Race 3: The Bouwerie at seven furlongs for NY-bred three year-old fillies
Henry’s Gal may be the most talented horse in this race, but she faces a far more difficult task today than what she encountered last time. In her most recent win in the New York Stallion Stakes, there was no speed to run with her and she was able to dawdle through slow early fractions before pulling away in the stretch. However, today she has to contend with a serious rival for the lead in Isabelle, who was very impressive when setting quick fractions in the mud here three weeks ago before splashing away to a facile win.
If those two hook up early and get leg weary towards the end of this seven furlong test, I see two fillies that are most likely to pick up the pieces late. Flipcup is very logical as she turns back in distance off a series of very solid route tries. She was undefeated at six furlongs early in her career so the distance should not be a concern. Additionally, her last race was perhaps her best, as she was forced to make a wide run around the far turn before understandably flattening out late in a good allowance race on the Oaks day undercard at Churchill Downs. The only knock on Flipcup is her price, since she is likely to be a strong second choice in the wagering.
I’ve picked against her because I believe that the other closer I was alluding to, CHAMPAGNE RUBY (#8), may be just as good as Flipcup and is sure to be a much larger price. Champagne Ruby has not had the best of luck in a few of her races for Linda Rice, but she has flashed some real ability on occasion. She was certainly best in the New York Stallion Series run last November when she was caught behind a slow pace and was the only horse to make a late run through the stretch. She didn’t have to love going two turns in the East View when beaten four lengths by Flipcup prior to being put on the shelf for five months. However, I was very encouraged by her return, in which she was away slowly and placed far off of the slow pace set by Henry’s Gal. All things considered, I thought she finished up very strongly through the stretch that day. She seems to have found her niche as a closing sprinter and should get the honest pace that she needs to be effective here.
$10 Win 8
Race 4: The Mount Vernon at one mile on the turf for NY-bred fillies and mares
I realize that DREAMING OF CARA (#6) is far from the most likely winner of this race, but she is going to be a gigantic price and did actually run some turf races last year that suggest she could be competitive in these New York-bred stakes. She is a decent enough dirt horse, but that is not her preferred surface. She may have been best in this race a year ago when her rider made a tactical error by sending her inside for the stretch drive, and she did not get the best of setups or trips in either the John Hettinger or Ticonderoga, the latter of which saw her completely stymied in traffic in upper stretch. I realize that she’s not exactly a winning type, but she is due to finally work out a clean trip in one of these turf races. She’s going to offer value and I’ve been a fan for a long time, so I can’t resist putting her on top.
Effie Trinket’s (#5) New York-bred races last season make her the horse to beat, and if you believe that she actually stepped up her game over the winter and early spring, then she’s going to be especially tough for this field to handle. I’m not sure that she really needed to improve to contend in those races in Florida and Churchill since this is a pretty strong group of New York-breds. After all, Inimitable Romanee, whom Effie Trinket beat on a few occasions last season, also found success in open company stakes over the winter. Effie Trinket is the most likely winner of this race, but I do think she’ll face a serious challenge from the improved Roses for Romney. Roses for Romney (#7) was facing lesser horses last time, but she did survive a fast pace to win easily and will probably be the lone speed today assuming that Effie Trinket assumes her typical stalking position. She’s probably not quite as good as the favorite, but could present value at odds of greater than 5-1.
I’m actually crazy enough to bet Dreaming of Cara to win, but I’ll also use her underneath both of the aforementioned fillies in the exacta.
$10 Win 6
$5 Exacta 5,7 with 6
Race 5: The Mike Lee at seven furlongs for NY-bred three year-olds
I’m a little skeptical of the Beyer speed figure that was assigned to the horses who competed in the New York Stallion Stakes run last month at Aqueduct. The number makes some sense for the top two finishers, but none at all for a few that finished behind them. Third place finisher Double Gold had never run anything closer to that number before, and fourth place finisher Let’s Discuss has not approached the figure he was assigned that day before or after. Both of the top two finishers in that race, Loki’s Vengeance and Empire Dreams, are decent horses, but I prefer the two coming out of the allowance race run at Aqueduct one day prior.
Captain Serious (#10) has begun his career in spectacular fashion, with two visually impressive victories, the most recent of which earned him a respectable 90 Beyer speed figure. I respect his ability, but prefer the horse who was runner-up to him last time, SWELL (#7), who had the tougher trip that day. Swell was away near the back of the pack, but soon became very rank under Chris Decarlo, tugging him up into contention through a relatively slow opening quarter mile. While Captain Serious cruised along outside of horses, a difficult to handle Swell had to work his way through traffic before angling out for the stretch drive. Most horses who exert themselves early in that manner lack much of a finishing kick, but that was not the case with Swell, who was actually making up ground on the winner late in a powerful stretch run. I think this horse possesses real ability and still has room to move forward. The pace situation is a little uncertain, but Swell’s quick turn of foot should allow him to put himself into the race coming to the top of the stretch. I think he’ll offer the best value, so I will bet him to win and use him with Captain serious in the exacta.
$15 Win 7
$5 Exacta Box 7,10
Race 7: The Critical Eye at one mile for NY-bred fillies and mares
La Verdad (#5) is the most talented horse in this race by some way, but can she be as effective at one mile? In truth, she probably doesn’t need to love this distance in order to win this race. Yet are you really willing to back her at odds that are sure to be less than even money? I recall Harvey Pack’s words of wisdom, “Never bet a favorite that’s trying something for the first time.”
I’ll certainly be using La Verdad in multi-race wagers, but I’m going to take a small shot against her here with MISS DA POINT (#3). I know that Miss Da Point appears to be slower on paper, but she is in the best form of her life right now and loves this distance. If not for an equipment malfunction on February 23rd, she’d probably be coming into this race having won six of her last seven starts. If La Verdad collapses in the final furlong of this race, Miss Da Point appears most likely to be in a position to take over. If you don’t believe that California shipper Macha’s last Beyer speed figure will be predictive in this race, the quality of the rest of this field really isn’t all that different from the races Miss Da Point has been winning all winter. In fact, Miss Da Point has already soundly defeated four of the horses she faces today. I’ll bet her to win and will use her underneath La Verdad in the exacta.
$10 Win 3
$5 Exacta 5-3
Race 8: Allowance N1X at six furlongs on the turf for NY-breds
I don’t have much to say about this one. I loved WATERWAY (#6) last time when he was making his turf debut and feel that he may have been best at 14-1 after contesting a fast pace that fell apart. He’ll be a much shorter price today as others are sure to jump on the bandwagon, but this race did not draw nearly as many horses with early speed as the race he’s exiting, and Edgar Prado can allow him to bound along in front early through moderate fractions. I think he has an excellent chance to win and could bet him at odds of at least 9-2.
$15 Win 6
Race 9: The Commentator Handicap at one mile for NY-breds
Chad Brown’s duo of Zivo (#5) and Readtheprospectus (#7) have collectively won 13 of their last 15 starts, but they haven’t scared off anyone today as eleven others have lined up to face them. Zivo is one cool horse. He isn’t that much faster than many of his rivals, but he just has a nose for the wire and Jose Ortiz has learned how to time his move just right. Readtheprospectus is probably just as talented as his stablemate and can be excused for his Empire Classic loss last year. He did not get the right trip that day, going four-wide for much of the journey on a day when you wanted to save as much ground as possible. He’s a bit of a question mark coming off the layoff, but if he returns to his prior form, he’ll be formidable.
The only problem with these two is that they are going to be two of the favorites in a large, competitive field. Given the way the wagering public often goes overboard on these types—and this applies to the popular Zivo, in particular—I’d imagine that they will be underlays in a race that features other talented runners.
I know that THIS HARD LAND (#12) is not the most likely winner of this race by any stretch, but he is a horse with ability who could get completely lost in the wagering once again. He was a ridiculous overlay two back when springing a 74-1 upset against a solid allowance field and I could envision a similar scenario today. He should appreciate the larger field he encounters again today because it will likely mean that he’s going to get the honest pace he needs to be most effective. That was not the case last time when the pace did not materialize, and he was badly compromised. Zivo was able to be successful from off the pace that day, but he as more of a turn of foot than a long-striding grinder like This Hard Land. He drew a perfect outside post position for this race and Angel Arroyo knows his to ride him at this point—just take back and launch a sustained, wide run around the turn. This Hard Land has been quietly rounding into some of the best form of his career and has always been most effective around the sweeping turns of Belmont Park, where he’s been in the exacta five times in nine races.
I’ll bet This Hard Land to win and will use him underneath Chad Brown’s pair in the exacta.
$10 Win 12
$5 Exacta 5,7 with 12
Race 10: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs on the turf for NY-bred fillies and mares
Big Apple Showcase Day closes out the day with a very interesting New York-bred maiden race. There are many horses that could merit discussion, but I’ll just highlight the three that I’m most interested in.
I’ve been waiting for LAVENDER ROAD (#5) to get a chance on turf ever since she returned to the races earlier this year. This filly is by decent turf sire First Defence, is out of a dam who was a stakes winner on grass, and is a half-sister to Roses for Romney, who competes in the Mount Vernon earlier on this card. She’s hinted at having some ability while running on what is probably the wrong surface and should greatly appreciate the switch today.
I’ll also use SWEETHOTS (#3), who is by 17% turf sire Heatseeker, and made her debut in a turf sprint at Gulfstream. That race is worth watching since she was away slowly and was never asked for run by Joel Rosario at any point in the race. It was as if the instructions were to just give her a race and not actually try to win first time out. She has since shown improved speed on the dirt and deserves another try on the grass.
Finally, DISTORTED BEAUTY (#11) makes plenty of sense as she is coming out of a very strong maiden heat where she was a respectable fourth. She is also a full-sister to turf winner Invading Humor, so she should be able to transfer her form to the grass. The only problem with her is that she’s likely to be a relatively short price in a very competitive race.
I’ll bet Lavender Road and Sweethots to win since they are likely to offer the best value, but I’ll box them both with Distorted Beauty in the exacta.