The temperatures have finally risen well above the freezing point around New York City and may reach 60 degrees today. But make no mistake–it’s still the dead of winter at Aqueduct if this card is any indication. We will see the return of 2011 Belmont Stakes winner Ruler on Ice in the third race, but he only has to face only four horses (Breen has reported he will scratch the entrymate). I’ll be betting against him, but don’t have a really strong feel for the race. I do, however, have opinions about three other races on the card:
Race 4: Claiming $20,000B at six furlongs for fillies and mares
I suppose that you can view the slight drop in class for Ann’s Smart Dancer (#3) as a negative, but I think it’s more likely that Bruce Brown is just trying to give her a bit of a confidence boost after losing 15 straight races–especially since she had started her career by winning five of six. She has spent much of that time running against fields that are much tougher than the one she faces today. The horses that beat her last time, Vinda and Elusive Jozi, routinely run Beyers in the high-70s and would be strong favorites in this spot. Ann’s Smart Dancer also had to cope with a little traffic during the stretch drive last time. It was nothing serious, but she probably could have been third if Ramon had ever been able to swing to the outside. She typically shows more speed than she displayed last time and it would be wise of David Cohen to be aggressive with her early. I expect Ann’s Smart Dancer to get the jump on Sheza Classy Lady and World Premier coming into the stretch and her class should carry her home.
$15 Win 3
Race 5: Maiden Claiming $16,000 at one mile and 70 yards for three year-old fillies
I’ll admit right off the bat that I have no idea if “Horse to Watch” Taylors Golden Eye (#3) actually has any ability, but I saw enough in her debut to make me think she deserves another chance. After getting away very slowly, Abel Lezcano tried to motivate her to get into the game down the backstretch. Going into the far turn there was a bumping incident in front of her which caused a couple of horses to take up very sharply and Taylors Golden Eye was forced to swing very wide to go around them. She actually put in a nice little run around the turn to get up into fifth despite being nowhere near the rail. She flattened out in the stretch as the winner went on to run away from the field, but keep in mind that she only finished five lengths behind Ariadna, who is 7-2 on the morning line today. Taylors Golden Eye once again broke a bit slowly second time out, but then got a ridiculous “quarter horse style” ride from Julissa Laredo (who booted home a couple of 99-1 shots in the past month with similar tactics). This filly wasn’t going to win that day, but she doesn’t have the speed to be ridden so aggressively early.
Now she stretches out to two turns and there’s enough route pedigree in her second family to merit giving her a chance. Her maternal granddam is a half-sister to Marshua’s River, who has a stakes race named after her at Gulfstream and was a multiple graded stakes winning turf router during her career. I know nothing about this jockey and not much about the trainer, but Taylors Golden Eye will be a huge price and I’m not so sure she should be.
$5 Win 3
Race 7: Maiden Claiming $25,000 at one mile and 70 yards for New York-bred three year-old fillies
I know this race looks pretty competitive on paper, but to me, Madam Coutoure (#8) is a standout. She spent the first two starts of her career racing tougher $50,000 maiden claimers and actually gave a pretty good account of herself in the debut. After getting bet down to 5-1, she made a mile move around the far turn before flattening out to be fourth. She finished only a length behind Pumpkin Lane, who returned two starts later to beat maiden special weight company. Yet in Madam Coutoure’s next start, she never had any chance due to the condition of the racetrack. December 27th was one of those days when you needed to be on top of the rail to have any success and Madam Coutoure was four-wide at the back of the pack for her entire trip. Toss out the effort completely.
Now Rick Violette adds blinkers and Lasix and stretches this filly out to two turns, which her pedigree indicates will be right up her alley. Her dam is by Hawkster, who is best known for holding the world record for 12 furlongs on the grass. She has produced a couple of six figure earners, including Smooth Transition and French Transition, both of whom needed at least a mile to show their best. Violette once again gives Irad Ortiz, Jr. a leg up and this filly looks primed for a top effort today.
I will also use a little bit of Bebes Passion (#6) as a backup play. She’s not the most likely winner, but I think her chances are greater than that 15-1 morning line would suggest. Maggie Wolfendale has noted that some of the horses transferred from Enrique Arroyo’s barn to the care of Nicholas Esler have greatly improved appearance-wise and generally look much fitter than they did prior. Bebes Passion ran the best race of her career going six furlongs last time in her first start for the new barn, but now gets to stretch out beyond a mile, which should work favorably for her. While her dam has not yet produced much, her maternal granddam is Flying Concert, a winner of 11 of 35 starts and over $400,000. She was a multiple stakes winner on turf and dirt going a route of ground so there is ample pedigree to get the distance in her family tree.
$15 Win 8
$5 Win 6
[11:51 a.m. update] – Ruler on Ice just followed me on Twitter.
[2:00 p.m. update] – I can’t be too critical of the ride on Ann’s Smart Dancer. David Cohen probably thought the winner was going to come back to the field at some point but she didn’t start to slow down until far too late. That was a nice ride by the improving apprentice Guillermo Rodriguez, who was aggressive early and around the turn, spreading the field out enough for his mount to hang on in the stretch.
[2:27 p.m. update] – I’m signing the divorce papers with Taylors Golden Eye as we speak.
[3:25 p.m. update] – I couldn’t have been more wrong about that one. Neither Bebes Passion nor Madam Coutoure handled the distance.
I won’t be playing the races today and therefore won’t be posting an entry. I’ll be back handicapping Friday’s card.