Aqueduct, Race 1: Optional Claiming $25,000/N2X at one mile
Objectively speaking, Pinball is the most likely winner of this race, but if he’s anywhere near his 2-5 morning line, I certainly don’t want him. He can win, but in his two recent victories he hasn’t quite faced the level of competition that he meets today. I’ll instead be picking another horse who has been moving in the right direction recently, and that’s my old favorite, Cap the Moment (#6). Longtime readers of this site may recall that he was one of the first horses I started keeping tabs on as a “Horse to Watch” early last year. As you can tell from his past performances, he disappointed me a number of times so I withdrew my wagering support and waited for him to come back around.
I don’t know if it was the return to two turn racing or if he just gets along very well with new rider Pierre Tomas, but make no mistake–Cap the Moment’s last two races are quite good. There was no pace on two back when Readthebyline wired that field and Cap the Moment was moving best of all the closers at the finish. Then last time in another paceless race Windafull was able to wire the field, but Cap the Moment put in a bold late run up the rail to just miss nipping him at the wire. Most Happy Fella and Jet Set Cat should lead Pinball through honest fractions up front and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an in form Cap the Moment running them down late at a big price.
[Edit: With the scratch of Pinball, I’ve doubled my wager on Cap the Moment.]
$20 Win 6 (WINNER; Payout: $100.00)
Aqueduct, Race 2: Maiden Claiming $35,000-$25,000 at six furlongs for fillies and mares
I’m going to try and take down another odds-on favorite here, but I’ll admit right off the bat that this selection is a bit more of a guess. I just don’t want Nifty Shindig, who despite facing tougher competition recently, has just shown a real lack of interest in finishing off her races. Irad Ortiz, Jr. is probably going to have to send her from the rail and Yankeeindixieland and Exclusive Bull have enough speed to at least keep her honest early. Most handicappers looking for an alternative to the favorite will likely land on Kiss an Angel, but her last race so bad that I’m concerned she may just not handle the dirt. Perhaps she’ll improve second time off the layoff, but I don’t expect the value to be there.
I’m going in a completely different direction and picking Chocolate Drops (#4) who you can argue has never really gotten a fair chance to show what she can do on dirt. In 2011, as an early season two year-old, she was an encouraging second in a four and a half furlong maiden sprint at Keeneland, but things when downhill from there. After a decent third behind the fleet-footed Ullapool, she was switched to turf and synthetic surfaces. One more experiment on dirt going a route of ground last July saw her run into future G1 stakes winner, Dance Card. Now she’s been off for six months, but returns and drops in class while finally sprinting on dirt again. I have no idea if she’s really a dirt horse or whether she’ll ever be able to get back to a couple of promising two year-old efforts, but she’ll be a big price here and is the only bet-able alternative to the favorite I can find.
$10 Win 4
Aqueduct, Race 5: Starter Optional Claiming $35,000 at one mile for three year-olds
I’m dipping back in for another slice of Kentucky Pie here after picking him last time as well. I think favored Beeliner is a little dressed up off of two recent wins that earned him Beyers in the 70s. Last time he didn’t run nearly as well as it might look since he was allowed to set a very slow pace and battled to the wire with the horse was sitting just off his flank early. Today he will receive early pressure from Warrior James and Tweet Me in what is likely a tougher spot.
The most logical alternative to him is Kentucky Pie (#1). I thought he was dropping in to a good spot last time and getting a very favorable jockey switch to Irad Ortiz, Jr. Everything worked out and he responded with a powerful winning performance. It seems that the Halls and Breen have realized that they have a decent horse on their hands as they’ve removed the claiming price for today’s race. He’s out of a stakes winning dam and is a half-brother to stakes-placed Coco Ecolo, who goes out for these same connections, so the potential is there for further improvement. He’s versatile enough to be up on the pace or come from out of it and he just feels like a very likely winner again. I’ll use also him with Bugsy Losty (#2) and Candy Raider (#7) in the exacta in an attempt to beat the favorite.
$10 Win 1 (WINNER; Payout: $34.00)
$2 Exacta Box 1 with 2/7
Aqueduct, Race 7: Claiming $16,000 N2L at one mile
I was originally going to pick Awesome Weekend, but with that option gone, I’m left with my second choice, Lure of the South (#9). Alpha Zumba may go favored here, but he’ll have to contend with early pressure from Corybant and Superiority and I’m concerned that he’s going in the wrong direction after a couple of strong efforts in January. Lure of the South may just be a better horse anyway. This half-brother to Evening Attire has spent much of his career on the turf, but I think he’s just as good of a dirt horse when given a chance at the right distance. His most recent effort routing on dirt was a decent third place finish at Belmont last year behind Penn’s Grant and Grandpa Len, who would both be odds-on in this spot. He’s not a six furlong horse and now he gets to once against stretch out on dirt at the right distance. It’s also encouraging that David Jacobson claimed him back last time for more money than he lost him for when he broke his maiden. Cornelio Velasquez should be a good fit and I expect a win as the solid second choice in the wagering.
$10 Win 9 (WINNER; Payout: $30.50)
[1:05 p.m. update] – One of my favorites horses, Cap the Moment ($10.00), took the opener after a ballsy rail-skimming ride from the up and coming apprentice Pierre Tomas. I’ve been touting this kid since the end of January and it’s good to see him finally getting some wins.
[1:24 p.m. update] – The Nifty Shindig that showed up today probably could have beaten maiden special weight company. No surprise.
[2:59 p.m. update] – Kentucky Pie ($6.80) was much the best after resenting getting dirt kicked in his face around the clubhouse turn and making a four-wide run around the far turn. He was a major overlay with a few minutes to post but ended up going off at a more realistic 2-1.
[4:04 p.m. update] – Lure of the South ($6.10) wrapped up the day by running down Alpha Zumba, who took most of the late money. He probably wants to go farther than a mile, but he was able to get it done.