Race 2: Maiden Claiming $40,000 at one mile for fillies and mares
With the scratch of heavy favorite Suave and Smooth, this race will now feature an 0-for-22 maiden, Gingee, as a probable strong favorite. I don’t dispute that Gingee has run the fastest races lately and is in the best form of her life, but she is awfully tough to take at around even money. Fortunately, I have another idea.
MUSIC MAID (#6) is far more lightly raced and has only been spotted realistically in maiden claiming races twice in her career. She first dropped in for a tag last November and was a decent second behind runaway winner Curlin N Twirlin. She obviously had no chance in her return against what appeared to be a high quality field of New York-bred maidens, but actually matched the Beyer figure she had received in her 2013 finale. Last time, she ran an odd race in which she dropped back suddenly on the far turn, but then managed to stay on well enough through the stretch to pass two runners. Still, she finished over 12 lengths behind Gingee in a relatively poor effort, but I wonder if she may have bled in that race. These connections rarely administer Lasix to their horses and typically only use it when needed, so this could be a meaningful change. The interim workout is encouraging, and I believe that there may be some upside here.
$20 Win 6
Race 8: Optional Claiming $40,000/N2X at one mile for NY-breds
This card may have been badly hurt by scratches early on, but the last three races of the day remain excellent handicapping puzzles.
The pace scenario in this race is not the easiest to predict. I ultimately decided to go with a closer because I thought there was the possibility that the pace could be a contested one, but I’m not supremely confident in that opinion. Indy Tune has been forwardly placed in many of his better efforts and could be sent from the rail post position, while Most Happy Fella and Piscesbymoonlight essentially need the lead to be successful. Even Groomedforvictory has been showing in recent races that he prefers to be placed close to the pace.
I’ve landed on THE BROTHERS RAP (#5), not because I think he’s the most likely winner, but rather because I believe he’ll offer the best value of the main contenders. He does need to run a bit faster to win this race, but I was encouraged by his most recent effort, in which he ran the fastest race of his life (according to the Beyers) despite the fact that he did not get an ideal setup. Both eventual winner Bernardo and today’s rival Sinistra benefited from racing close up to a fairly moderate pace whereas The Brothers Rap was taken back to race in last place through a pokey opening quarter mile. He began to advance on the turn, but was forced to swing very wide for the stretch drive and could not make up any ground late in a race where the four who finished ahead of him did not change positions through the stretch. Prior to that, I thought he was game in defeat on April 3rd when asked to race outside of his normal running style, and even before that had put in one of his better efforts on March 20th when he closed into a relatively slow pace to beat Sinistra for the runner-up spot. He’s moving in the right direction and could get dismissed at a price off his last race.
I’ll bet him to win and will use him underneath both Sinistra (#9) and the one-turn-mile-loving Groomedforvictory (#1A) in the exacta.
$10 Win 5
$5 Exacta 1,9 with 5
Race 9: The Sheepshead Bay (G2) at 1 3/8 miles on the turf for fillies and mares
I love FITFUL SKIES (#3) in this race. She already showed her quality last year in when finishing a good second to the in-form Tannery in the E. P. Taylor (G1) over a yielding course at Woodbine. I’m not the least bit concerned about her most recent effort in the Jenny Wiley, since that was merely a prep for this and Fitful Skies. She wants no part of a mile and a sixteenth on a firm course. We’re talking about a mare who was just nosed out of a stakes win going 1 7/8 miles (15 furlongs) last summer. The condition of the ground should help her more than anyone else today as she has compiled a stellar record of 9-4-5-0 on turf courses listed as less than firm. You won’t find a horse running at Belmont today with a better pedigree as she is out of a dam who is the product of a mating of the great Northern Dancer to the champion racemare Dahlia. I highly doubt that any of the American runners in this race will be able to beat her today.
I’ll make a sizable win wager on Fitful Skies provided that she is a fair price, but I will also use her in the exacta with the other ex-European Riposte (#2). While I believe Fitful Skies to be a more likely winner, Riposte showed some quality in a couple of Group 1 and Group 2 tries in England and Ireland last summer and has not yet gotten a chance to properly stretch her legs over her preferred marathon distances in three U. S. starts. I’ll box these two in the exacta.
Followers of mine know that I am a fan of both Abaco and Caroline Thomas, but I just don’t think they can possibly stack up to the two aforementioned runners at this distance over a rain-soaked turf course. Irish Mission should appreciate stretching out to 11 furlongs, but I have some doubts about her ability over less than firm courses and just feel that she’s never run a race that would lead me to believe that she’s good enough to win against this caliber of competition.
$25 Win 3
$5 Exacta Box 2,3
Race 10: Allowance N1X at 1 1/16 miles for NY-breds
In watching the replay of that allowance race on May 1st, I can’t shake the feeling that HERE HE FITZ (#4) ran the best race of all. He raced up close to a fast pace while chasing wide all the way around the turn in a race where the three who finished ahead of him all came from further back in the pack. When Here Comes Tommy passed him at the top of the stretch, Here He Fitz refused to throw in the towel and battled on gamely to nearly retake the lead from that rival while just being edged by two closers who rallied down the center of the track. Here He Fitz is a horse that I had always thought possessed more ability than he was showing in the afternoons and it appears that his long overdue first trip to the winner’s circle three back caused the light bulb to go on. He showed a lot of gameness when fending off Jesse’s Giant Dunk two back and again showed a newfound competitive fervor last time. It took a while, but I think Here He Fitz has finally figured out where the finish line is.
His main competition today appears to be the promising Salisbury Knight (#3) and the second-off-the-layoff Beyond Empire (#13), so I will use Here He Fitz underneath them in the exacta in addition to betting him to win.