I’ve handicapped both Aqueduct and Gulfstream today. The Gulfstream Sunshine Millions card is the more enthralling of the two so I’ll explain my selections there first. Scroll down below to view my two Aqueduct plays.
Gulfstream, Race 1: Maiden Special Weight at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf for three year-olds
I realize that Our Wild Won (#2) is perhaps coming out of a weak race, but I’m still intrigued by him in this spot. After all, he was a first time starter for Tom Albertrani, whose runners almost always take some sort of step forward in their second starts. While this race is probably stronger than the one he’s coming out of, it’s still not an especially tough maiden field by Gulfstream’s standards. Our Wild Won should have gotten some needed fitness out his debut after running over such a demanding course and, although the pace wasn’t exactly fast, he did finish up much more strongly than the horse he was dueling with for the lead. At double-digit odds, I think he’s worth a shot.
$10 Win 2
Gulfstream, Race 2: Maiden Claiming $35,000 at one mile on the turf for three year-old fillies
I like Great Cross (#3) quite a bit in here. Last time, she made an eye-catching run from way back in a race where no one else made any sort of closing move despite there being a solid pace up front. She’s definitely bred to be a turf horse and if you’re willing to attribute her debut to inexperience, then she should take a big step forward getting on her preferred surface today. Fly in for the Win is clearly the other top contender based on her dam’s turf record and her decent debut on the dirt. I’ll bet Great Cross to win and use those two in an exacta box since I’m against the likely favorite, Shakesperian Dream, whose printed running line makes her debut look better than it was. She was drawn into the race by a pace collapse on the turn, but had nothing left when the real running began.
$10 Win 3
$2 Exacta Box 3/9
Gulfstream, Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at 1 1/8 miles for three year-olds
I’m really looking forward to seeing Tonalist (#1) stretch out in distance in this race. His dam wanted to run all day and is the product of one of the elite active female families in the country. She is a half-sister to Easter Bunnette, the dam of Havre de Grace, as well as The Bink, the dam of Riskaverse. Given the addition of blinkers and Lasix for his second start, I’m thinking that Clement means business with him today.
Tonalist is my top pick, but I’ll also make another smaller win wager on Cosmic Coincidence (#4). He is coming out of a really weird race in which a large portion of the field just completely failed to show up. I’m usually a little reluctant to take those types of Gulfstream dirt races at face value and I think this horse might be a lot better than he looks. His dam is a half-sister to Rahystrada and Lone Star Sky, so the pedigree is definitely there. He should be fitter for this race and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him show more speed.
$15 Win 1 (WINNER; Payout: $67.50)
$6 Win 4
$2 Exacta Box 1/4
Gulfstream, Race 7: Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at six furlongs for fillies and mares
There is plenty of speed signed on for this race, which makes me wary of Ullapool and R Free Roll, who are both fast enough to win this, but may compromise each other’s chances through an early duel. If she opts for this race, My Pal Chrisy appears to be the most logical runner to pick up the pieces late since she’s run very well sprinting in the past and the turnback should help.
However, I’m going to take a shot with Salamera (#1) at a price. All of her Beyer figures were earned as a two year-old with the lone exception of her last race, out of which she has every right to take a step forward. This race is probably going to be won with a Beyer in the mid-90s and I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that Salamera could achieve such a figure today. She gets a very positive rider switch to Javier Castellano and should sit a great stalking trip just in behind the leaders.
$10 Win 1
Gulfstream, Race 9: Sunshine Millions Sprint at six furlongs
I like Black Diamond Cat (#4) quite a bit in here. He was in great form over the summer and I think you can make some minor excuses for his two most recent races. Two back Jilver Chamafi made a tactical error sending Black Diamond Cat up between horses to battle for the lead. I know the pace didn’t exactly collapse, but Black Diamond Cat just isn’t a frontrunner and is much better either stalking the pace or putting in a late run. His connections were probably of the same mindset coming out of that race and perhaps gave instructions to come from off the pace in his most recent start. Chamafi may have overcompensated a bit as he was content to let Black Diamond Cat drop right out to last. This race was dominated near the front end and Black Diamond Cat was the only horse to make any sort of late impact.
I like the jockey switch to Prado today since he’s a rider who usually lets horses place themselves wherever they’re comfortable and I won’t be surprised to see him get back to some of his better races during the summer. He could go off at double-digit odds here and I think he’d be a very attractive option at such a price. I’ll bet him to win and use him “underneath” in the exacta.
$10 Win 4
$2 Exacta 3/5/7/9 with 4
Gulfstream, Race 11: Maiden Special Weight at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf for three year-old fillies
The two favorites are going to be Miss Lech and Easton Arch. Both can win, but neither really scares me so I’ve gone searching for some pricier options.
Ready Player One (#2) strikes me as a horse who may be a lot better than she appears after never having a chance to do any serious running in her lone turf start. That race featured a very slow pace and no one was able to make a serious bid from the back of the pack. Ready Player One resented her rider’s restraint for much of the journey and understandably came up empty when the real running began. She needs to get over her bad gate habits to have a say in today’s race, but she’s bred to move up on turf and probably deserves another chance now as a more mature filly.
I can say many of the same things about Chief Dante (#5). She was a mess in her turf debut after ducking in, rushing up, and becoming rank down the backstretch. I’d like to also forgive her last race since she does not strike me as a turf sprinter, but she really didn’t lift a hoof after taking quite a bit of money. I know that Albertrani likes to bring them along slowly and this filly is definitely bred to get better with more racing and distance, but she has to start showing it today. I would make a small win bet on her at a huge price.
$10 Win 2
$6 Win 5
Aqueduct, Race 5: Allowance N1X at 5 1/2 furlongs for NY-breds
Obviously I wasn’t pleased to see Marriedtothemusic should up in the same race as my ‘Horse to Watch’ The Brothers Rap (#11), but there are a couple questions the favorite has to answer today. Marriedtothemusic should face a bit of token pace pressure from both Ed’s Magic and Billy the Bull and also must show that he’s ready to run a winning race off this five-month layoff. Marriedtothemusic is the most likely winner of this race, but he’s going to be a very short price and I cannot resist taking another shot with The Brothers Rap.
The Brothers Rap put in an excellent effort three races back towards the tail end of his two year-old season when he was a rallying third behind Go Get the Basil and Escapefromreality, either of whom would be favored in this race. They tried to stretch him out in distance in his subsequent start and his effort was much better than it appears on paper (Replay). Guillermo Rodriguez was trying to advance along the rail to take up a closer position when he was forced to steady and take up losing position and essentially getting shuffled out of the race. Despite that trouble The Brothers Rap actually stayed on well to get up for fourth and ran much better than the 48 Beyer figure would suggest.
Last time he returned going six furlongs and broke a step slowly in a large field. He passed a few horses on the backstretch and once again made a nice rail rally to get up for fifth behind next-out winner The Big Deluxe. But with all of that said, make no mistake—he needs to take a major step forward second time back from the layoff to beat Marriedtothemusic, but he’s going to be a huge price and I don’t think he’s without a chance to post the upset.
$10 Win 11
$10 Exacta 9-11
Aqueduct, Race 8: The Evening Attire Stakes at 1 1/16 miles
Cease (#7) looked like an absolute beast winning that optional claiming race last time. I know that it’s taken him a while to get back to his better races, but it appears that Jacobson finally has him in good form. He usually doesn’t step his horses up to take shots in races like this unless he thinks they’re doing very well and I’m assuming that is the case with Cease. I’ve always liked Long River, who is gradually being stepped up in class now that he’s finally delivering on his early potential, but I don’t think even he would be able to run down the Cease we saw last time. Some early rain and snow should only help Cease, who loves a wet track.