I don’t particularly love this card but ended up discussing seven races today, so go figure. I tried to cap it at five, but I had at least something to mention about each of them.
Aqueduct, Race 1: Starter Optional Claiming $50,000 at one mile and 70 yards for 3 year-olds
I’m basically betting against Brother Bob in here. I know it looks like his last race make him fast enough to win, but it’s a bit of an illusion. He was allowed to run off to an uncontested lead that day through very slow early fractions. Even with that advantage, he just held on to win by a neck at 3-5. I have some questions about him handling the two turns today, but for the most part I just don’t think he’s that good. I’ll instead go to the second and third place finishers from that December 13th race at this level that most of these are coming out of. Tape It (#4) and Candy Raider (#7) both ran well that day to make late runs at Coach A. J., who wired the field after setting some slow fractions. The exacta without Brother Bob should pay decently
$5 Exacta Box 4-7
Aqueduct, Race 2: Claiming $12,500N2L at one mile for fillies and mares
I can’t resist The Winged Venus (#2) in this spot now that she comes back on short rest after fading badly while chasing outside the eventual winner on that rail biased strip December 27th. I had liked her a bit going into that race at 9-1 sine her prior dirt from was really nothing to sneeze at. After breaking her maiden on the dirt at the end of her 2 year-old season with a 62 Beyer, she was thrown into some tough spots before going back to turf. In her most recent dirt race prior to last time, she didn’t disgrace herself while finishing fifth in a 9 furlong contest at Saratoga. She was off from then until that last race and now comes back for her second race since the layoff. She should move forward today on a fairer strip and also benefit from the additional fitness. If you can bring yourself to throw out her last, she makes a lot of sense.
$10 Win 2
Aqueduct, Race 3: Optional Claiming $100,000/N3X at one mile and 70 yards
I don’t have a lot to say about this one. My “Horse to Watch” Indy Scent (#6) is entered here and I’ve tentatively posted a $5 bet on him. He has a slight chance to win, but as the field currently stands I think they all will be hard pressed to handle Gallant Fields once again. If that one happens to be scratched, then I’d give Indy Scent a much closer look and perhaps increase my wager. I think there is enough pace to set up his late run, so it’s just a matter of whether or not he’s good enough.
$5 Win 6
Aqueduct, Race 4: Optional Claiming $50,000/N2X at six furlongs
Andy Serling astutely pointed out on a recent episode of NYRA’s Trips & Traps that Wee Freudian (#3) was not really given the best ride by Eddie Castro last time. Castro is very good at attaining early position, but he has a tendency to over-hustle closers early in a race rather than letting them settled into stride. This is exactly what happened with Wee Freudian, a one run closer, on December 7th. The pace was fair enough, but instead of letting Wee Freudian settle five lengths back, Castro kept trying to push him up into a tracking position. Once Wee Freudian started to get moving, they were will midway around the far turn, so he had no choice but to steer to the outside and come four-wide for the run into the stretch. From there he was hampered further by the tiring All of the Above who started to drift into his path. He finally cleared that foe and finished third, but I have to think he could have been closer with a more patient ride. Cornelio Velasquez should be a positive change in this respect so I’m hoping that allows Wee Freudian to turn the tables on Be Bullish and Rigby.
I don’t really see anyone else in here as having much chance aside from perhaps the new face Saint Liams Halo. However, I’m a little concerned that they claimed him for $62,500 and are now immediately throwing him in for a $50,000 tag after missing a couple of races. I’ll stick with my pick.
$10 Win 3
Aqueduct, Race 5: Starter Optional Claiming $50,000 at one mile and 70 yards
I realize that there’s a good chance my pick here, Point Taken (#5), will be scratched, but I’m hoping that he isn’t. Remember when I picked him last week as one of my first few “Horses to Watch” to run back from a wide trip on December 27th? I felt very confident that he was going to put in a strong race on New Year’s Eve after drawing in from the also-eligible list, but things just did not go his way. Mike Luzzi sent him up into a stalking position, but many others had the same idea and Point Taken was forced to race four-wide around the clubhouse turn. Instead of then taking him back to tuck in, Luzzi sent him up four-wide again all the way around the far turn to make an early move towards the leaders. You just cannot do that on the inner track and Point Taken was understandably spent at the top of the stretch. I know that his “10th by 18 1/2 lengths” running line doesn’t look too pretty, but if you watch the replay, you’ll see that Luzzi basically wraps up on him at the three-sixteenths pole once he’s realized he’ll be off the board. I’m not saying that he should have been a lot closer, but he would not have finished last.
I also realize that Dutrow probably entered this race before that December 31st race had been run, which explains the class hike today. Yet I can’t stress enough that Point Taken ran really, really well on that biased strip on December 27th and even had the excuse of a slow pace the time before that when finishing third. If I throw out his last race, he’s not impossible in here and I think he’ll be worth a small bet.
$5 Win 5
[UPDATE: Point Taken was scratched.]
Aqueduct, Race 7: Claiming $20,000B at six furlongs
Again, I’m hoping that my pick here isn’t scratched. “Horse to Watch” Lost Decade (#2B) would have won his last race, in which he was beaten by Straight Fax and Little Dale, with a better ride. I’m hoping that he is the one that Jamie Ness decides to send postward instead of recent acquisition Straight Fax. Lost Decade broke very sharply from the rail last time and was in excellent position with a slight lead on the inside of horses running down the backstretch. But I guess Pablo Morales didn’t really expect to be on the lead, so he dragged Lost Decade back into a stalking position. This wouldn’t have been a bad move if he was on the outside, but now he was stuck in a pocket behind the leaders on the rail. As they turned into the stretch, Lost Decade obviously had plenty of run, but Morales had nowhere to go after surrendering his early position. He bumped and steadied a few times trying to find room and by the time he was getting into the clear the race was over.
I didn’t like Lost Decade last time because I thought his 74 Beyer on the dirt that he earned three back when facing Big Business was a fluke. Now, after seeing his trouble last time, I’m starting to think that he is actually as good as that number. He will offer better odds that that 4-1 morning line if Straight Fax is scratched, so I’m hoping that Morales has learned from his mistake and can work out a trip.
$10 Win 2B (Lost Decade only)
[UPDATE: Lost Decade was scratched. NO BET.]
Aqueduct, Race 8: Optional Claiming $14,000/N1X at one mile and 70 yards for fillies and mares
If you looked at the picks I posted on the My Bets page last night, you’ll notice that I’ve changed my stance on this race slightly between then and now. I had originally only picked Evan’s Rocket (#9) since she is experienced at the distance and because I thought she had been compromised by a very slow pace when she was beaten by Madame Prosecutor last time. However, I was not feeling great about my selection since, after all, she’s still Evan’s Rocket and I don’t completely trust her to win at this level.
In taking a second look at this race, I ended up lingering for a long time on Strike Accord (#1). If you follow my handicapping, you’ll probably be thinking that this is not really my kind of horse, but I just can’t turn to anyone else as a likely winner of this race. I’m typically against horses getting bet on the dirt off of good turf races, but I’m not totally convinced that Strike Accord won’t handle the surface switch today. Early in her career she was running on the dirt and it’s not as if she couldn’t stand up on the stuff. She finished second and third in a couple of races earning a Beyer top of 56. But keep in mind that she earned that Beyer in her most recent dirt race on February 29th, 2012, early in her three year-old season. There is no question that she is a much better horse now and I wonder if she’ll be capable of better dirt races as well. Her pedigree says the surface should be no problem. Her dam was unraced, but produced In Harm’s Way, a newly turned three year-old for these connections that is graded stakes placed on the dirt.
I know her price will be shorter than what it probably should be, but I just think Strike Accord will be staying on when a lot of these others are dropping like flies coming into the stretch. I’ll also use Evan’s Rocket since she’ll be a better price, but I think the former is the better horse.
$10 Win 1
$5 Win 9