I really hope that this card isn’t torn apart by scratches because I see plenty of opportunities. If you’re a follower of my handicapping you’ll know that rarely, if ever, do I make picks in as many as eight races on one card. I’ve handicapped all of these races assuming that last weekend’s pronounced rail bias will have completely disappeared after the two-day break and interim rains, but it’s something to keep in mind as the day progresses. Let’s get to it:
Race 1: Claiming $25,000N3L at six furlongs
It’s pretty clear that the two horses to beat are Coolusive (#1) and Make a Fortune (#5). Coolusive has been racing against better horses for almost his entire career and takes a logical, yet significant drop in class here. Make a Fortune was claimed away from David Jacbson two races back and ran better than it appears in his first start for the new barn as he chased two-wide against a gold rail. I do feel that the Beyer Make a Fortune was assigned last time is a little questionable, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who thinks these are the two most likely winners.
Usually I’d just skip a race like this, but I have trouble ignoring the presence of any horse who is likely to be a massive overlay and that will be the case with Demon’s Deputy (#6). He’s almost certainly going to be the longest shot in the field, but I feel that he is the third most likely winner behind the two favorites. A lot of things would have to work in his favor for him to wind up in the winner’s circle, but I have to take a shot with this Horse to Watch.
The pace could work against him as the slightly inferior Readthesmokesignal appears to be the lone speed on paper, but I was encouraged by the improved early speed Demon’s Deputy displayed last time with blinkers on for the first time. His most recent race is not nearly as bad as it appears on paper as he was three-wide all the way around the turn on a day when you needed to be close to the rail, especially early in the day. Before that, he had no chance against Mean Season and spent much of 2013 racing in tougher N1X allowance/optional claiming races.
I’ll bet Demon’s Deputy to win and use him underneath the two favorites in exactas.
$10 Win 6
$5 Exacta 1,5 with 6
Race 2: Maiden Claiming $35,000 at one mile and 70 yards
Bridgeville and Tony D are likely to take the bulk of the play in this race and they could not be more different types of favorites. You basically know what you’re going to get from Tony D. He drops in class here and is probably the class of the field, but he’s had his chances in maiden claiming company before and has had trouble grinding out a win. Bridgeville was an expensive two year-old in training purchase who has not quite panned out. His debut at Churchill Downs was disappointing, but his subsequent effort on January 9th at Aqueduct was quite good as he chased three-wide against a strong rail bias. He figured to be tough to beat when he returned at the same level in February, but he was basically eased midway through the race. He was claimed out of that effort by Steve Klesaris and now drops in class. It’s hard to completely toss him from consideration, but he’s a not a horse I’d want to rely on.
I’m going in a different direction and will take the improving Eight Cents (#6), who tries to stretch out in distance for the second time. He began his career for Todd Pletcher and was claimed out of a third place finish in his debut by Debra Divitto. After a failed second attempt at sprinting, they stretched him out to today’s distance in a tough $25,000 claiming race against winners. That race took place on March 2nd when there was a gold rail and Eight Cents sustained a very wide trip around both turns. He actually did not run that badly in finishing sixth while earning the best Beyer speed figure of his career. He was returned to sprinting for his most recent start and was actually running on well through the stretch after a terrible start (watch the replay).
Although it might not be apparent from a quick glance at the past performances, I feel that Eight Cents is improving with each start and I’m encouraged that Rajiv Maragh is sticking with him for this race. He also deserves another chance at a route on a fair racetrack and in a more realistic spot. I’m hopeful he’ll find those things today.
$15 Win 6
Race 3: Starter Allowance $20,000 at six furlongs
I like Reserved Quality (#4) quite a bit in this race, but I’d caution you not to take too short of a price on this horse since he’s one that’s been overbet in the past. If he’s anywhere near his morning line of 7-2 I’ll certainly be playing.
Reserved Quality was likely best last time after a terrible break put him well behind early (watch the replay). He was helped by his rider keeping him on the rail for most of his trip, but this was a race where the pace held together fairly well and he was the only horse to make any sort of closing move. I’m of the opinion that Reserved Quality has significantly improved for David Jacobson, which might not be readily gleaned from his past performance lines. However, I would not be able to refute anyone who asserted that his main rival Joking (#7) ran slightly better on February 23rd and that he was just as likely of a winner today. I’m going to bet Reserved Quality to win since I feel he’s more dirtied up than Joking, but I’ll still box these two main players in the exacta.
I’m against morning line favorite Tummel, who was against the track on March 2nd, but was still awful in defeat. Perhaps he’s the main speed, but I’m concerned about his current condition.
$10 Win 4
$5 Exacta Box 4/7
Race 4: Claiming $16,000N2L at six furlongs
Velvet Cap (#6) is my best bet of the day. He landed on my Horses to Watch list after sustaining a four-wide run around the turn in the same race Demon’s Deputy, who competes in today’s first race, is exiting. Velvet Cap figured to who more speed early that day, but could not keep up while racing in the deeper going off the rail. He was understandably spent by the top of the stretch and faded to finish seventh.
One would think that the claim by Nick Esler would be a positive trainer change so I expect to see major improvement out of this horse today as he goes second time out for this barn. Velvet Cap ran races earlier last year that would crush this field and you have to be encouraged by the huge rider upgrade to Chris Decarlo. He has positional speed but doesn’t need the lead, so I expect him to get a great trip stalking what should be a fair pace.
What makes me want to play Velvet Cap even more strongly is the fact that I’m way against the favorite, Read the Proposal. David Jacobson does not do very well with these types of layoffs and I’m very concerned by the drop in class down to this bottom level claimer after the horse performed very well for a $35,000 tag.
$20 Win 6
Race 5: Claiming $12,500N3L at six furlongs
If this race plays out the way it appears on paper—which is asking a lot at times—then you’d imagine it will set up for a closer. Two More Jacs, Stealth Steed, Pepe, and Little Wyatt all possess early speed and should be vying for the lead. For that reason, I’ll take a shot with a very dirtied up Western Grit (#5). He’s simply had major excuses for his last two races as he was forced to chase a freakishly good Lasso over an inside speed favoring strip two races back and then was never close to the gold rail on March 2nd. To the unsophisticated eye, it might appear that he’s way off form so perhaps Eric Donovan’s morning line of 15-1 isn’t too far off. If he’s anywhere near that price, this will be a fantastic opportunity to bet a horse who is much better than he appears and should receive a great pace setup as he turns back in distance.
Update [10:13 am]: I’ll leave the below wager in place, but this race has become much less interesting after scratches.
$10 Win 5
Race 6: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for NY-bred fillies and mares
I’m not afraid of betting against either of the likely favorites in this race. Loomin’ Lori Lou ran some decent races as a three year-old, but her return last month was mediocre at best. Riveressed can be a factor if no one else steps up, but her mid-50s Beyers won’t win very many of these New York-bred maiden special weights. I’m much more interested in two of the less experienced runners.
Sweethots (#3) made her debut in January at Gulfstream going five furlongs on the turf. She broke last from the gate and was never involved, but she curiously was never really asked for run at any point by Joel Rosario (watch the replay). It appeared that this was a filly who just needed a race and that the jockey was given instructions not to overdo it first time out. She has fired a couple of quick workouts on the dirt at Gulfstream since that race so there’s reason to believe that she could show up with a much better performance today. She also is bred to excel on the dirt since her dam’s two wins came on dirt and she is a half-sister to Shrewd One, a stakes-placed dirt sprinter who earned over $330,000.
Jazzminegem (#9) broke very awkwardly in her debut before passing some tired horses in the stretch (watch the replay). She took some money, but ran like a horse who really needed race. Linda Rice does much better with second time starters, especially excelling with New York-breds in dirt sprints. I expect this half-sister to Notacatbutallama to run much better today.
$15 Win 3
$10 Win 9
Race 8: Optional Claiming $50,000/N2X at six furlongs for fillies and mares
It’s hard to figure how the pace of this race will develop. The two horses to the inside are unlikely to show any early speed and it’s fair to question whether The Royal Boot, who has been a frontrunner, still possesses her customary early speed after a very dull effort last time. I can envision a very likely scenario playing out in which Sky Skier (#3) is sent to the front by Rajiv Maragh and is allowed to set her own pace. This filly is pretty quick as was evidenced two back when she contested a 44 1/5 second half-mile before fading in a race that collapsed noticeably in the late stages. Last time she broke a half-step slowly and was forced to rate in behind the speeds, which is not her preferred running style.
It’s no coincidence that her two wins have been achieved when she’s been able to make the front early. Her rider has shown good early aggression lately and should come out of the gate looking to seize the opportunity here. Sky Skier may appear to be a bit slower than the two likely favorites, Nuffsaid Nuffsaid and Love to Score, but she’s been keeping very good company in Florida and may be sitting on an improved performance.
$15 Win 3
Race 9: Maiden Claiming $12,500 at one mile and 70 yards
I’ve held firm to my belief that Shanks for Nothin (#2) is better than he appears on paper. After a decent showing in his debut behind subsequent winners Bourbon Therapy and Oltre’ Oro, he’s been undone by a bad trip and a track bias. Two back, on January 2nd, Shanks for Nothin broke well and was racing in a forward position down the backstretch, but appeared to resent being put in tight quarters as the field entered the far turn and he steadied himself out of the race (watch the replay). Jose Ortiz was able to get him outside to try to re-rally, but he had already lost all chance due to his own greenness. Then next time on January 30th, he raced two-wide around the turn and three-wide into the stretch on a day when you wanted to be inside.
While he had a minor excuse, It does concern me a bit that Shanks for Nothin did not run quite as well last time is now being dropped in class. However, I’m not as worried about the extra distance since he’s by decent route sire Cowntown Cat and there’s enough route pedigree on his dam’s side to suggest he can go two turns. Hopefully he breaks well for Taylor Rice and she can place him forwardly early. I think there’s a good chance that he possesses as much raw ability as any horse in this race, but it’s a matter of whether he’ll be ready or willing to show it today. I’ll bet him to win and will use him underneath logical favorite Zol Zayne (#6) and lightly-raced Perfect Dancing (#5) in the exacta. I’m against the morning line second choice Shelby Dean, whose last two Beyers are highly questionable given the suspect competition.