Race 2: Claiming $20,000 at six furlongs for NY-breds
The scratches really altered the complexion of this race. Dan’s Gold and Won Great Classic may very well have been the top two choices in the wagering, but the scratch of Dan’s Gold in particular really changes the way the pace should set up. Now The Big Deluxe (#4) may simply be able to control the pace up front and I think that will make him the winner.
I suppose you could argue that Hay Shares possesses comparable early speed, but I did not like his December return. Hay Shares was very sluggish early despite being asked for run by Cornelio Velasquez down the backstretch. He was also completely dead on the board that day as if they just knew he wasn’t going to show up with his best performance. Now he returns for $20,000 tag and I’m starting to wonder if he’s just not the same horse. Taylor Rice is not known for her early aggression so if Jose Ortiz comes out looking for the lead on The Big Deluxe, he should be able to get it.
$15 Win 4 (WINNER; Payout: $33.00)
Race 3: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for three year-old fillies
We don’t know if either of the first time starters have any ability, but of the horses who have run, I am confident that Las Olas Azur (#4) is superior to her more experienced competitors today. In her debut at Belmont, she was forced to race four-wide around the far turn on a day when you needed to spend a significant amount of time on the rail to be successful. All things considered, she actually ran on quite strongly through the stretch in a performance that was much better than her 54 Beyer speed figure would suggest. She was away for five months after that effort and returned going two turns on February 28th. Perhaps she just needed the race as she wasn’t winning that day, but she did have significant trouble in the running. (Watch the replay)
She broke well enough, but Cornelio Velasquez decided to rate her going into the clubhouse turn. Las Olas Azur clearly resented the restraint as she was tugging at the bit for much of the early portion of the race. When the filly finally began to settle, he asked her to go through a hole on the rail leaving the backstretch, but things immediately tightened up and she appeared to bounce off the rail and stumble. Her race was basically over after that as she retreated to finish last.
I’m confident that Las Olas Azur has a lot more ability than it appears and I expect an improved performance today.
$20 Win 4
Race 6: Starter Allowance $16,000 at six furlongs
This is not a great a betting race, especially after the scratches of the two main speeds. However, I still wanted to mention that one of my personal favorite horses, Non Stop (#1), is competing as the likely heavy favorite. While he’s clearly the class of the field, Rajiv Maragh will have to keep him a bit closer to the pace early to give him his best chance.
I love the way this horse has turned his life around for trainer David Cannizzo after dropping into bottom of the barrel claiming races last summer, culminating in a graded stakes placing in the Toboggan (G3). More recently, his Tom Fool was a better effort than it appears as he was squeezed back at the start and subsequently placed farther back early than he probably wanted to be. We saw Sensational Slam come out of that race to return yesterday with a career best performance and I expect Non Stop to follow suit here. I believe he’s now good enough to win a stakes somewhere down the line and, while I can’t recommend a wager today, but I’ll be rooting for him.
Race 7: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at 1 1/16 miles for NY-bred three year-olds
This is one of the more interesting races on the card. Perhaps Tapitation will ultimately prove to be the best of this bunch as he has shown promise in his first couple of starts and was recently flattered by next-out romping maiden winner Sideways Vision. However, I expect Tapitation to be a strong favorite here even though he doesn’t have any great Beyer edge on this field. He can certainly win, but I think this is a spot to take a shot against him at a very short price.
I’ve landed on Testosterstone (#7). I know that he looks a bit slower on paper, but I think there are reasons to believe that he can step up with an improved performance today. While Testosterstone rode a gold rail to break his maiden on January 26th and would seemingly be dressed up off that effort, it’s what he’s done since then that intrigues me. He was never given a chance when he faced winners for the first time on February 17th. That race is a great example of how detrimental a biased racetrack can be to a horse’s chances. Both Testosterstone and First Ranger were never able to get anywhere near the rail and they paid the price as both were beaten by over 20 lengths. However, like many horses hurt by biased racetracks, they both were able to rebound with much better performances at inflated prices next time out. First Ranger came back to win at 13-1 while Testosterstone returned with the best effort of his life finishing fourth against elders. He was not able to make the lead that day, but he never quit and battled on strongly to the wire despite being hard ridden for much of the race. I do not think he ran any worse than Frost Jordan, who is sure to be a much lower price today.
It’s somewhat surprising to me that Testosterstone has shown the speed that he has since he’s bred to be a plodder that runs all day, being sired by a Belmont winner out of a dam by a Belmont winner. His dam herself never won, but put forth her best performance going 1 3/16 miles on the turf at Saratoga. She’s also a half-sister to the great turf mare Riskaverse, who excelled at 10 furlongs.
It’s fairly clear what the tactical intentions will be here as the connections give a leg up to a good speed rider in Emanuel Esquivel and add blinkers. Stamina should be no issue for Testosterstone so I’m hoping that he can grind out the victory on the front end. I’ll bet him to win at a what should be a generous price and will use him underneath some of the other logical contenders in the exacta.
$15 Win 7
$2 Exacta 2/4/5/9 with 7
Race 8: Allowance N1X at six furlongs for fillies and mares
There is a lot of speed signed on here. Highestmaintenance, Cubicle Queen, and especially Talent N Passion all have done their best work when able to make the lead so there should be quite a battle down the backstretch. Many will probably flock to the Mike Hushion entry as the most logical beneficiaries of the pace, but I’m not sure that I’d want to take either of his runners at a very short price. Jonata is a closer who will be helped by some heat up front, but she’s not really that fast and would probably need to step up with a lifetime best performance off the layoff to win here. Bridgehampton is perhaps the most talented filly in the race, but Mike Hushion sports a consistently low ROI with these long-layoff types so I’d like to avoid her as well.
I’ve landed back on Kara’s Match Point (#6). I know that I tried her a couple of times earlier this year to no avail, but today she’s going get to get some much-needed pace help, something that was lacking from her prior races in January. Additionally, a couple of her races are better than they appear on paper . On November 15th, she was probably best after being bottled up in traffic for the entire stretch drive (watch the replay) and then on January 2nd, she was compromised by a very slow pace and an indecisive ride (watch the replay). I feel that that she will be able to run faster today than her recent low-70s Beyers would suggest and she figures to offer good value in comparison to the more fancied runners to her inside.
$20 Win 6
Race 9: Maiden Special Weight at 1 1/16 miles for NY-bred fillies and mares
Of the two Chad Brown runners, I feel that Piccolo Flats may be the one who takes more money as she adds blinkers and took a significant amount of play in her debut, but I prefer his other entrant. Nile Empress (#3) is coming out of what I believe to be the stronger race. My Girl Madison ran very well in her subsequent start after being embroiled in an early duel, third place finisher Brad’s Ruby returned to improve her figure by 8 points next out, and sixth place finisher In Her Day returned to win next out with a Beyer 14 points higher. Nile Empress got going too late in that race, running like a filly who needs more ground and her pedigree strongly corroborates that notion.
While her dam wasn’t much racehorse, she is out of a mare, Lady Melesi, who excelled at longer distances. She was a stakes winner going 1 1/16 miles and was second in the Sixty Sails Handicap (G3) at 9 furlongs. As a broodmare, Lady Melesi has produced some nice half-siblings to Nile Empress’s dam, including $350,000-earner Seruni, a stakes winning router, Roman Emperior, winner of the Barbaro Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth, and Doc Cheney, who was second in both the Dwyer and Withers.
I’m not sure how much quality there is to this field, but I feel that Nile Empress might have some ability so I’d like to bet her at odds of 7-2 or higher.