I have a lot of races that I want to discuss today so I’ll skip the introduction. I probably have stronger rooting interests at Gulfstream (scroll down), but first up is Aqueduct.
Aqueduct, Race 1: Claiming $12,500N2L at five and one-half furlongs
I know that my pick in here is probably not the most likely winner and has not been competitive in any race since last summer at Saratoga, but I think his price will make him worth a bet. Just purely looking at Beyer speed figures, Why Broadway (#6) is as fast as anyone in this race. Then you take a look at his running lines and notice that he’s been beaten by 13 lengths or more in four of his last five races. However, those all came at higher claiming levels versus much tougher competition than he meets today. Pluck any name out of the top three finishers in his last four races and they would be odds-on to crush this field. Why Broadway has been at his best when allowed to sit just off the lead and should benefit from a duel among the three speed horses drawn alongside each other towards the rail. Of those speeds, Undrgroundregulatr looks to have the best chance to go on and win, but Why Broadway will be about five or six times his price, so he’s the one I’m betting.
$10 Win 6
Aqueduct, Race 3: Maiden Special Weight at one mile and 70 yards for three year-olds
Transparent (#6) is obviously the horse to beat and if he repeats his race against Revolutionary last time where he set a strong pace and stayed on well for second, he will probably win today. He is also going to be a very short price, so I’m looking elsewhere for a horse that I think may be able to step up and run a Beyer in the 70s or 80s. Able Baker Charlie (#1) hasn’t come close to running one of those fast races yet, but he’s also been badly compromised in his two most recent starts by very slow paces. Two back, he faced Jimmy Winkfield winner Clawback, who ran off the screen after getting to waltz on the lead, and last time the leaders came home in under 24 seconds and Able Baker Charlie could only mount a mild rally. However, I think two turns is ultimately going to be this horse’s game.
His dam, Plaid, was a multiple stakes winning router who finished in the exacta 25 of 42 times during her career and earned $543,000. Able Baker Charlie is only her second foal, but she’s a half-sister to a good producer as well as another horse who finished third in the Pennsylvania Derby. This is a good family of routing dirt horses and I think there’s enough evidence to give Able Baker Charlie a chance on the stretch out. I’ll bet him to win and use him under Transparent in the exacta.
$5 Win 1
$5 Exacta 6-1
Aqueduct, Race 5: Claiming $12,500N2L at one mile
The more I looked at this field, I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that I didn’t want the horses coming out of that January 12th race at this same level. It was just a weak group of horses and a world away from the competition that Term Loan (#9) has been facing recently. The fact of the matter is that any of Term Loan’s last four Beyer numbers since returning from the layoff would win this race. Couple that with him getting to face the easiest field of his life today and you’ve probably found your winner. I know that the post position isn’t ideal for the mile and his jockey hasn’t exactly been successful on this circuit, but who else can you come up with to beat him? His morning line of 3-1 would actually be excellent value and I’m betting him to win.
$15 Win 9 (WINNER; Payout: $45.75)
Aqueduct, Race 9: Claiming $12,500B at six furlongs
I know that this pick is a little ridiculous, but hear me out. You can find flaws with just about everyone in this race, so I’m not too keen on taking the favorites. King Rock is dropping in class and facing a much easier field, but it’s hard to trust him to actually win a race (he’s 3-for-35 lifetime). Afternoon Treat would be a major contender if not for his lackluster performance and drop to a bottom-level claimer since coming back from his layoff. I’m also not taking it as a great sign that Rudy Rodriguez has named a low-profile rider like Ruben Silvera. I supposed Settle for Medal can win, but he doesn’t exactly get your pulse racing.
I picked Suspicious U (#7). Let’s get the negatives out of the way first: his highest lifetime Beyer on the dirt is a 61 and he’s never run in a race shorter than one mile in his 17-start career. So what are the positives? Well, I actually think the turnback in distance might work in his favor. Looking at his pedigree, his dam has shown the ability to throw sprinters and Utopia has revealed himself to be more of a dirt sprint sire than anything else. He’s taking a huge drop in class from a NY-bred optional claimer down to this bottom level and Irad Ortiz, Jr. is taking the call. That is a major jockey switch for this guy and I’m hoping that all of these factors will add up to a career-best performance today. Maybe I’m reaching a bit, but the price should be huge.
$5 Win 7
Now let’s move on to some higher class racing down at Gulfstream Park, where I have opinions on the three year-old races, including both stakes.
Gulfstream, Race 3: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at 1 1/8 miles for three year-olds
The first division of this race is the weaker of the two. You don’t have to be too clever to come up with this one, but I just think Sky Captain (#3) is going to love the stretch out in distance and will win here. He showed plenty of ability in his maiden win last July and his return race was obviously a prep for something longer (I doubt they were working him a mile prior to that race in an effort to put speed into him). I wouldn’t even say he ran that badly last time. He couldn’t keep up on the turn, but he did level off nicely late in the stretch and was making up a bit of ground again at the finish. He’s had two bullet works since then and I expect him to be up close to the pace here. The route pedigree is certainly there since his dam is a half-sister to ill-fated Kentucky Derby runner-up Eight Belles so the nine furlongs should be no concern. As for the others, I think El Duro will be overbet off slow maiden races and I’m not totally convinced Cerro is a dirt horse since his pedigree says otherwise. Sky Captain is probably going to turn out to be pretty good and I’m looking for a breakout performance here.
$10 Win 3
Gulfstream, Race 5: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at 1 1/8 miles for three year-olds
(The second division of this race) I’ve been waiting to bet Orb (#3) in a spot exactly like this since watching him barrel down the stretch at Saratoga on Alabama Day last year. As a fan of this sport, I’m sure you all know that there are some horses you just instantly fall in love with and Orb is one of those for me. I’m a sucker for those Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney pedigrees (Orb’s female family traces back to Shenanigans, the dam of Ruffian). I stated immediately after seeing his debut at Saratoga that I had just seen the 2013 Derby winner and I’m sticking by that until proven wrong. Although he hasn’t exactly run back to that spectacular initial effort, I’m not too concerned since I realize that Shug McGaughey takes his time with these types. Yet even though his races haven’t come up that fast, the form has really held up. Out of his debut, Violence went on to win the G1 CashCall Futurity and Titletown Five subsequently broke his maiden with a 97 Beyer. Vyjack and Clawback and both stakes winners (each earning 96 Beyers) out of his race two back and Revolutionary returned from his third place finish behind Orb to break his maiden with a 102 Beyer in his next start.
Orb’s pedigree indicates that today’s distance should be right up his alley and I think the addition of Lasix is a signal that McGaughey is getting serious this time. He doesn’t have to run much faster than he already has to win this race, but I’m sure hoping he does.
$20 Win 3 (WINNER; Payout: $68.00)
Gulfstream, Race 8: The Forward Gal Stakes (G2) at seven furlongs for three year-old fillies
I’ve heard a lot of buzz that Kauai Katie is going to be somewhere in the range of 1-2 odds in here and I just don’t think that’s right. My Happy Face (#3), meanwhile, is listed at 4-1 on the morning line which feels utterly ridiculous to me. This is the same filly who nearly won the Frizette (G1) over Dreaming of Julia and battled through a 44 and change half-mile while gutting out a win in the Tempted (G3). I realize that My Happy Face hasn’t run the fast races that Kauai Katie has come up with on her best days, but the latter filly has also had some perfect setups in those wins whereas My Happy Face was up against it pace-wise in each of her two stakes tries.
I know two things about My Happy Face: 1) She is FAST and will be in front of Kauai Katie early. 2) She is extremely game and has proven that she loves a dogfight. If she gets clear early and Kauai Katie has to come and run her down I don’t think it’s going to be as easy as many people anticipate. My Happy Face is likely to be an overlay and I’m betting her. This should be a fun race to watch.
$15 Win 3
Gulfstream, Race 10: The Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles for three year-olds
As a fan, it would be great to see Shanghai Bobby return in great form and stay undefeated. As a horseplayer, he’s going to be a severe underlay and I’m betting against him on the win end. That said, there aren’t that many options to choose from when searching for a horse to beat him. I don’t really want the horses coming out of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes until I see evidence that it wasn’t just a very slow race. I’m also not totally convinced that Bern Identity really wants to go this far especially over a tiring two turns at Gulfstream.
I think Itsmyluckyday’s (#7) effort in the Gulfstream Park Derby was legitimately fast and he’s the “in form” horse who can take down the champ today. Since I heard some clamoring about the accuracy of the time of his last race, I hand-timed it myself from the video and came up with these fractions: 23 1/5, 45 3/5, 1:08 4/5, and 1:34 2/5 seconds. Gulfstream’s half-mile split is probably wrong, but everything else was within a fifth of a second of the official time at the track.
I believe that 95 Beyer, but it wasn’t just the time of the race that impressed me. Itsmyluckyday is a big, strapping colt with a long stride and I think he’s going to absolutely love two turns. When you see his action, it’s no surprise that he didn’t handle the tight configuration of Delta Downs where he was beaten by Bern Identity. All of his other dirt races are quite good. I actually like the wide post position since Elvis Trujillo is good at letting horses run away from the gate and get into a comfortable rhythm. I envision Itsmyluckyday being perched just outside the speeds drawn towards the inside early and making his move around the far turn much the way he did last time. I have a feeling that the price will be decent since some handicappers are regarding his last race as a fluke. I’m not and odds of 5-1 or better would be great value.
$10 Win 7 (WINNER; Payout: $57.00)
Gulfstream, Race 11: Maiden Claiming $35,000-$30,000 at one mile on the turf
I don’t have too much to say about this one. Logan Street and Pedro del Valle are obvious and would be very logical winners, but there is a first time starter than intrigues me. Wise Devil (#3) goes out for David Brownlee, who has connected with one high-priced first time turfer and a first time starter in the past year. He also sports an eye-popping nearly $5.00 ROI with this apprentice from 49 starters. But it’s Wise Devil’s pedigree that really piques my interest. His sire is pretty obscure, but he was a G3-winner on turf and the dam won 4 of 19 turf starts including a couple of stakes with her best effort registering an 89 Beyer. If Wise Devil is ready for his debut, he certainly has the pedigree to win and should be an enticing price.
$10 Win 3
[2:32 p.m. update] – I took a few shots at the beginning of the card at Aqueduct, but Term Loan ($6.10) got things back on track with an aggressive ride from Luis Perez. Favorite Willy Pay loomed late, but his hesitancy to win races allowed Term Loan to take it by a comfortable length.
[2:47 p.m. update] – I understand that the time was slower than the first division, but I was impressed by Orb ($6.80) today. After getting steadied and squeezed back to last going into the first turn, Rosario guided him to the outside to make an early move. Going from last place up to challenge the leaders on the backstretch is usually not a winning move, but Orb used his stamina to sustain that run into the stretch and hold off the pacesetter. For a first try around two turns, I thought it was a good effort. McGaughey surely didn’t have him ready for his best today since it’s all about the gradual progression in his barn. I look forward to seeing Orb in the Fountain of Youth next time.
[4:23 p.m. update] – It’s one thing to be wrong, but it’s another to just not get a chance to find out. My Happy Face may not be able to beat Kauai Katie sprinting, but she certainly doesn’t have a chance when her rider takes away her best weapon–her speed. Kauai Katie was impressive in victory, but she had everything her own way once again.
[5:22 p.m. update] – Wow! I thought Itsmyluckyday ($11.40) had a chance to win if perhaps Shanghai Bobby didn’t bring his “A” game, but the scary thing is that Shanghai Bobby really ran his race. Itsmyluckyday just loved the two turns and ran fast the entire way despite going wide around the first turn. His final time was 0.81 seconds faster than Travers (G1) winner Golden Ticket ran earlier on the card and I have to think this race is going to get a Beyer in the range of 105-110. Shanghai Bobby lovers shouldn’t be discouraged because he ran his race, but just ran into a SERIOUS three year-old.