Race 2: Starter Allowance $40,000 at one mile on the turf
There are more accomplished turf horses in this race than my pick, SMOKEY BROWN (#6), but I felt that his last race was a signal that he’s returned as an improved four year-old. He did not get a comfortable trip that day as he was forced to race wide every step of the way, which is a distinct disadvantage over Aqueduct’s turf course. Despite the trip, he still finished strongest of all late in a race that he may have needed. (I recall Maggie Wolfendale remarking in the paddock during the pre-race prattle that he could have looked fitter coming off the bench.) Now he is confidently bumped up in class, but doesn’t meet any particularly formidable opponents. Today should be the day to capitalize on my opinion of him.
$15 Win 6
Race 3: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for fillies and mares
I don’t have to tell you that Thirteen Arrows (#2) is the most likely winner of this race. This half-sister to Cross Traffic showed a great deal of promise in her debut and then was involved in a torrid speed duel last time, which left her empty for the stretch drive. If she runs back to her debut today, she will probably not be beaten. I’m less enthusiastic about the chances of the likely second choice, Revise, whose dam was a good dirt sprinter, but comes from a family of turf horses. I think turf sprints lie in her future.
It may be just that simple, but there is a wacky horse in this race that I have to take a small shot with. PLAYER TO BE NAMED (#9) sold as an expensive two year-old in training after breezing a quarter-mile in 20 3/5 seconds at the sales. She also has a bit of pedigree to suggest that she should be quick since both her sire and dam were very fast. Things have obviously not gone right for her in the two years since that time, since she only just made her debut two weeks ago. In that May 18th turf sprint, she never got a chance to show any of that early speed she possesses after breaking very slowly. She tried to run off under Mike Luzzi down the backstretch before bearing out on the turf and being eased in the stretch. This is probably a filly who wants to run fast from the start and, if she’s able to break better today, she could be a pace factor in this race. Given the way the track was carrying speed yesterday, that could be enough to secure her a large check in this race. Also, it is a little curious that Mike Luzzi is sticking around to ride her after that last debacle.
I’ll make a small win wager on Player to be Named, but will also use her in exactas underneath the two most likely winners, Thirteen Arrows (#2) and first time starter Hijaab (#10), whose dam is a half-sister to Graeme Hall and Harmony Lodge.
$5 Win 9
$5 Exacta 2,10 with 9
Race 4: Allowance N1X at six furlongs on the turf for NY-bred fillies and mares
I picked OLD HARBOR (#2) in her turf debut last time due to her strong turf pedigree, and felt that she didn’t get the best of trips. She made the front quite easily, but Jose Lezcano was intent on reining her in down the backstretch, to the point that he inadvertently lost the lead as two fillies ranged up on his outside exiting the backstretch. Old Harbor did not respond well to racing inside of those other horses and backed out of contention. Most fillies would continue to plummet to the back of the pack in this situation, but Old Harbor appeared to still have some run through the stretch despite racing in traffic. Today she returns on the turf again, but turns back to what should be a more appropriate distance. I’m slightly concerned that she won’t be able to make the lead today with Hot Squeeze and Fancy Boss in here, but she has shown the ability to come from just off the pace in her dirt races. Old Harbor should be a generous price once again and I’m pretty sure that she has more to offer so I have to stick with her.
I’ll bet Old Harbor to win and will use her underneath contenders Missy Bay (#3), Hot Squeeze (#5), Fancy Boss (#6), Aesthetique (#10), and Image of Noon (#11) in the exacta.
$10 Win 2
$2 Exacta 3,5,6,10,11 with 2
Race 5: Claiming $50,000 at seven furlongs on the turf
There is quite a bit of speed in this race among frontrunners Mia Poppy, Mulheb, and Fast Time, so closing turf sprinters like Thomas Hill (#5) and Nubin Ridge (#7) would appear to be the most logical contenders. Even turf turnbacks like Which Market (#9) and Days Ride (#10), who have both shown the ability come from off the pace, may work out favorable trips. I have no strong arguments against any of those four, but I want to take a shot with BREATHAWAY (#6), who learned to relax and come from off the pace last year. Seven furlongs appears to be a perfect distance for him and he gets along very well with Irad Ortiz, Jr., who has been aboard for two of his three wins. Breathaway also seems to prefer a very firm turf course and that is what he will encounter today. He may be a touch cheaper than some of the other contenders in this race, but he also figures to be a big price and should offer good value.
$10 Win 6
$2 Exacta 5,7,9,10 with 6
Race 9: Maiden Claiming $40,000 at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for NY-breds
Hard Rumor (#10) can certainly win this race at a relatively short price if he runs back to his one mediocre turf effort, but this is the sort of race where I think you have to take a shot with the first time turfers. I find that two of them appear to have ample pedigree to take to this surface switch.
CHANNEL BOY (#8) is out of a dam who won three of her six turf starts and is a half-brother to graded stakes-winning turf horse Channel Lady, who banked $343,000 on the grass. I would not be overly concerned about the layoff since Linda Rice does claim lightly raced horses such as this with the intent to switch them to the turf and Channel Boy fits that profile.
At a larger price, I’m also interested in IT MATTERS (#2). His dam has produced a couple of multiple turf winners, but his second family is filled with turf influences. His granddam is the excellent turf mare Noble Damsel, a winner of the New York Handicap, who has a graded turf stakes named after her run at Belmont in the fall. Noble Damsel was not the greatest producer, but she did get a half-sister to Shawnee Legend that was stakes-placed on turf and has been an excellent turf influence as a broodmare.
I’ll bet each of these two first time turfers to win and will also box them in the exacta with the logical favorite.