Well, it’s the second day on the main track. It seemed to be playing fairly yesterday on a card where, despite a few bad opinions early on, the win by long shot Thisizsparta in the seventh race helped to make it a pretty good day for me. I see plenty of vulnerable favorites on today’s card and three of my selections are double-digit odds on the morning line. However, I’ll start by eating some chalk:
Aqueduct, Race 1: Claiming $16,000B at six furlongs
As you know by now, I only bother to pick favorites when I feel extremely confident that they are going to be successful and that is the case here with Crown the Chief (#6). If you ask me, his 2-1 morning line odds are actually generous value on a horse who appears very likely to wire this field. This is the lowest claiming price he’s competed for in quite some time and the last time he was entered in a conditioned claimer of any kind three starts back he romped by over six lengths. After that he faced Consortium and then came back to be outrun early by the very speedy N. F.’s Destiny and Rein King, who came back to win. Fellow contenders Beggarthyneighbor and Poppa’s Pick just present too many questions to be answered and Taproot appears to be a little cheaper than these. This is huge drop in class for Crown the Chief and an aggressive Eddie Castro should just put him on the lead and not look back.
$15 Win 6
Aqueduct, Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at six and one-half furlongs for NY-bred fillies and mares
I’m married to betting a huge long shot in here. I placed Rice and Beans (#3) on my “Horses to Watch” list after she got one of the most ridiculous rides imaginable on that two-day period of December 26th and 27th when the rail was absolutely golden (replay). After breaking a little slowly, Pablo Morales steadied her in the first furlong and then sent her up to chase five-wide for the entire run around the turn in the very deep going to the outside. She was floundering by the time they got into the stretch and unsurprisingly faded to finish last. Her first race was better, but still not very good. I honestly have no idea if this filly can run at all and the inexperienced apprentice doesn’t exactly give me confidence, but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith with these massive long shots. She may finish last, but I need to try her. (If you’re not buying my reasoning on Rice and Beans, I should note that I view Alpha J as a deserving favorite and likely winner of this race.)
$10 Win 3
Aqueduct, Race 5: Claiming $35,000-$25,000B at one mile
I was looking forward to betting against Our Entourage, but he was a vet scratch for the second time in a row. Something’s obviously amiss with him. There is a distinct lack of pace pressure for Shankopotamus (#5) in this race and I expect him to win easily at a much shorter price than his morning line. I know the one-turn mile is stretching him to his limit, but I really don’t think he’s going to have to run hard the whole way. He’s So Chic was in very good form prior to his last start, in which he had a legitimate excuse, but he is really up against it from a pace standpoint today.
I will also throw a few bucks at Buckeye Heart (#1), who I always have a bit of a soft spot for. I’ve been thinking for quite some time that this horse wants to run farther than six furlongs. Something obviously went wrong in his one try at a mile previously and his pedigree suggests that this distance should be well within his scope. I’m not going to be surprised to see him in closest attendance to Shankopotamus early and perhaps getting first run if that one falters.
$10 Win 5
$5 Win 1
Aqueduct, Race 6: Claiming $15,000B at 1 1/8 miles
Let’s get one thing straight. If J W Blue runs back to any of his races prior to last time, he’s going to win and win easily. However, he was dreadful in that last race and now is being given away for practically nothing. There is obviously some problem with this horse who, in a previous life, hit the board in the Travers Stakes. He’ll be a short price and I’ll be betting against him.
Macho Muchacho looks like the obvious alternative, but you have to wonder where he’s been recently. The bulk of his win streak was put together facing lesser horses and last time he was helped by a perfect pace scenario, which set up his late run. He’ll be a short price as well and I’m dubious.
I will instead take Mason’s Comprise (#3), a hard knocking horse who should have no problem with the slight stretchout in distance today. He obviously needs a couple of these to misfire to find himself in the winner’s circle, but I think that is a likely scenario. I also like that he gets a subtle, but very positive rider switch to the improving apprentice Pierre Tomas. In a race without a lot of speed I don’t think he’ll be afraid to place this horse close to the pace and you can be sure he’ll hug the rail every step of the way.
$10 Win 3
Aqueduct, Race 8: Optional Claiming $25,000/N1X at six furlongs for fillies and mares
This appears to be a two-horse race between Hot Roots and Expression, with the former likely being the much better price. An early duel between Sacred Success and Hold It should really set it up for a closer and the two I named are clearly the best of the bunch. Expression has been in good form, but I think the class drop may really wake up Hot Roots (#1). She ran a number of races in 2012 that would win in this spot and her two races here this winter have come against much tougher company. She should also get that more favorable pace setup and a ground-saving trip from David Cohen. If she can get back to it, her best race is better than Expression’s so she’s the one I want.
$15 Win 1