I chose to make picks in only three races today but I feel pretty good about each of these selections:
Race 4: Maiden Claiming $60,000-$50,000 at six furlongs for three year-old fillies
There are three fillies in this race who I suspect are going to take a majority of the money, but I think one of those is a much likelier winner than the other two. Endless Chatter and Exclusive Bull break towards the inside and are listed at 3-1 and 8-5 on the morning line, respectively. Yet I have problems with each of them. Endless Chatter was bet down to even money versus maiden special weight competition last time after a runner-up finish down at Monmouth Park three months earlier. She chased the eventual winner, Well Heeled, for a quarter mile, then started to tire around the far turn and eventually finished sixth. The pace was very slow that day (47 to the half) and I really felt that Endless Chatter had no good excuse to be throwing in the towel so early. The drop in class makes sense, but she hasn’t really done anything to show me she’s that good. Exclusive Bull, on the other hand, was an odd claim for Richard Dutrow, Jr. out of her debut in a slightly cheaper maiden claimer at the end of November. She has some pedigree in her second family, but her dam hasn’t really produced anything of note yet so I wonder what they saw to shell out $50,000 for her. She set the pace before fading that day, but I feel she would have to take a significant step forward today to contend with the early speed of my selection and still be around late.
I like Lenderoflastresort (#5) and I think Irad Ortiz, Jr. will send her to the front and not look back. She was well backed in each of her two sprint starts at Saratoga to kick off her career and got involved in a couple of extremely fast paces that did her in. First, she was chasing Kauai Katie, who put her away at the top of the stretch before drawing away to win in one of the fastest maiden races of the year. Then she got involved in a cut throat three-way duel second time out that set things up for Sign to swoop by them from the outside in the stretch. Both Kauai Katie and Sign came back to take graded stakes in their following starts with the former actually winning three of her next four, her only loss coming in the Breeders’ Cup. Lenderoflastresort was next stretched out to 1 1/16 miles, a distance that is probably too far for her, and she led to the top of the stretch before settling for third. Now she gets a bit of a break and comes back at a level and distance that should be perfect for her. There will be no Kauai Katies or Signs in here and I think this half-sister to $568,000-earning sprinter Pashito the Che will get to the front and run these off their feet.
$15 Win 5
Race 6: Optional Claiming $25,000/N1X at six furlongs for fillies and mares
I love Royal Sighting (#1) in this spot. If this field stays together as it was drawn, she is going to be the beneficiary of a hot pace duel between Sacred Success, Clear Pasaj, and Cat Ferrad. All three of them absolutely need the lead to show their best and I expect the Ortiz brothers to be gunning their mounts from the outside rather than conceding to Ramon on Sacred Success. The only true closer in here with any real quality is Royal Sighting and she’s proven in the past that she is very dangerous at this distance when there’s a quick pace ahead of her. One might try to argue that she’s not in as good form now as she was during the summer months, but I can make excuses for some of her recent races. Last time, she stepped up in class and wound up in a race with absolutely no pace on early. Thus she was forced to take up a chasing position, which is not her preference. Furthermore, Centrique and Score Boyera both came out of that race to win next time. Two races before that, she was again ridden up into too forward of an early position at a distance that is probably a bit beyond her preference anyway.
Some may shy away from her since Ariel Smith is named to ride, but if there’s one thing this jockey does well it’s finish strongly with a closer and that’s exactly the type of ride he will get to give to Royal Sighting. I’m not deterred and will make a large bet.
$20 Win 1
Race 7: Optional Claiming $35,000/N2X at one mile and 70 yards for New York-bred fillies and mares
The presence of Jolienne should greatly diminish the chances of morning line second-choice Read the Research in this spot. Read the Research has shown that she can certainly run a race fast enough to win this but only when allowed to make the lead early. I just don’t see how Mike Luzzi is not going to send the sprinter Jolienne from the inside since it’s her only hope of getting a piece of this. I guess that makes the logical horse Great Gracie Dane and I imagine she is going to be a solid favorite here. But I’m not so eager to jump on her bandwagon. First of all, it’s not like her recent races are all that fast. I know some of them came versus stakes company, but she is no longer in the top form she was holding for Richard Dutrow, Jr. over the inner track at this time last year. You could also argue that she woke up when turned back to sprinting and I’m not so sure that stretching back out in distance is going to help her.
As long as the pace is somewhat contested, I feel pretty good about Guyana Princess (#1) coming with her usual solid late run to get a large piece of the pie. She’s not really all that good and apprentice Guillermo Rodriguez needs to give one of his better rides, but she’s going to be a decent enough price and I think she can certainly win this race if the above scenario plays out. I also feel that she ran a bit better than it looks last time. That day, Mischief Maker absolutely ran off the screen in an announcement that she’s probably ready for stakes in the future. The pace was slow, which was what allowed Read the Research to hang around for second. Guyana Princess was trying to make a rally from last and actually came with a good late run to be fourth. A similar sort of performance should carry her to a higher placing today.
I’ll also use a little bit of Newbie (#8), who is the wild card in here. Perhaps she is just panning out to not be that good, but she had shown some promise early in her career and John Kimmel has given her an extended break since she tailed off over the summer. He brings her back with no tag attached and maybe her nice pedigree will finally kick in and allow her to take that step forward. She’s already run nearly well enough to win and Kimmel has good numbers off this type of layoff, so it’s really not that far-fetched of an idea.
$10 Win 1
$5 Win 8
[2:00 p.m. update] – I hate complaining about jockeys–I really do. But what was Cornelio Velasquez doing grabbing a hold of Lenderoflastresort early in that race? The pace was almost ten lengths slower than what this filly is capable of running. It’s especially frustrating because she ran a really nice race after going three-wide all the way around the turn and probably would have won if she had been gunned early. Take your position rather than let the others give it to you!
(sigh) …turning the page.
[2:29 p.m. update] – That was a nice ride by Jackie Davis on Aliraven in the fifth never giving up to outgame heavily favored Marvelous Margaret and Cornelio Velasquez. I could’ve used that sort of aggressive riding on my pick in the previous race. I’m hoping Royal Sighting can turn things around next.
[2:53 p.m. update] – Well, I got great value on Royal Sighting at 5-1 and a perfect setup and trip. But unfortunately, second again.
[3:22 p.m. update] – Newbie obviously has no interest in competing anymore, which I thought was a possibility. Guyana Princess once again put in a nice late run, but no one was beat the logical Great Gracie Dane. Guyana Princess really should have been second, but for some reason Mike Luzzi decided to vigorously restrain Jolienne and give Ramon and Read the Research an uncontested lead. I don’t get it.
On to tomorrow!