First off, Happy New Year to all! And, of course, Happy Birthday to all the Thoroughbreds out there.
This first card of the year in New York is really not the most interesting to say the least, so I’ve chosen a few races to discuss from Aqueduct and a handful more from Gulfstream. I actually spent a great deal more time handicapping the latter this morning because they carded 10 races for newly turned three year-olds, which means a lot of pedigrees to dissect. I’ll be honest in saying that I don’t really love many of these picks today, but I nonetheless think I’ve come up with some interesting angles in the races I’m discussing.
Let’s kick off 2013…
Aqueduct, Race 3: The Ladies Handicap at 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares
More than anything else, I’m playing against R Gypsy Gold in here. I just don’t think that she really wants 9 furlongs and it concerns me that she’s never really put forth a top effort racing away from Belmont Park where she is 5-3-0-1 (and thus 11-1-2-3 everywhere else). She also has not particularly fast lately so I don’t feel bad taking a shot with some others to beat her out of the exacta. Arena Elvira (#5) makes a lot of sense and I don’t have too many knocks on her. She loves to win races and may be rounding back into form after an extended break in the middle of the year. I’m going to use her with Villanesca (#3), who is stretching out and stepping up in class. I admit that she hasn’t run fast enough to contend with the two favorites yet, but she is bred to get the distance and should play out to be the main speed here with the aggressive Eddie Castro aboard. I’ll hope to hook those two up in the exacta and beat R Gypsy Gold.
$5 Exacta Box 3-5
Aqueduct, Race 4: Claiming $14,000 at six furlongs for three year-old fillies
Gee Linz is the horse to beat in here, but the sharp drop in class off those poor recent effort concerns me slightly. Perhaps her connections think that this is what she is worth now since she has apparently tailed off since the summer, but she’s hard to take at a short price. Perfectly Anna figures to be a factor, but she is going to bet plenty of early pressure from Wild Passion on the rail. I’m going to hope that those two cause the pace to heat up enough to set it up for Star Black (#5) to come running late. She needs everything to go her way, but when it does, she is certainly good enough to win this. You can also make the argument that she has raced in much tougher spots than many of the others here and may find this group considerably easier to handle.
$10 Win 5
Aqueduct, Race 7: Optional Claiming $14,000/N1X at six furlongs
I know that Big City Boy and N. F.’s Destiny have a recency edge on my pick, but I think Tancredi (#5) is a better horse than both of them. It is well worth watching his last race, because the running line in the form doesn’t accurately convey how strongly he ran. It was the first race of the spring meet at Belmont Park and there was a strong headwind for horses to deal with as they ran up the backstretch. Tancredi was part of a torrid pace duel with about four other horses and was sent through to take the lead going into the far turn. He continued to be challenged multiple times from the outside and looked to be in deep water at the top of the stretch. Modern Child, who had been reserved in behind the leaders early, made a sweeping move to the lead and it appeared that Tancredi was retreating. But he kept battling on and actually put away the rest of the field before just getting nipped for second. It is worth noting that the first, second, and fourth place finishers all rallied from the back of the pack and Tancredi was the only one pressing the pace to be around at the finish. Live For Today, who was also part of the pace that day and faded badly, came out of that race to run a strong second next time out on Belmont Stakes day.
I believe that Tancredi is better than he looks on paper and will beat these.
$15 Win 5
Now I’ll try to be brief in discussing these Gulfstream races…
Gulfstream, Race 4: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at seven furlongs
Oblahlah and Live Lively both make sense, although I prefer the former slightly. Yet I’m going for a new face in Coffee Clique (#6). If you go to watch the replay of her debut, you’ll probably be as impressed that I was. The running line makes it look like she got the lead and idled in the final furlong, but that was not the case. I think she just beat a really good filly in Deceptive Vision, who has a very bright future since she is a full sister to Queens Plate winner Eye of the Leopard and $668,000 earner Hotep. Coffee Clique’s pedigree could go either way regarding turf or dirt, but I think she has a lot of ability and is an interesting alternative to the other two favorites.
$10 Win 6
Gulfstream, Race 6: Maiden Special Weight at one mile on the turf
These are both pedigree plays. Gallico (#9) did not do much running in her debut on dirt, but is really bred to love the turf. Mr. Greeley is a fine turf sire and her dam, Safari Queen, compiled a record of 14-5-3-0 on the turf, while hitting a 99 Beyer top. Rockin Rowan (#3) goes out for connections that aren’t really known for winning with firsters, but she is a full sister to Race to Urga, who won 5 of 8 on the turf and earned a 93 Beyer over that surface.
$10 Win 9
$5 Win 3
Gulfstream, Race 8: The Ginger Brew Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for three year-old filies
This race is a real war, but I’m hoping Discreet Marq (#8) can shake loose early and have an edge on the other contenders, who are predominantly closers. Her two best races have come with Eddie Castro sent her to the lead so I’m hoping Elvis Trujillo is just as aggressive early. Beyond her, you’re on your own.
$10 Win 8
Gulfstream, Race 10: Maiden Special Weight at on mile on the turf for three year-old fillies
I believe my “Horse to Watch” Manuka Honey (#4) is very good filly who has had the misfortune of running into some nice fillies in her first couple of races, one of whom was Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf runner-up Watsdachances in the Miss Grillo Stakes (G3). In her first start at Gulfstream Park, I thought that Edgar Prado could have been a bit more decisive early. She eventually got clear on the backstretch, but was asked to rate around the clubhouse turn. I’m hoping that Jose Espinoza sends her early and that she wires this field because I do think she is the best horse in the race.
$15 Win 4