Race 2: Maiden Claiming $16,000 at one mile and 70 yards for three year-olds
This race really opens up with the scratch of likely favorite Royal Posse, but I liked a longer price even prior to scratches. Perfect Dancing (#4) is a horse that I think could show a great deal of improvement as he drops in class and stretches out to two turns. His debut came against tougher foes and he actually did a bit of running through the lane after being completely outrun in the early stages of the race. With the likelihood of a slower pace today, Perfect Dancing should be able to take up a position closer to the front and may just gallop his way to a win against a decidedly sub-par field.
$10 Win 4
Race 5: Claiming $35,000 at six furlongs
I racked my brain for a long time trying to come up with a selection in this race and I’ve ultimately landed on a pick that may look pretty improbable on paper, but hear me out:
I can’t shake the feeling that this race is filled with horses whose best days may be behind them (with the lone exception of Conticinio, who just does not look good enough). Take Down Two (#7) probably falls into that category as well, but I’ve seen David Cannizzo do a pretty remarkable job with some of these older claimers who appear to be washed up (the rejuvenated Non Stop comes to mind). Last time when first off the claim for Cannizzo, Take Down Two broke very slowly and really never had a chance to get into a race that was dominated on the front end.
Now if there’s one thing that Take Down Two absolutely loves it’s a wet track. Going back through his past performances, he routinely runs vastly improved races over wet tracks relative to his surrounding form. There’s not much speed in this race now that Ground Force has scratched and Take Down Two does have the ability to race fairly close to the pace when he has his mind on running. He’s going to be a huge price and I realize that he’s not the likeliest winner, but this race is populated with horses that I just could never bet at short prices and Take Down Two has enough things working in his favor today that I’ll try to resurrect him.
I’ll bet him to win and use him ‘underneath’ in the exacta.
$10 Win 7 (WINNER; Payout: $267.50)
$2 Exacta 1/2/3/6 with 7
Race 6: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for NY-bred fillies and mares
Once a Week (#6) should be a heavy favorite in here based on her debut. Although the comment line fails to mention it, she was off very slowly and made a wide, prolonged run to get up for third in a promising initial effort. Mike Hushion’s horses typically do better in their second career starts so Once a Week is clearly the most likely winner of this race. I toyed with the idea of making a large win bet on her, but I doubt I’ll get anything close to her 3-1 morning line since every smart handicapper seems to like this horse.
Instead I’ll use her in the exacta with another horse that I think ran better than it appears in that December 20th maiden race, Shea Darby (#4). She was making her first start in over 15 months and actually put in a pretty encouraging effort. For a filly who had never rated behind another horse, she was immediately put into a difficult position by breaking a half-step slowly, forcing Cornelio Velasquez to make the decision to take a hold of her and try to come from just off the pace. As the field was approaching the quarter pole, the eventual winner Prize Taker ran up inside of Shea Darby and put her into a tight spot bouncing around between horses. Velasquez to had to briefly tap on the breaks before angling down to the inside for a clear path. All things considered she finished up pretty well to hang on for fourth.
Today, with a cleaner break, Shea Darby should be able to blast off to the front since I believe she’s faster than horses like Camie’s Dancer, Princessbellaoncal, and Riveressed. I’ll be looking for Shea Darby to take them most of the way before Once a Week comes running late to fill out the exacta.
$10 Exacta Box 4/6
Race 8: Allowance N1X at one mile and 70 yards
I immediately added Burned Bridges (#8) to my ‘Horses to Watch’ list after an impossible trip in his most recent start (Replay). The race featured one of the most ridiculously slow paces of the entire year in New York as all the jockeys seemed content to grab hold of their horses and allow the classy Writingonthewall to waltz through glacial fractions up front. Burned Bridges is a one-run closer and thus was severely compromised by this setup. His rider Manuel Franco tried to do the right thing by making an early move on the turn, but it’s difficult to sustain a premature, wide move in a horse’s first start off a long layoff. Naturally Writingonthewall had plenty left in the tank and turned away Burned Bridges and all the others to score a comfortable victory.
Burned Bridges should have gotten something out of the race and now returns in a slightly tougher spot. Unfortunately, the main speed horse, Go Canes Go, was scratched, but there still should be a faster pace than he encountered last time with frontrunner Bellamy Chief and pace presser Herbal Prospector in the race. Also, Burned Bridges isn’t the type of closer that has to come from a mile behind. He can lay within a few lengths of the pace before unleashing his burst of speed, much the way he did in his maiden breaking score in December of 2012. That was the best race he ever ran and it just so happened to come over a wet track, which he will encounter again today. I’m not sure that I’ll get his morning line price of 15-1 now that favorite North Ocean has scratched, but I still have to bet Burned Bridges since I think he’s better than he looks overall and certainly better than his last race.