Originally I wasn’t thrilled with today’s card, but after a deeper investigation I feel like I’ve come up with a few live long shots that should be worth taking shots with today. That said, we’ll start things off with a couple of shorter prices.
Aqueduct, Race 1: Starter Optional Claiming $40,000 at one mile for three year-olds
I see this as a two-horse race between Tenango and Santa Elf. However, based on the morning line, I’m guessing that most will see this as a one-horse race that is Tenango’s to lose. Each of this last two efforts have been very good and he can certainly win this, but I have questions about him stretching out to a mile. In his one race going this far, which was admittedly on a synthetic surface, he didn’t show his customary late kick. I also have concerns since his dam and her family were all best sprinting.
If he takes even a slight step backwards, then I think Santa Elf (#5) could step up and beat this field. His debut at Parx was a workmanlike effort against weaker, but he just kept coming on steadily like a horse who should have no problem handling more ground. Both of his one half-sibling’s wins came routing and his dam is a half-sister to the dam of stakes winning turf routers Sweet Talker and Silver Medallion. Rajiv Maragh has been riding lights out since coming back from injury and I’m hoping he can coax this horse to wear Tenango down late.
Aqueduct, Race 3: Allowance N1X at one mile
Transparent is going to be a short-priced favorite here and perhaps deservedly so since he put forth a decent showing in the Gotham and has chased home good horses like Revolutionary and Orb in his most recent maiden defeats. However, if he runs another Beyer in the mid-80s, I think “Horse to Watch” Wharton (#4) can step up and beat him. Wharton was well-backed when making his second start back from a year-long break at Gulfstream last time, but never really had a chance given the way the race played out. He was in good position along the rail early, but had to steady hard when the field bunched entering the turn, thus losing all of his forward momentum–something which is very hard to regain over Gulfstream’s main track. What made his task even tougher was that the surface had also become markedly speed favoring on February 6th and it was nearly impossible for horses to make up ground. Today Wharton can either sit off the speed of Charlestonian and Transparent or take over and wire the field. I trust the hot-riding Rajiv Maragh to make the right decision. Anything at or above his morning line of 5-2 would be fair value.
Aqueduct, Race 4: Maiden Claiming $20,000 at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
I recognize that Art Class can win this race as the likely favorite, but I see a few horses that are trying the turf for the first time that should handle it and will be much bigger prices. Change at Jamaica (#3) put in a much improved effort last time when battling with runaway winner Roaring Seasons through quick fractions before fading in the stretch. Today he gets a positive rider switch to Jose Ortiz and a surface switch that would really move him up. His dam only one once on the turf, but was in the money in 11 or 24 starts on that surface. She is also a half-sister to the dam of Unbelievable Dream, a promising turf allowance winner for Barclay Tagg and is by a stronger turf influence in With Approval. Change at Jamaica is a real threat to wire this field.
I will also use Brandy’s Big Guy (#4), who should be an even bigger price. He hasn’t done much on the racetrack yet, but his dam won 7 of 37 turf starts while earning $350,000. She has produced a full sibling to this gelding, who is actually running in today’s sixth race (#12, Shewreckstheplace). That full-sister had shown nothing on dirt before moving to turf where she improved enough to place in a few maiden claimers on this circuit. At least Brandy’s Big Guy has shown a bit more ability than her on dirt. I also recall Maggie Wolfendale saying that she really liked his appearance coming into that last race noting he had never looked so good before. Perhaps he’s coming up to a better race and the surface switch can move him up just enough.
$10 Win 3
$5 Win 4
Aqueduct, Race 6: Maiden Claiming $20,000 at 1 1/16 miles on turf for fillies and mares
Speaking of Shewreckstheplace, I suppose she has a chance here, but I don’t like the post and have another idea. Threetimesacharm (#1) feels like a firster who might be very live for some virtually unknown connections. Michael Wilson has not started many horses as a trainer, but a quick search reveals that he was a previous assistant to Ken McPeek and Bob Baffert, so he’s apparently learned from the best. I have no idea if he can have a first time starter ready, but Threetimesacharm’s pedigree is absolutely screaming “turf.” Her sire Hat Trick is quickly establishing himself as one of the best turf influences we have currently standing in Kentucky and is a real bargain at just $15,000 a breeding based on what his first couple of crops have done. This dam, Charley’s Alada, has already produced a three-time turf winner by Judge T C, who provides no real turf influence. I like that an experienced turf rider like Channing Hill is named and the worktab appears to be pretty solid. I’m not sure that we’ll get the morning line of 12-1, but I’ll be betting this filly regardless.
$10 Win 1
Aqueduct, Race 7: Optional Claiming $35,000/N2X at one mile for fillies and mares
I’m not picking her on top, but Schillerette (#4) is the horse to beat in this race. She was compromised by a very slow pace last time and otherwise would be coming into this with a couple of Beyer figures in the mid-70s. Peggy Jane is the morning line favorite, but I don’t really get her appeal. I guess she can improve routing, but you’d be betting her based on races she ran over a year ago, since her two efforts since the layoff have been very dull.
I like the three year-old Miss Da Point (#5). I realize that she looks a bit slower on paper, but she ran a lot better than it looks last time and gets a positive rider switch to Cornelio Velasquez. After being beaten to the front in that most recent start, Keiber Coa sent her up to take the lead through a suicidal half-mile in 46 3/5 seconds on a day when the track was not yielding fast times. Jerusalem Stone and Physical Delivery rallied from the back after receiving perfect setups, but Miss Da Point clearly ran the best race. She feels like a filly who has really been improving this winter and has some dirtied up recent form. I’m not sure that she can step up and run a number in the 70s today, which she probably will have to do to beat Schillerette, but her price will make it worth taking a shot.
$5 Win 5
$4 Exacta Box 4/5
Aqueduct, Race 9: Claiming $16,000B at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for fillies and mares
I know the filly I’m picking certainly isn’t the most likely winner, but she’s the type of long shot that I just can’t resist betting. Mollie’s Prize (#8) has done absolutely nothing of note on the racetrack so far, but some quick research into her pedigree reveals that she is undoubtedly supposed to be best on turf. Her sire Pure Prize is versatile enough to sire runners who handle all surfaces, but he is probably best known for his turf/synthetic types. Mollie’s Prize’s dam, Ultreya, was unraced and none of her other foals have tried the turf. That means we have to take a look into the second family. Ultreya is out of Chinese Empress, who was a turf stakes winner of over $160,000. Ultreya is also a half-sister to $770,000 earner Dream Empress, winner of the G1 Alcibiades run over Keeneland’s synthetic surface. Although Dream Empress never had much stakes success away from synthetic surfaces, she was more of a turf/synth type. Ultreya also has another half-sibling, Old Chinese Copy, who won multiple turf races and over $100,000. A further look into grand-dam Chinese Empress’s family yields even more concrete turf influences. She is by Nijinksy out of a mare by multiple turf stakes winner The Axe and is a half-sister to Possible Mate, who won 14 of 29 races, mostly on turf, and was a multiple graded stakes winner of over $675,000.
Mollie’s Prize needs to completely turn around her form, but it’s rare that you find ordinary dirt horses such as this who are so obviously being run over the wrong surface. If Mollie’s Prize can improve on her previous route form by just 10 or 15 Beyer points with this switch to grass, she will win today.
$10 Win 8
[2:07 p.m. update] – Well I couldn’t have been more wrong about the first two. Santa Elf was not match for the Jacobson duo in the opener and then Transparent ran away from Wharton like he’s going to be pretty scary moving forward to a race like the Peter Pan.