It’s been a tough go of it so far for me at this meet. While I’ve come close with a few good opinions, I have yet to pick a winner. I realize that these are tough races and fortunes can turn at any moment so I’ll continue to have faith in my methods and soldier on.
Today, there are only a few races on the card that I really like, which is good since I didn’t have that much time to handicap. That said, I feel pretty good about these opinions, especially in the feature.
Race 5: Maiden Special Weight at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for two year-old fillies
It’s the first two year-old turf route of the season. There are plenty of intriguing first time starters in here, but I’m most interested in one who has run already. Palestrina (#8) did absolutely not running in her debut, but as far as I’m concerned that will only help her price since she has no obligation to like dirt based on her pedigree. Her dam, Maiden Tower, ran 10 times on the grass, winning five races including a Group 2 stakeswhile amassing over $350,000 in earnings. Today Palestrina gets on the right surface and she should offer better value that Candy Kitty, who finished well ahead of her on dirt.
$10 Win 8
Race 6: Starter Optional Claiming $50,000 at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf
Island Sunset (#10) ran one turf race during his career and it happened a long time ago down at Calder. He was not the horse he is today then and that 61 Beyer he earned was actually a good effort. This is a horse who cannot go farther than sprint distances, yet he led that turf route until the top of the stretch before fading late. His pedigree says that turf will be no problem since he’s a half-sibling to a turf winner and he should get some pedigree from his sire. The turnback in distance should also work to his advantage since he’s a horse with a tendency to not always finish off his races going farther. He’s already fast enough to win this race on dirt and I think he might get ignored in the wagering.
I’ll also use Thomas Hill (#9) who has run some respectable races at Belmont and gets a mildly positive trainer switch to Mitch Friedmann. He should get a decent pace to run into today and will be flying late as the only true closer in the field.
$10 Win 10
$5 Win 9 (WINNER; Payout: $41.50)
[UPDATE: Well, I had to go two-deep in this race and the winner barely got his nose down on the wire first, but at least I finally picked out a winner.]
Race 9: The Evan Shipman Stakes at 1 1/8 miles for NY-breds
I have picked Awesome Vision (#2) the last two times he’s run and each time he’s disappointed. Today I believe things will be different since he finally returns to racing around two turns, where he sports a 4-for-4 record. The last time he showed up to negotiate the two-turn mile of Aqueduct’s inner track he put in a remarkable performance. That day, March 21st, featured one of the strongest inside speed biases of the year and Awesome Vision overcame that by racing wide for much of the way and still got up to dead heat with the classy Saginaw. That effort suggested graded stakes might be in his future.
Awesome Vision is a horse who likes to settle and make one run. In each of his last two races they ran the first six furlongs in 1:09 4/5 seconds and 1:10 2/5 seconds with him being ridden aggressively to stay within range of the pace. Due to the different nature of two turns races, today he should be able to settle farther off a potentially slower pace before making his run. Without the very good Readtheprospectus showing up there’s little doubt in my mind that he’s the best horse in this race and he should rebound with a win.
I’m skeptical of Groomedforvictory and So Scott getting this distance so I’ll use all others except them under Awesome Vision in the exacta.
$20 Win 2
$2 Exacta 2 with 1/3/4
[8:10 p.m. update] – A brutal head defeat by Awesome Vision in the Evan Shipman proved to be a fitting way to end an equally brutal first week at Saratoga. The good news is that there are still six full weeks of racing to go and it can only get better from here on out.