Aqueduct, Race 2: Maiden Claiming $60,000-$50,000 at six furlongs for three year-olds
If you like horses dropping out of maiden special weight races, you have plenty of options here. However, you have to decide if you want the experienced horses who held their own versus tougher competition and now merely need to hold their form or those that are more lightly raced and must move forward with the drop in class. I’m going to go for that latter and pick Chambers Bay (#1). This horse barely finished either of his first two races and really needs a complete form reversal, but there are some things to like. First of all, both of those two prior races were around two turns, which is tough for any newcomer. After not really getting involved over a muddy track in his debut, he showed improved speed second time out battling through a 23 second flat opening quarter mile before surrendering just a half-mile into the race. Since then he’s come back with two solid workouts for Hennig.
I don’t mind the drop so much because they got this horse for a bargain price considering that he’s a half-brother to G2-stakes winning sprinter Greenspring as well as the hard-knocking stakes runner Skyring. Chambers Bay may have enough early speed to get to the front here and I’m hoping he can put enough distance on this field early under aggressive handling by Keiber Coa to hold off any late challenges. It’s a bit of a guess, but he’ll be a solid price.
$5 Win 1
Aqueduct Race 4: Maiden Claiming $12,500 at six furlongs
I don’t have much to say about this one other than that if the morning line is any indication of the value I’ll get on Awesome Bid (#4), he’s a great bet. The likes of Griffin Rock, Skyview Park, and El Dreamer are just better than what he faces today and I think the turn back in distance can really wake him up. Keiber Coa can’t let him get too far behind early, but if he can stay within range of the leaders I think he’ll be tough to hold off late.
$10 Win 4
Aqueduct, Race 6: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at one mile for NY-bred three year-old fillies
As I see it, there are two possible win candidates in this race and they are the one-two finishers from the February 15th edition of this race. However, today, I think Jerusalem Stone (#5) rates an excellent chance to turn the tables. I don’t think Miss Da Point is any phony, since, after all, she is a three-time winner racing against this N1X field, but she’s gotten absolutely perfect setups in her two most recent wins. Especially two back on February 15th, it appeared that there were other speeds on paper, but no one else went and she was allowed to waltz through soft fractions and pull away late. Jerusalem Stone navigated a clear trip up the rail, but she was at a distinct pace disadvantage. I actually thought she showed a lot of determination to cut the winner’s margin of victory in half between the eighth pole and the wire.
In today’s race, Miss Da Point will almost certainly not make the lead with Pencil Papers and Boldchildsrevenge likely to be sent from the inside and outside post positions, respectively. She’s not a “need-the-lead” type, but she doesn’t project to get the soft trip she’s received in her two route wins. In a fairly run race, I expect Jerusalem Stone to come out on top.
$20 Win 5 (WINNER; Payout: $49.00)
Aqueduct, Race 7: Optional Claiming $35,000/N2X at six furlongs for fillies and mares
I find this to be the most interesting race on the card. I picked against her, but I recognize that Read the Research is the horse to beat. If she runs back to her November 10th effort, I’m not sure that any of these fillies and mares will be able to overtake her. Yet her two subsequent efforts routing were not very good despite the fact that she finished second each time. I think she’s a bit dressed up on paper and will likely be an underlay, especially with the trainer change to Todd Pletcher.
I’ve tried her unsuccessfully before, but I think there’s reason to believe that today might be the day Newbie (#3) finally wakes up. It’s obvious that she’s a turn back, but there’s more going on here. This is a filly by Bernardini, who is obviously worth a little bit as a broodmare prospect for Chester and Mary Broman, who are a breeding operation. It makes sense that they haven’t dropped her in for a claiming price if they want to keep her, but why are they still running her when she’s seemed so disinterested in competing? I can only assume that they and trainer John Kimmel still feel that there is some untapped potential here. She flashed hints of ability racing around one turn early in her career so perhaps the return to sprinting may invigorate her. Her pedigree supports this idea since her dam was primarily a sprinter. She’s been off for over two months now but Kimmel has kept her busy in the meantime. She’s recorded seven works since her last race, the last six of which have been consistently fast. She is listed as running with blinkers for the first time today so I wonder if the new-found consistency in her morning work is due to that equipment change. Furthermore, Kimmel has named the hot-riding Jose Ortiz, whom he has apparently never used before. This is all conjecture, but perhaps these changes signal that they’ve finally found the key to this filly and we may see a much improved effort today. The price will be right, so I’m taking my shot.
I will also make a smaller backup wager on Bird House (#6). This filly showed some ability early in her three year-old season, but then was on the shelf for nearly a year. Her surprising return win was quite good and Gary Gullo has wisely given her plenty of time since that effort. It’s very possible that she’s just a faster, more mature filly now and if she can move forward just slightly off that performance, she can be a major player in this race.
$10 Win 3
$5 Win 6
Aqueduct, Race 9: Maiden Claiming $25,000 for NY-breds at six furlongs
I originally wasn’t going to make a pick in this race, but the more I looked at it I found myself thinking that there is a very likely winner who may be overlooked in the wagering due to all the money he’s burned recently. Retired (#8) is coming off four consecutive second place finishes going two turns and has the look of a horse with a bad case of seconditis. However, I think there might be something else going on here. I feel that the best race of Retired’s career was when he ran six furlongs at Belmont Park in his debut. He was off slowly that day and was steadied sharply coming to the top of the stretch, but still managed to come with a strong late rally outside to beat more than half the field. In all of his route races, he’s made strong runs around the far turn and flattened out badly in the stretch. Rather than not wanting to win races, maybe he just badly needs a turn back. If he really does want to go six furlongs and can improve off his debut to run a Beyer in the mid-50s today, he’s right in the thick of this.
$10 Win 8
[3:35 p.m. update] – Jerusalem Stone ($4.90) got the pace setup she needed and blew past the leaders at midstretch to win going away. Her rival Miss Da Point, however, ran much better than I expected after surviving a torrid early pace that saw them shade 47 seconds to the half-mile. She may be the one you want going forward depending on the future pace scenarios.
[3:57 p.m. update] – Newbie ran a gallant race to be third at 27-1 after battling between horses for much of the way. Favored Read the Research was nowhere to be found at the finish as the consistent Vicki’s Dancer benefited from a fast pace and groud-saving trip to get up for the win.