I shut my racing form pretty early last night since I just wasn’t seeing that much that interested me. I took a second look through Aqueduct and Gulfstream this morning and have selected five races to discuss–two from Gulfstream and three from Aqueduct. That said, I don’t love anything today with possible exception of the seventh at Gulfstream, so I’m treading lightly:
Gulfstream, Race 7: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at five furlongs on the turf for 3 year-old fillies
There are two horses who I think are worth playing in here. One is the morning line favorite and the other will be a bit of a price. Let’s start with the early choice Brown Eyes Blue (#3) who I don’t think will actually be that short of a price. I know that there is other speed in this race but this filly is a rocket ship. In each of her first few races she’s absolutely blasted off early and had little left for the stretch drives. She was lucky in her maiden win that no one was coming late, but she fell apart in the Schuylerville and faded to third in a Churchill allowance race. But based on her pedigree, I think she is ultimately going to find her home as a turf sprinter. Big Brown’s off spring have been remarkably versatile with perhaps a slight preference for turf, but the real grass pedigree comes from her dam’s side. Her dam, Golden Lips, never won a race, but she’s a half-sister to two excellent turf horses: Hotstufanthensome was a multiple graded stakes winner on turf who banked over $750,000 and Silver Charades was a G3 winner on grass who earned $250,000. Going deeper into her pedigree, this is the same extended female family of Sunshine Forever, Memories of Silver, and Dynaformer. Conclusion: Brown Eyes Blue should LOVE the turf.
If you’re playing this race, it’s also advisable to watch the December 21st affair that three of these are coming out of. The Royal Boot, Rosie Red, and Believe in Charlie finished third, fourth, and fifth, respectively, but it’s Believe in Charlie (#8) who you really want to bet. After breaking well from the rail, she was steadied sharply when nearly hitting the fence in the first furlong. She lost several lengths in the incident, but rallied nicely in the stretch to lose the entire race by only three and half lengths. She should be a nice price today and perhaps she’s just found her niche as a turf sprinter.
$15 Win 3
$5 Win 8
Gulfstream, Race 8: Maiden Special Weight at one mile for 3 year-old fillies
Let me say right off the bat that although one of my “Horses to Watch,” Pearls for Girls, is entered in this race, I’m not backing her. This spot appears to be a little too tough and I’d prefer they send her back to New York to face state-breds.
I’m hoping that the Pletcher firster takes some money (but no so much to suggest they’re the second coming of Secretariat) because I like the horses who have already run. In particular, I’m expecting to see a much improved effort from Antipathy (#1). She is coming out of one of the toughest maiden races run at Saratoga. Cue the Moon came back to finish just a nose behind My Happy Face in the Tempted Stakes (G3) while Emollient finished second as probably the best horse in the Demoiselle Stakes (G2). Antipathy was off a bit slowly that day and had a moderately wide trip, but ultimately probably needed her first start as most of Kiaran McLaughlin’s young horses do. The comment line says that she was vanned off after the race, which may explain why she was off for four months after that. This half-sister to Gulfstream specialist and sire Scat Daddy has been working steadily for her return and should take a big step forward today with experience under her belt and more ground to work with.
$10 Win 1
And now onto my three lukewarm opinions at Aqueduct:
Aqueduct, Race 4: Maiden Claiming $16,000 at six furlongs for New York-breds
After another look through this field, I thought that Bwana Booyah (#7) was an interesting alternative to some of the shorter-priced horses to his inside. His last is a complete throwout after he showed speed and went three-wide around the turn on December 26th when there was that “gold rail.” His race prior isn’t that bad and now he gets blinkers for the first time. I’m hoping he outsprints these early and keeps going.
$5 Win 7
Aqueduct, Race 5: Maiden Claiming $16,000 at one mile and 70 yards
Even though I have a “Horse to Watch” entered in this race, I originally wasn’t going to discuss due to the presence of Hackleton, the probably heavy favorite with Dominguez. But the more I pondered, I came to the conclusion that he’s exactly why I should be playing this race. Hackleton is a bad bet at anything close to his even money morning line odds. While there was not a strong bias on November 28th, after rewatching the races a couple of times, I feel that horses coming from off the pace were at a slight disadvantage. Notably, you didn’t see too many making up significant ground in the stretch. The ninth race that day was a perfect example of the sort of merry-go-round fashion in which many of the races were run. Induce cut out some very quick fractions up front and then widened away as no one could mount any serious challenge from the back. I sort of feel like Hackleton’s second place finish was more a function of his early placement than him doing any real running.
I’m taking a shot against him with my “Horse to Watch” Wildhaassseee (#1), who, despite his fun name, is probably going to be an overlay in here. The fact of the matter is that, even though he’s not bred for it, his two best race have come going long. Particularly, I thought he ran very well on November 10th when chasing a very solid early pace before staying on nicely in the stretch. The horses who finished just ahead of him that day would be strong favorites in a spot like this. Then last time, if you’re able to find a replay of the race, you’ll see that he had absolutely no chance after a horrendous start. He was many lengths behind the field and then was ridden up to go four-wide around the far turn before his jockey wrapped up on him. I’m hoping that Cornelio Velasquez uses Wildhaassseee’s speed to give him a forward early position and that Hackleton proves to be as vulnerable as I think he is.
$10 Win 1
Aqueduct, Race 8: Optional Claiming $14,000/N1X at one mile and 70 yards for New York-breds
I think this is a two horse race between Warrior Up (#5) and Fortitude (#8), but I’m not sure that the public is going to necessarily see it that way, hence my wager. The merits of Warrior Up are pretty obvious since he’s coming off the three best dirt races of his life. I thought he ran especially well last time when Wilmer Garcia really got after him to push Windafull around the far turn and broke up the race a bit. That aggressiveness may have cost him in the stretch, but proved to me that he could yet have better to offer. I was tempted to bet Warrior Up to win since he hails from connections who are routinely underbet, but as I was saying yesterday, I just don’t trust Eddie Castro to make the tactical decisions that result in victory at this point in time. But disregarding his slump for the moment, Castro’s aggressive style of riding may actually help this horse since there doesn’t appear to be much pace in here.
Conversely, Fortitude (#8) is coming off of some of the worse races of his career, but I think they have been more a function of competition than anything else. Horses like Tug of War, Palace, and Brigand are just in another league compared with today’s rivals. Additionally, last time he had the excuse of getting squeezed at the start and having to come from last in a race with no pace. If Dominguez hustles him a little early, I’m hoping that will rekindle his competitive spirit. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that he was running races that could win today and he loves the inner track.
$5 Exacta Box 5-8
[1:04 p.m. update] – I’ve added another wager to the My Bets page in today’s fourth race at Aqueduct. I’ve also added some quick analysis for that race above.
[1:57 p.m. update] – Bwana Booyah throws his head and gets left at the gate. Never mind?
[2:25 p.m. update] – I hate being that guy that complains, but what was Cornelio Velasquez thinking with that ride? Wildhaassseee broke in front, but Velasquez was hellbent on giving Ramon Dominguez an easy lead. Wildhaassseee wanted to run up all the way down the backstretch but he continued to wrangle him back. When he finally asked him for run coming into the stretch, he actually responded and ran up into second, but I think he could have beaten the favorite if his jockey had even made a mild attempt to win the race. Very frustrating.
[4:53 p.m. update] – And so the slump continues. To sum up: at Aqueduct, Warrior Up couldn’t complete the exacta when finishing third behind Fortitude who gutted out the win over a game Snap Call. The runner up may have been best, but Ramon Dominguez early assertiveness on the winner was the deciding factor. At Gulfstream, Brown Eyes Blue didn’t get out of the gate smoothly, which was the end of her race. My long shot Believe in Charlie ran on well to be third at 19-1. Then Antipathy put forth the improved effort that I thought she would in the eighth race. Unfortunately the Pletcher firster was very live and appears stakes-bound after outgaming Antipathy to the wire.
Many of my picks have been running well, but winners have been hard to come by so far this year. All I can do is turn the page to tomorrow…
[5:45 p.m. update] – I just watched the Fifth Season Stakes from Oaklawn Park. I had completely dismissed “Horse to Watch” Skyring based on his recent dirt form, but he sure seemed to like the Oaklawn dirt as he just missed at 8-1 after a rough trip. This is just a really gritty horse who apparently can run on anything when he puts his mind to it. I’m sure we’ll be hearing from him again before too long.