That’s enough to make her dangerous at a slightly larger price.
$10 Win 5
$5 Win 6
Race 6: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for two year-old fillies
I know her last race didn’t come up very fast, but Rettalfa (#7) had enough trouble early in the race to make me believe she isn’t that far off the main contenders here in overall ability. That day, she broke slowly to begin with but then had to steady when the horse inside of her stumbled across her path a few strides out of the gate. She spotted the field several lengths and then was rushed up into contention, which is a move that rarely works out. To make matters worse, the pace was very slow, which put her at an even greater disadvantage because the horses in front of her were expending much less energy early. After playing catch up around the turn, she continued to run on well through the stretch, but the leaders had plenty left and pulled clear.
The trip was bad enough to warrant her landing on my “Horses to Watch” list, so I think she has more ability than her first two races suggest. That said, I am concerned about her gate habits. The form indicates that she also broke last in a 12-horse field in her debut before rallying for third. The field she meets today also appears to be a bit tougher than the one she faced last time, but that’s only going to help her price. Furthermore, young horses like this can sometimes get over those bad gate habits and make major steps forward at this point in their careers, which is why I’m willing to be a bit more forgiving than I normally would. I actually think 10-1 is a low estimate of where her odds will settle, so that makes her worth the bet even if she’s isn’t the most likely winner.
$10 Win 7
Race 7: Optional Claiming $14,000/N1X at six furlongs for New York-bred fillies and mares
I had a lot of trouble with this one and went through a few horses that I could certainly build a solid case for before finally settling on Warrior Marie (#11). I just feel that, of the main contenders, she may be the forgotten horse in the wagering. That race she ran at Saratoga three back is certainly good enough to win this and I think she’s had valid excuses in her two subpar efforts since then. On November 10th, she was coming off a three month layoff and had to endure a three-wide trip around the turn. She actually stayed in contention until midstretch before fading in a race that she likely benefited from. Next time, she put in a much stronger effort, but was the victim of some terrible racing luck. I’ve discussed this November 25th race extensively on this blog to make note of the winner’s trip, but Warrior Marie had her own fair share of troubles. Coming into the stretch, she obviously has plenty of run, but apprentice Keiber Coa found himself in behind horses and just could never decisively choose a path until it was way too late. The winner was much the best horse, but Warrior Marie probably would have won the race had Coa just been able to steer her outside for a clear run at the top of the stretch.
Basically she looks a bit worse on paper than she actually is and that race at Saratoga over the summer might not be a total fluke. She’s one of many who can win this race, but she will certainly be the best price of the main contenders.
$5 Win 11