Aqueduct, Race 4: Claiming $30,000-$25,000B at one mile on the turf
I understand one thinking that Hardrocker and Amber Coast are more established turf runners than the others here, but I believe D’oro Dancer (#2) has greatly improved off the trainer change and has a major shot as well. It’s hard for me to believe that it was just the turnback to sprints that woke this horse up the last two times because those two efforts in February for new trainer Carlos Martin were a vast improvement over what he had displayed previously. Two races back he was legitimately rallying five or six-wide on the turn and still was able to carry enough momentum into the stretch to get up for third. The next time, he had a good trip, but it’s not easy to come from the back going such a short distance over Gulfstream’s turf course. I think this horse possesses the ability to win a race like this. He gets a huge rider switch to Javier Castellano and I’m not going to view the stretch out to a mile as a negative.
$10 Win 2
Aqueduct, Race 5: Claiming $12,500B at one mile
As has been the case every time the horse is entered, this will become a much less appealing betting race if Our Entourage is a vet scratch yet again. This is about the fourth time I can recall him being entered this winter, so perhaps he’ll finally get to run today. Him staying in makes this an interesting betting race because he’s sure to take money and I’ve never bet a cent on a horse like this. He was a stakes winner as recently as last fall, went badly off form, and is now being given away for a tenth of what he should be worth. [Update: Surprise, surprise. Our Entourage was scratched.]
I’m not as concerned about the slight drop and layoff for I Love It (#9) since this is probably a realistic comeback spot and Linda Rice does win with these types from time to time. However, even he has questions to answer so I’ll be going back to Mason’s Comprise (#8). He’s not the best horse in this race, but I feel that he’s the only one I can confidently bet to give me a good effort today. He’s quietly run some nice races this winter and I think the slight turnback to a one-turn mile should suit him perfectly.
$10 Win 8
$2 Exacta Box 8/9 (WINNER: Payout: $16.60)
Aqueduct, Race 6: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
I’m taking a firm stance against both Chamois and North Slope. Each of them got to either set or stalk extremely slow paces in their maiden wins and neither was the best horse on the day. Chamois is now coming off a layoff while North Slope ran again and was badly exposed as quite ordinary. They should both take money and I won’t be touching them.
I thought James Jingle (#3) ran quite well on the Wood Memorial day undercard when finishing third behind runaway winner Gimme Credit. Rajiv Maragh took him a bit too far back early and was forced to make a wide rally around the far turn, which is not ideal at Aqueduct. In a smaller field today I’m hoping that he doesn’t have to drop quite so far off the pace and can use the stretch kick he displayed in the Super Mario Stakes here last fall to run these down late. I will also use Sailor’s Revenge (#5), who has run fast enough on dirt recently and has some turf pedigree hidden in his dam’s family. His dam, Waveland, won once on the turf and is a three-quarter sister to Sailor’s Cap, who was a multiple turf stakes winner of over $600,000. Purge isn’t thought of as a great turf sire but he has sired capable turfers like Extensive and Macias. Sailor’s Revenge has a big chance here at a price.
$10 Win 3
$5 Win 5
Aqueduct, Race 8: Starter Optional Claiming $50,000 at one mile
Readthebyline and Charlie’s Quest will likely be the two favorites here based on their consistent speed figures in the low 80s and the high percentage connections of the latter. Readthebyline is a little dressed up for my liking off some soft trips on the lead over the inner track this winter. I thought he actually ran the best race of his life last time after setting a very quick pace but his overall resume will drive his price down too low. It’s hard to deny that Charlie’s Quest is a likely winner of this race but I can see him being seriously overbet. His two wins (one of which was taken away on disqualification) last year were accomplished under very favorable circumstances and I think they make him look better than he actually is.
I’m going for Invocation (#3). I think he is the equal of the two favorites in ability and I’m going to venture a guess that he’s getting over his aversion to winning races. You could almost see the light bulb go on inside the eighth pole two races back when he powered past the leaders to that overdue maiden victory. Last time his late kick was muted by an excruciatingly slow early pace and I expect a better effort here. Anything at or greater than his morning line would be good value on this horse.
$10 Win 3
Aqueduct, Race 9: Maiden Special Weight at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for fillies and mares
This wager is more about value than finding the most likely winner. I recognize that if Transplendid runs back to her turf route at the end of last year or if Funny Money runs to her turf pedigree they will be tough to beat here. However, I believe my “Horse to Watch” Fantastic Eyes (#4) is a much better turf runner than her race on April 7th might suggest.
In that race (replay), Fantastic Eyes (the #5 horse that day) secured a good position near the back of the pack early, which was the place to be in a race that came apart a bit late. Entering the far turn, Abel Lezcano clearly had plenty of horse under him and he panicked a bit. Watch the contrast between Fantastic Eyes’ run around the far turn and that of Celesta (#10), who was rallying just ahead of her in the yellow silks. Celesta’s jockey wisely stuck to the rail and saved a ton of ground while Fantastic Eyes swung five-wide midway around the turn to mount her rally. Her momentum caused her to be spun out even wider into the stretch at which point it became clear that she’d already used up most of her energy. Celesta, meanwhile, got a dream run up the rail and finished second but I would submit that these two horses ran equally as well.
Fantastic Eyes has more than enough turf pedigree to suggest this should be her preferred surface and I’m hoping Abel Lezcano, who is back on her, employs more patient tactics here because I think she has the ability to upset this field at astronomical odds.
$10 Win 4 (WINNER; Payout: $437.50)
[6:53 p.m. update] – Well that was some last race (replay). Things rarely work out so perfectly in this game but they’re incredibly rewarding when they do. Fantastic Eyes ($87.50) was completely ignored on the tote board, but got a great ride this time from Abel Lezcano, who I had criticized for his previous voyage aboard her. When she swung out at the top of the stretch I at first wasn’t sure if she’d have the kick to close them down, but in an instant she came barreling past six horses to decisively thrust into the lead inside the final sixteenth and claim the victory.
Yet what truly makes it even better for me is that she was one of my “Horses to Watch” and, as such, one of the best examples of what I’ve been trying to accomplish with this site. It’s easy to lose faith in what you do after slumps or long droughts without a big score, but the Fantastic Eyes of the racing world have their way of reaffirming your methods and reigniting that passion to do it again. I suppose she’s earned a spot on my recently neglected Alumni page after this.