I’ll be including Aqueduct today after skipping yesterday’s stark, uninteresting collection of races. There are also, once again, a couple of races worth discussing at Gulfstream.
Aqueduct, Race 3: Claiming $35,000-$25,000 at one mile and 70 yards
I don’t want to bet Our Entourage as a heavy favorite in here. He was in good form for David Jacobson last fall before a disappointing couple of stakes tries in November. Now he hasn’t been seen since and is returning with a price tag attached and a rarely used jockey named to ride. He’s the class of this field, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish off the board. Punster looks like the next best alternative, but he really seems to prefer finishing second to winning races.
I landed on Political Justice (#2) because I think there’s a chance he will find himself alone on the lead. He and Induce both like to run up front, but Political Justice has a much more aggressive rider on his back in Jose Ortiz. He has the speed to clear Junior Alvarado on Induce if he chooses to hustle his mount out of the gate. If he can take the lead going into the first turn I can envision him going wire-to-wire while holding off Punster and Our Entourage.
[Edit: I won’t cancel the wager, but this race is much less appealing after the scratch of Our Entourage.]
$10 Win 2
Aqueduct, Race 6: Optional Claiming $62,500/N2X at six furlongs for fillies and mares
I firmly believe that Well Kept (#4) is the best horse in this race and I doubt she’ll be any lower than third or fourth choice in the wagering. With horses trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Anthony Dutrow, John Parisella, and Rudy Rodriguez in here, Well Kept is almost sure to be slightly forgotten on the board. Clear Pasaj is probably going to the lead from the rail, but Well Kept has the speed to stay right with her early. I thought she ran a nice race in her comeback last time when just out-gamed late by Los Ojitos and I expect her to move forward in her second race back from the layoff. The last time that she was making her second start back from a similar layoff was in Saratoga’s Test Stakes (G1), in which she ran the race of her life to be a close fourth behind Contested at 71-1. If she can get back to that sort of effort here I don’t think any of these will beat her.
$10 Win 4
Gulfstream, Race 3: Maiden Special Weight at one mile on the turf for fillies and mares
I’m pretty excited about watching “Horse to Watch” Medea (#5) run back in this spot. Her stateside debut was nothing short of terrific and a repeat of that effort will maker her nearly impossible for this field to beat. During the early portion of last month the turf course at Gulfstream was hard and speed favoring. Horses making wide rallies were usually doomed. Medea therefore was in a bad position right from the start when she was away awkwardly and spotted the field a length or two. Joe Bravo did the right thing by allowing her to settle at the back of the pack. The pace up front was fast, but the course was carrying speed and the horse setting those fractions would go on to win. Medea meanwhile was caught in behind horses waiting for room as they curved into the far turn. Around the five-sixteenths pole, Bravo finally found a seem between horses and he sent Medea through before angling her to the outside for the stretch drive. The horses in front of her started to fan out and she was carried four-wide into the stretch. Formative was long gone, but Medea rallied resolutely in the final furlong against the grain of the track to knock four lengths off the winning margin.
My other “Horse to Watch” Scanning (#1) also intrigues me quite a bit. She literally didn’t take a penny in her debut going off at 41-1 and she obviously needed the race. Shug rarely starts his horses in turf sprints and she was not prepared to show the necessary speed to be competitive there. However, she still showed flashes of potential. After getting away slowly, she was gaining a bit of momentum coming to the top of the stretch, but then was completely taken out of the race when the #1 horse made a sharp right turn and carried her out about three paths. She never quite regained her momentum, but finished evenly to split the field. Now one gets the feeling McGaughey’s getting serious as he adds Lasix and stretches her out. She’s bred to love a mile since she’s a half-sister to Data Link and is by Easing Along, a Phipps homebred who is best known as the sire of turf miler Suggestive Boy.
I’m guessing that South Shore will take a little bit of money, but I don’t really want her. She’s out of a half-sister to Point of Entry and her one good performance came when she was allowed to use her stamina going 1 3/16 miles. I also don’t like that the Phipps family discarded her. They usually hold on to their fillies and mares with breeding potential and rarely do I see them let a good one get away.
$15 Win 5
$5 Win 1
$5 Exacta Box 1/5
Gulfstream, Race 8: Optional Claiming $25,000/N1X at one mile on the turf for fillies and mares
I like Princess Sinead (#2) quite a bit in here. I realize she was beaten by Scenario Analysis in her one start in the United States, but it’s really worth watching that race. That was a very soggy turf course at Belmont that was really favoring outside paths and Princess Sinead spent the entire race working her way through traffic down towards the inside. Scenario Analysis looked like Silky Sullivan flying late in the stretch, but she was on the best part of the turf course in a race that completely collapsed at the end. The winner, Decennial, also rallied on the outside and she has a history of handling softer going. Princess Sinead brings over some excellent Irish form and I think she can do a lot better than her initial start in this country would suggest. She drew perfectly today and odds as low as 2-1 would probably be fair value on a filly who I think is classier than these. [EDIT: Princess Sinead was scratched.]
The only other filly I will use in the race is Bargain Blitz (#9). Bill Mott seemed to finally figure her out last fall when she easily broke her maiden at Churchill Downs. The pedigree is there for her to be a good one since she’s a full-sister to T. D. Vance, a G2 winner on turf of over $500,000. She also comes from the same line of Phipps family breeding that recently produced Optimizer and, going a bit further back, Heavenly Prize and G1-turfer Dancing Forever (who was also by Rahy). She’s coming into this race with as impressive a string of workouts as I’ve ever seen for a Bill Mott runner. John Velazquez, who has been riding a lot of live mounts for Mott, takes the call and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a big effort out of her as well.
$15 Win 9