Race 2: Starter Allowance $20,000 at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
Force Multiplier‘s overall form last spring and summer would have you thinking that turf is his preferred surface. Yet he improved significantly in recent months when stretched out over the inner track’s dirt surface. Today he gets back on the grass, so it would stand to reason that he should run an even better race now. Right? Well, I’m not so sure. He is going to be a short price and Rudy Rodriguez’s numbers switching horses from dirt to turf routes leave a lot to be desired. (He’s 7-for-56 with a $1.33 ROI over the past five years.) He is probably the lone speed and perhaps he will win and pay $6, but I’m not totally convinced and feel like you’re supposed to be against him here.
I’ve instead gone with the horse who I believe possesses the best recent turf form and that is BIG SAM (#5). He had hinted at having some turf ability last fall at Aqueduct, but really came to hand over the winter at Gulfstream as she showed improved speed in his races and put in a few very good efforts against arguably tougher competition than what he meets today. Force Multiplier might be faster early, but Big Sam should be hitched to his flank early and I’d rather back him at what should be a much better price. I’ll bet Big Sam to win, but will also throw him into an exacta with Where’s Danny (#7), who is the only horse I want coming out of that April 11th race at this level. He was forced to race wide very step of the way and put in a nice late run through the stretch. He has been campaigned mostly on dirt in this country, but perhaps a switch back to the surface he’s bred for is what he needed all along. He should also be a fair price once again.
$10 Win 5
$4 Exacta Box 5,7
Race 4: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at six furlongs
I couldn’t possibly take Ari the Adventurer after her dismal performance here three weeks ago. Size is very logical, but it feels like she is going to dip below 2-1 in odds despite the fact that she doesn’t have any major speed figure edge on a few of her rivals. There is also a distinct possibility that these two could hook up in a duel early since neither has ever rated off another horse. For that reason, I can’t resist a runner like SWEETSOUTHERNDAME (#6). She is a closer who has been campaigned exclusively on turf and synthetic surfaces, but is much better bred for dirt. She’s also been asked to go two turns in her last two starts and may simply be better as a late-running sprinter. I’m not sure I’ll get the 6-1 morning line, but I’d be satisfied playing her as a solid third choice in the wagering.
$10 Win 6
Race 7: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for NY-bred fillies and mares
This feels like it is better than your average New York-bred maiden race. Some horses who have run have shown real promise and there are a few nicely bred first time starters who could shake things up. I have to go back to my Horse to Watch AGATE (#10), who ran much better than it appears in her debut and then may have been beaten by a sloppy track last time. She debuted on March 15th, a day when you needed to be on the rail to be successful. Things didn’t go right from the start as she broke behind the field and was last heading up the backstretch. She commenced a middle move to race up into fourth by the time the field was midway around the far turn, doing so while three-wide. She understandably flattened out late, but almost certainly ran the best race of anyone that day. She was stretched out to seven and a half furlongs last time and caught a sloppy, sealed racetrack. Touching My Toes loved the going and ran off to an easy win while Agate raced wide and struggled in the stretch. Today she cuts back to six furlongs, gets blinkers and John Velazquez up. This could be the day she breaks through and I’d bet her enthusiastically at odds of 7-2 or greater.
I will also use Agate underneath first time starter Sister Margaret (#7) in the exacta. She is a rare New York-bred sired by Pulpit and is out of a female family that is known for high speed and precocity. Nick Esler does very well with his first time starters and this one appears to be well-meant.
$15 Win 10
$5 Exacta 7-10
Race 8: Allowance N1X at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for NY-bred fillies and mares
Takeoff Your Hat (#2) is clearly the horse to beat. Her maiden win at Gulfstream came against a tougher field than what you would find in your average maiden claiming race and she came right back to win again versus winners. I don’t know exactly why she’s been out of action for three months since that race, but she appears to have an excellent chance to make it three in a row today. However, I am picking against her today since she’s likely to be the favorite in what is a pretty competitive race, especially considering that she’s being ridden by Javier Castellano, whose mounts were all significantly overbet on Saturday.
Miz Owell (#3) also makes some sense, but she wouldn’t be the first example of a Mike Maker horse who ran very well out of town, but couldn’t replicate that form in New York. Her races at this level last summer and fall give her a decent chance, but I feel that she could be an underlay off her two flashy low-80s Beyers that I need to see again to believe. Flirtatious Spring (#5) isn’t exactly a winning type, but she has run well enough on a few occasions to be a factor here. I also wouldn’t discount Jcs American Dream (#6), who hasn’t run very fast on dirt, but is a full-sister to a turf winner.
All of that said, I’m taking a shot with a big price. RUMBLE DOLL (#1) is the sort of horse that I just cannot ignore. She has yet to do very much on dirt, but her pedigree unequivocally suggests that turf is supposed to be her preferred surface. Her sire, Street Boss, continues to post remarkable numbers with his first time turfers and there is more grass pedigree to be found on her dam’s side. Her dam, Little Buttercup, was a nice New York-bred turf router, who ran through her allowance conditions before placing in stakes like the Ticonderoga and Mount Vernon. Rumble Doll’s one sibling to try the turf, a full sister, won her only start on that surface. Rumble Doll was plagued by greenness in her first two starts for Eddie Kenneally, but really put things together first time off the claim when she finished strongly to put away a decent group of $50,000 state-bred maiden claimers. I feel that she can take another huge step forward today. Whether that makes her good enough to win remains to be seen, but she should be a large enough price to warrant taking a shot.
$15 Win 1
$5 Exacta 2-1
$2 Exacta 3,5,6 with 1
Race 9: The New York Stallion Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs for NY-bred three year-old fillies
I strongly prefer HENRY’S GAL (#2) to Miss Narcissist. Henry’s Gal’s race two back was much better than it appears as she was away slowly and rushed up through the back to contest a fast pace in the two-path. March 2nd was a day when you were better off saving ground and Henry’s Gal ran a remarkable race to still be battling it out in the late stages after the trip she sustained. Miss Narcissist, on the other hand, has enjoyed very favorable setups in her two biggest victories. She rode a gold rail in her blowout win in the Joseph A. Gimma and then rated just off a slow pace before running down the maiden Hey Kiddo last time. After that successful rating experiment last time, I would not be surprised to see Junior Alvarado take Miss Narcissist just off the pace again today, which would give Henry’s Gal an uncontested lead and a major tactical advantage. I will try to beat Miss Narcissist out of the exacta with her stablemate CHAMPAGNE RUBY (#3), who may have been best in the New York Stallion Stakes on November 23rd, when she was forced to race in traffic for much of the way before getting into the clear too late in the stretch. She may just not want to go two turns so I can excuse her last race. If Miss Narcissist wilts after chasing the fleet-footed Henry’s Gal, Champagne Ruby appears most likely to pick up the pieces.