Race 1: Maiden Claiming $25,000 at six furlongs
The scratch of Blue Cherokee really opens this race up. I suppose most will argue that Takajo now deserves odds-on favoritism, but I’m not a huge fan his and don’t think the drop in class he’s taking here is as significant as it appears on paper. I’ll instead now take a shot with my Horse to Watch Steve Came Thru (#1A), who raced here just five days ago getting a three-wide trip against the strong rail bias early on Monday’s card. It was his first start in blinkers and by far the best race of his career. I’m hoping that he’s taken a step forward and that the blinkers will have him more forwardly placed even with this turnback to a sprint.
$10 Win 1
Race 2: Claiming $12,500N2L at 1 1/16 miles
Due to a lack of attractive wagering options, you’d have to think that Katmanstu is going to be a strong favorite in this spot. He’s not the sort of horse I’d want to rely since he’s going to be bet mostly on the merits of his trainer. I also have doubts about the Beyer speed figure he was assigned last time since the horses who finished ahead of him have not come back to validate the lofty numbers they received that day.
I’ve instead landed on a somewhat wacky horse. Ducks Dock (#8) appears to be one of the slower runners on paper, but I think there are reasons to believe that he could run much better today. This horse is a plodder who drops far out of his races early. As his breeding suggests, stamina is his best asset, which makes his most recent race all the more surprising. He still dropped out to last going six furlongs, but he was able to keep contact with the field to the top of the stretch and was actually doing some decent running late to pass horses. I saw it as a sign that Ducks Dock may be starting to turn a corner for the new connections. As an added positive, stretching horses out form a route to a sprint is one of Rene Araya’s best moves as he is 6 for 22 with a $7.19 ROI over the past five years.
$10 Win 8
Race 4: Optional Claiming $30,000/N2X at six furlongs for NY-breds
There is a lot of early speed signed on for this race. Dr. Disco, Readthebyline, Glowing Ember, and Do I Amuse You all possess plenty of early zip. Do I Amuse You is the most likely candidate to make the front from his outside post, but you have to think that he’s going to have to do a fair bit of work under C. C. Lopez to do so.
I’ve gone looking for a horse who can come from a little off the pace. Of those, Linda Rice’s two runners are the best options and I’ve gone with the longer price of the pair. Wee Freudian (#3) is coming into this race off a rare poor effort, which I have no problems excusing since he’s never been one to love a wet track. His prior two efforts since being reclaimed by Linda Rice were good, if unspectacular. However, it’s worth noting that he had to be ridden to stay closer to the pace than he would probably prefer in each of those starts due to a lack of other speed. That will not be the case today and Angel Arroyo should allow him to revert to his preferred style of sitting back and making one run. He’s sure to be a higher price than his stablemate, but I feel that Wee Freudian may actually be the better horse right now.
$10 Win 3
Race 5: Maiden Special Weight at one mile for three year-olds
I don’t have any real problems with heavy favorite Los Borrachos. Yes, he may be overbet, but he’s been good in each of his two dirt starts and is bred to appreciate two turns. I’m only playing against him in this spot because he will virtually guarantee that the horse whom I believe to be the second most likely winner, Sublime, is a fair price.
Sublime (#3) took no money in his debut and ran like a horse who needed a start. He broke sharply from the rail, but was steadily shuffled back from there while pinned down on the fence until the quarter pole. The rail was generally not the place to be on January 13th so it’s no surprise that when Sublime finally got into the clear in the stretch he didn’t have the run. Kiaran McLaughlin has given him plenty of time since that effort and brings him back today with Lasix added off a series of strong half-mile breezes. Without a confirmed frontrunner in this race, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Manuel Franco send this horse to the front and try to wire the field.
$10 Win 3
Race 8: The Fred Cappy Capossela at six furlongs for three year-olds
I picked Hot Heir Skier (#6) in the Jimmy Winkfield and was delighted to see him spurt away from the field with ease at the top of the stretch as he appeared poised to run on to an easy score. However, in the final sixteenth of a mile, his stride began to shorten and he started to drift as Oliver Zip came back on him to cut the margin of victory down to a half-length. There’s no doubt that this horse possesses a devastating kick, but the jockey needs to time its use perfectly to avoid a close call like last time. That’s why I’m glad to see that Jose Ortiz is named back aboard Hot Heir Skier today since he surely learned something about the horse last time and should be able to better adapt to his peculiarities here. The addition of blinkers could also add some additional focus.
While this race did come up marginally tougher than the Winkfield, I don’t think we’ve yet seen the best of Hot Heir Skier and want to bet him right back in this spot. Of the new challengers he faces today I prefer Long On Value (#3), who ran a decent race against tougher company in the Hutcheson and was overmatched in a few spots as a two year-old. I’ll box him with my top pick in the exacta.
$15 Win 6
$5 Exacta Box 3/6
Race 9: Maiden Claiming $16,000 at six furlongs for fillies and mares
Maybry’s Fortune (#8) is a bit better than she appears overall and is also meeting what is by far the softest field of her career today. She’s had legitimate excuses in a number of her races. On October 19th, she was wide off a gold rail at Belmont. Then on January 19th she got caught up in a pace that collapsed going a distance that is too far for her. Finally last time, she was forced to race wide for the entire journey on a day when you probably wanted to be closer to the inside. C. C. Lopez should suit this filly perfectly and take advantage of her natural speed.