Aqueduct, Race 1: The Duluth Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for three year-olds
A rewatching of North Slope’s (#5) last race (Replay) reveals that he would have won if not for some questionable decisions by Luis Saez. While he did break slowly, North Slope possesses enough natural speed to be placed much closer to the pace, which was fairly slow for the distance. Coming to the top of the stretch, instead of making an effort to work his way outside, Saez committed his mount to the rail and hoped for something to open up. It eventually did, but only in the final eighth of a mile after North Slope was steadied in traffic. He still accelerated gamely through a tight spot and just missed, but he should have been led into the winner’s circle.
Today he should be a slightly longer price than Notacatbutallama and I think he may be even better than that foe at this point in his career. I’ll bet him to win and use him with Tattenham (#4), who should be a decent price after two less than ideal trips in tougher company. He was beaten a long way by Notacatbutallama in the Saranac, but horses were just not able to make late runs in that race. Prior to that he had a rough trip in the Secretariat and was not persevered with. I think he’s better than he looks on paper and could add value to the exacta.
$20 Win 5
$4 Exacta Box 4/5
Aqueduct, Race 3: The Slew O Gold Stakes at 1 1/8 miles
I suppose that Percussion’s speed makes him the horse to beat, but I don’t see him as holding any huge edge of this field. The presence of Pletcher and Castellano should make him a solid favorite and I think there are more interesting horses in this race.
Atigun (#3) is my top pick. They’ve spent most of this year on the turf with him and after some early success, his form has tapered off. I don’t think he actually showed any improvement on turf and, with the exception of a weak running of the Louisville Handicap, he appears to have run his best races on the dirt. He gets back to that surface today and almost any race he ran during late 2012 or the early part of 2013 would make him a formidable challenger to Percussion. At a much larger price, he’s the one I want.
I’ll also use Bigger is Bettor (#7), who may not be quite as fast as the aforementioned two horses, but who always makes the most of a chance to run around two turns. This is his best distance and he appears to be in the best form of his life. You can excuse his race two back since he was off slowly and wide on a day when you wanted to be on the rail. His Empire Classic was a strong effort and fellow closer Awesome Vision came out of that race to run well yesterday.
$15 Win 3
$10 Win 7 (WINNER; Payout: $94.00)
Aqueduct, Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for two year-old fillies
I don’t have anything especially clever to say about Jazil’s Dream (#8). I liked her a lot last time at an enticing price off her debut turf try and was almost rewarded. I know that she’s somewhat of a “last time was the time” horse, but she looms as a very likely winner here and I strongly prefer her to co-favored Hardly, who did not do much running with a decent trip last time.
I’ll also use Rachel’s Temper (#1), who probably would have won three races back with a more decisive ride and then found six furlongs to be a bit too short last time when she broke a step slowly and was stymied in traffic on the backstretch. I don’t think she’s run her best race yet and could contend for win honors with a good trip today.
$15 Win 8
$10 Win 1
$5 Exacta Box 1/8
Aqueduct, Race 5: Claiming $12,500B at six furlongs
There is plenty of speed in this race and I can’t resist the running style and drop in class that Stone Rocks (#8) gets today. I don’t think I’ll actually get his inflated morning line price of 15-1, but he may be a little overlooked due to his mediocre speed figures. He’s just faced much tougher fields in his four starts since breaking his maiden and should be running late in this spot.
$10 Win 8
Aqueduct, Race 6: Optional Claiming $35,000/N2X at one mile on the turf for NY-breds
Street Game was clearly the best horse in this race at one time, but you have to be skeptical of his chances here with the $35,000 tag attached and other speed to his inside and outside. With the likelihood of a fast pace, I can’t resist Barrel of Love (#6), who seems to still be holding good form at age six and beat a good field over this turf course exactly one year ago today. A repeat of either of his two most recent starts could make him a winner here.
$15 Win 6
Aqueduct, Race 8: Optional Claiming $62,500/N2X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
Hothersal (#5) is clearly the horse to beat based on his most recent performance, which was a very strong effort against a considerably tougher group of horses. I won’t go against him here, but I will try to add some value to the exacta by using Dysprosium (#2), who just did not get the right sort of ride last time when Jose Lezcano elected to try and rate him instead of challenging Joha for the lead. His two starts at Calder hinted that he has real ability and he should be out winging on the front end today after the scratches of the other two main speeds.
My main wager will be an exacta box of those aforementioned two, but I will also throw in long shot Dangerous Lad (#8) with Hothersal as a backup wager. I’ve had an affinity for Dangerous Lad, who has had less than ideal trips in the majority of his turf races. I made a nice score on him two back and think that he might just not have been ready for his return in such a tough spot last time. He’s a horse who has had foot problems in the past so I like that the aluminum pads are removed today and think he could once again be primed for a top effort.
$8 Exacta Box 2/5
$2 Exacta Box 5/8