Here’s my analysis of today’s card at Aqueduct. I haven’t included the stakes races, the Jerome and Busanda, because I like the obvious horses in there. I slightly prefer Princess of Sylmar to Asiya in the Busanda and I give slight preference to Long River in the Jerome, but Vyjack and Mudflats are likely winners as well.
Race 3: Starter Optional Claiming $50,000 at six furlongs
It’s worth watching the race that Basalt and Reserved Quality are coming out of before assessing either of them. Basalt broke from the rail and attained a stalking position while Reserved Quality was taken back to last in a race in which the pace was fairly slow early. Going into the far turn, the leader, Slash Five, gets pulled up forcing many horses in behind him to go wide and fan out to avoid him. However, Basalt was able to slip through just on the inside of that foe and take the lead. Reserved Quality, on the other hand, was forced to go five or six wide at the top of the stretch to avoid getting caught in traffic. It appeared that Reserved Quality’s chances of even hitting the board at that point were hopeless, but he put in a sustained rally through the stretch that carried him into second, just over two lengths behind the perfect trip winner, Basalt. If you ask me, Reserved Quality (#4) was many lengths the best and I added him to my “Horses to Watch” list after that race. I prefer him today despite the claim by Dominick Schettino. I know Schettino’s numbers off the claim are poor, but he’s a good trainer and I expect this horse to hold his form. There’s also plenty of pace to set up his late run between the speed of Moonshine Bay, Shipmaker, and Act One Scene One.
$15 Win 4
Race 4: Maiden Claiming $16,000 at six furlongs
I didn’t make Commanding Officer (#10) a “Horse to Watch” this week, but I probably could have. He was one of many victims of the “gold rail” last Wednesday in perhaps the most ridiculous race of the two days. The field was so spread out at the finish with so many horses either not handling the track or going wide that I’m inclined to completely throw it out. Commanding Officer in particular was bumped at the start, never got early position, and was forced to go five wide at the turn. His race prior was too good for me to believe this effort, so I’m going to say he has a good chance to win based on that performance two back.
I also am interested in Shy Humor (#2) here, but don’t expect to get as big of a price. He was actually on my “Horses to Watch” list way back in February and March of last year because I thought his two dirt races after first getting shipped to New York were not that bad. Now he comes in off some solid turf form, but I don’t think the surface switch will bother him too much. I’ll bet the latter pick to win but box these two in the exacta.
$5 Win 10
$4 Exacta Box 2-10
Race 5: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for three year-old fillies
Cubicle Queen (#1) is just supposed to win this race, isn’t she? Check out the running lines of her last two races and all the horses that have come back to win. The list just goes on and on. Even Kiss the Lady, a contender in the Busanda later today, finished behind Cubicle Queen in her debut run. Last time, she was forced to set a blistering pace in a race that completely collapsed late and the horse that won that day, Live Lively, came back to decimate an allowance field at Gulfstream last week by more than 10 lengths. If Junior Alvarado can get this quick-footed filly out of the gate from the rail, she should be long gone.
$15 Win 1 (WINNER; Payout: $39.00)
Race 6: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for NY-bred three year-old fillies
This is my best bet of the day. “Horse to Watch” Start It Up (#5) just ran a lot better than it even appears on paper in her first race and with any improvement should easily handle this field today. Going into the far turn last time, she was forced to steady in traffic in an overly tentative ride from Pablo Morales and lost valuable position. Most first time staring fillies would have given up after that minor trouble, but Start It Up commenced a rally at the top of the stretch and actually really got rolling late to run up into fourth by the time the field hit the wire. The race was validated when Little Rocket came back to dismantle an allowance field (albeit with the help of the “gold rail”) and Start It Up doesn’t even need to really improve to beat most of these. She also gets a huge jockey switch to Irad Ortiz, Jr. There really isn’t much not to like about her chances today and I’ll be making a large wager.
$25 Win 5
Race 9: Claiming $12,500N2L at six furlongs
The pick here is based solely on pace. There is just plenty of speed signed on and I expect Ambassador Bridge (#10) to benefit from an early duel. His sprint form is some of the most consistent in the field and he spent the majority of 2012 running in tougher spots. I can throw out his last race because it was too far, but the time before that he actually ran pretty well so there is enough recency to give me confidence. He also gets a major rider switch from Ariel Smith to Junior Alvarado. That 12-1 morning line would be a real gift.
$10 Win 10
Additionally, here are the new “Horses to Watch” from this past week of racing (Dec. 26th – Jan. 1st):
Escapefromreality (12/28/12): He was the heavy favorite in a N1X allowance race for New York breds at six furlongs. It appeared that he would play out to be the speed of the speed some other jockeys had the same opinion and he was gunned up into a three-way duel early. After putting those foes away he received another challenge from Go Get the Basil, who was running at him with plenty of momentum. It appeared that Go Get the Basil would draw off to win by a couple of lengths, but Escapefromreality showed some real heart in the final sixteenth by trying to rally back and actually still win the race. It was a very gritty performance that is much better than the final speed figure will suggest. I think this horse has stakes in his future.
My Way or Dubaiway (12/30/12) – This horse lost a Maiden Claiming race by about a head, but was many lengths the best. After breaking very slowly, Wilmer Garcia did what he needed to do to give this horse a chance by rushing him to challenge the leaders on the backstretch. He made up a good five lengths between the start and the half mile pole and actually went clear around the far turn. He took that clear lead into the stretch before just succumbing to the favorite late. It looks like this cheap maiden claimer has stepped his game up and he’ll be very tough to deny at this level next time.
Rice and Beans (12/26/12) – This filly competed in a six furlong NY-bred Maiden race on the first day of that “gold rail” at the beginning of last week. It was her second career start and I’ll say up front that she doesn’t run a step in this spot, but she really never had a chance given her trip. After breaking a bit slowly, Pablo Morales sent her up into a five-wide chasing trip all the way around the turn. This is doom on a normal day on the inner track, but particularly on this day she had nothing left for the stretch drive and finished last. I don’t know if she’s capable of much better, but it’s worth at least giving her a long look the next time she shows up.
Sethna (12/2712) – She ran in the final race on Thursday, the last one where that “gold rail” was still present. It was a Maiden Claiming $16,000 going two turns and she was dropping in her second career start. She was away slowly and in trying to attain position, her jockey had to steer her to the outside and unfortunately was never able to get close to the rail. She was forced to run three wide around both turns and I have a feeling that she would have been capable of much better on a fairer racetrack.
She’s Stones Sis (12/27/12) – When watching this six furlong NY-bred Maiden claimer, many people may be impressed by the late rally of runner-up Run A Dubb Dubb, but keep in mind that she rode the “gold rail” for nearly the entire trip. I’m more interested in fellow first time starter She’s Stones Sis, who was three and four wide the entire way and still was rallying at the end to only be beaten a few lengths. I’m not sure how strong this field really will turn out to be, but this filly is a half-sister to undefeated G1 winner Bustin Stones, so perhaps there’s room for improvement.
Taylors Golden Eye (1/1/13) – Watch the sixth race from January 1st, a NY-bred Maiden Claiming $25,000 at six furlongs, and keep on eye on #5. She breaks well behind the field jockey Carlos Montalvo starts to try and motivate her going into the far turn. But just as she starts to respond and pick up the pace, some horses in front of her bump, check, and steady, forcing Taylors Golden Eye to veer out many paths to go around them just as the field is entering the turn. She continues to run wide while under an all out drive around the far turn and actually is able to get up into fifth by the time the field hits the top of the stretch. After that she flattened out and the winner drew off to win by more than 10 lengths. Taylors Golden Eye probably lost by over 25 lengths in the end, but I didn’t think the performance was all that bad. There is some decent pedigree on her female side and she had one quick workout coming into this race, so perhaps she’ll be capable of much better next time.
Wildhaassseee (12/28/12) – There’s not much to say about this one. He breaks very slowly in a six furlong Maiden Claimer, tries to make a wide run up to get into contention and ends up chasing the whole way before fading badly in the stretch. The start was bad enough for me to completely throw the race out in assessing his form next time.
Wise Guide (12/26/12) – This is the last of the horses hindered by the “gold rail.” In Wednesday’s fifth race, a NY-bred Maiden Special Weight at one mile and 70 yards, Wise Guide was making his career debut for John Kimmel. After being taken back early, Junior Alvarado sent him up five or six-wide going around the far turn to try and make a move towards the leaders. This was a suicidal move on a track that was so biased and Wise Guide predictably looks like he hits a wall halfway around the turn. There were others who were hurt by wide trips in this race including my “Horse to Watch” Seventy Six, but none had a more ridiculous trip than Wise Guide.
[4:30 p.m. update] – It was a rough day… and pretty much all because of one headbob. If Start It Up had won the sixth race, I would have hit the double, Pick-3, and late Pick-4 surrounding that race. Alas, she fell a head short and probably won’t be nearly as big a price next time she runs. These things happen, but I won’t get too down on the day because we saw some nice three year-olds in the stakes races.
Princess of Sylmar is probably my early Kentucky Oaks filly after she destroyed that Busanda field looking like the more ground the better. You just don’t see horses actually accelerating in the final sixteenth of a mile the way she did in both this race and her allowance score.
Then a race later, Vyjack was a very game winner of the Jerome (G2). The pace didn’t appear to be that fast, but the horses who were chasing early, Mudflats and Vegas No Show, finished nowhere, so perhaps they really picked it up on the backstretch. Vyjack looked beaten at multiple points in the stretch but gamely came back for the win. I wouldn’t forget about Long River either. You could say that he was a bit of a disappointment finishing fourth, but he was stuck in traffic around the turn when it was time to get going. He’s a long striding horse who probably needs a clear run to show his best. Look for him when they stretch out further in the Gotham of Wood Memorial.