This is a weird Sunday card at Aqueduct with many small fields and a few short-priced favorites that I’m very wary of putting too much faith in. I’m probably going to tread pretty lightly, but I will take shots in four races with horses who should be nice prices:
Race 3: Optional Claiming $25,000/N1X at six furlongs
Black Pen (#4) is one of the first horses I added to my “Horses to Watch” list when I created this blog. Prior to the layoff, he had finished third in three paceless allowance races won by horses who each got to walk on the lead through slow early fractions. I thought he was compromised in all three races he ran in January and February and would have finished better than third each time if the paces were more contested. Before he was laid up for 10 months, I sincerely believed he was still that horse capable of running Beyers in the 90s, so what to do with him now? His return was encouraging, especially considering that David Jacobson has very poor numbers off that type of layoff. Now he comes back at the same level and should be set for a much better performance. There should be some pace here between Palace, Copy My Swagger, and especially the fleet-footed Readytodefer. If they go 46 or faster to the half, look out for Black Pen to come rolling late under Ramon.
$10 Win 4
Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for three year-olds
I admit that this is a bit of a guess, but I think this is a good race to take a guess in. The horses like to take most of the play appear to be a little suspect to me. Big Foot Ben has never competed in a maiden special weight in his three previous starts and the two horses in the Shadwell Stable entry, although they sport fantastic pedigrees, are trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, who over the past few years has has seen his first time starters become one of the worst bets in racing.
I’ll take a shot with Able Baker Charlie (#6) who may have a bit more ability than he has yet shown. I’d prefer if this race were two turns, but even at six furlongs, I’m hoping the blinkers wake him up enough to make a late run at these. Last time, he was coming into the stretch with a nice head of steam before Keiber Coa tried to swing him out and Able Baker Charlie totally overreacted and veered out about five paths while losing his momentum. It didn’t matter anyway since Clawback ran his final quarter mile in 22 4/5 seconds making it virtually impossible for anyone to close. The top two finishers that day look bound for stakes in the near future and today’s field is immeasurably softer. Finally, the pedigree is there to take that step forward as his dam won 13 of her 44 career races earning $568,000 with a Beyer top of 101 (routing on the dirt). I’ll take my chances with this long shot.
$5 Win 6
Race 7: Optional Claiming $25,000/N1X at one mile and 70 yards
I’ve always been partial to This Hard Land (#10) and I think he’s finally found an N1X allowance field that he should be able to handle today. Just look at the running lines of his last four races. There just aren’t any Last Gunfighters, Big Businesses, Rigbys, Raison d’Etats, or Private Tales in this race. I’ve always thought he was a bit better going two turns and the rider change to Eddie Castro should suit him since this is a horse needs any aggressive ride to show his best. There should be plenty of pace to set up his late run between Alpha Zumba, Chairman Now, and Rein King.
I’ll bet This Hard Land to win and also use him in the exacta with the aforementioned Rein King (#9) who may play out to be the speed of the speed and could hang around late if he shows up with one of his better efforts. However, he’s an unpredictable horse to be sure.
$10 Win 10
$2 Exacta Box 9-10
Race 9: Maiden Claiming $16,000 at six furlongs for NY-bred fillies and mares
I do not want short prices in a race where I just don’t trust anyone. I’ll go for some new faces in here. One of those is Swift Taylor, who I will certainly use in multi-race wagers, but doesn’t really offer much value on the win end. I’m going to instead pick some crazy long shots on top. Rocky Field (#1) ran okay at 136-1 last time going two turns on the turf. There is no turf pedigree to speak of in his pedigree since his sire was a dirt horse and the dam was a dirt sprinter. I know this is a tough jockey to rely on, but since I’m fishing for prices, I’ll swallow the possibility of a bad ride. The other horse I’ll use is Gracie Too (#7) who also ran alright in that turf race Rocky Field is coming out of and then had no chance after getting a wide trip on that speed favoring track of December 27th. She also has dirt on the dam’s side and may have found the right field today.
$10 Win 1
$5 Win 7
UPDATE: In an oversight, I originally missed that “Horse to Watch” Baffle Me is entered at Gulfstream today. Here’s analysis for that race as well.
Gulfstream, Race 10: Optional Claiming $80,000/N3X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for fillies and mares
Let’s be clear: My “Horse to Watch” Baffle Me’s (#7) only hope of winning this race is to rocket out of the gate and outrun the speedy Ultimate Class to the first turn. Ultimate Class has no real chance to win and will not pose much of a threat if she can be relegated to a stalking position from the outset. Baffle Me, on the other hand, has run at least one race that is good enough to wire this field. When she earned that 86 Beyer two back at Belmont beating nice fillies Sea Island and Regalo Mia, she was left alone up front, but set legitimate fractions on a slow turf course and was game in victory. Last time she earned her placed on my “Horses to Watch” list when she hit the gate at the start, ran up to chase a very fast pace, never made the lead, and plummeted to the back of the pack. In my book it’s a throw out. This filly has ability and I’m hoping Joel Rosario leaves the gate with a plan.
$5 Win 7
[1:31 p.m. update] – Black Pen had every chance and seems to have lost a step. I’ll be dropping him from the list.
[3:25 p.m. update] – Another tough beat. This Hard Land got an absolutely perfect setup, looked poised to swallow them all up past midstretch, but then was outgamed to the wire by Photon, who Ramon deftly maneuvered off the rail in the final furlong. Oh well.
[4:04 p.m. update] – (sigh) That’s the worst part of the game. It’s always terrible when a horse is fatally injured, particularly when it happens to one who so obviously loved to race as much as Wildcat’s Smile did. I can imagine how painful it must be for the connections, who bred and raised her.
[4:25 p.m. update] – An unusually heady ride by Eddie Castro in the finale carried Azasecret past my pick, 16-1 Rocky Field, who held on for second after a very energetic ride by the apprentice, Pierre Tomas.
[5:34 p.m. update] – Baffle Me ran really well at Gulfstream taking them nearly the entire way at 9-1 before shortening stride in the final sixteenth. She still finished third and should be tough in a slightly easier spot next time.