Friday, August 1
Race 1: Maiden Claiming $40,000 at 1 1/8 miles for NY-breds
8 – Royal Posse
2 – Fictionalcharacter
I’m assuming that No Nukes and Jacob’s Here will be the top two wagering choices.
No Nukes has registered a pair of mid-70s Beyer speed figures in his last two starts, which would appear to make him the horse to beat. However, I’m a little skeptical of both of those numbers. The winners of each of those races never ran speed figures quite that high prior, and both took huge steps backwards in their first starts against winners. It’s entirely possible that No Nukes has just improved for new trainer Jason Servis, but how low of a price do you really want to take on this 0-for-18 maiden? Jacob’s Here comes in from Kentucky after doing very little running against open company. He should excel at these longer distances since he’s out of Borrowing Base, a New York-bred stakes winner, who won going as far as 1 3/4 miles on the dirt. I just wish he had shown some signs of life in those races. Both can certainly win, but I see more intriguing options at higher prices.
ROYAL POSSE (#8) is my top choice. This horse started to come to hand this winter for trainer Gary Contessa, running better than it appears when finishing a closing fifth on March 1st, and following that up with a solid second-place finish later that month after encountering some minor traffic problems. However, in his only two dirt starts since then, he’s been undone by very slow breaks from the gate. He was away slowly going seven and a half furlongs in the slop on March 29th, and then was again away very slowly on April 9th, when he probably should have won considering the amount of ground he was able to make up. He was since given a break, and now returns in a realistic spot. I especially like that he’s being given the chance to stretch back out around two turns since he really seemed to relish that configuration on Aqueduct’s inner track.
I will also use long shot FICTIONALCHARACTER (#2), who had intrigued me at a huge price last time after doing a bit of running late in his debut. He took an encouraging step forward that day as the only horse to make up significant ground through the stretch into a very slowly-paced race despite encountering some traffic trouble coming off the far turn. I think he’ll like the extra distance, though I’m not entirely sold that he’s a dirt horse. However, it’s hard to ignore the positive rider switch given the likelihood that he’ll be another big price.
$15 Win 8 (Payout: $106.50)
$10 Win 2
Race 3: Maiden Special Weight at 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares
1 – Luna Time
The presence of likely overbet favorite Samantha Nicole should make this race a worthwhile wagering opportunity. It’s not that I think Samantha Nicole can’t win—after all, there were few bigger Rachel Alexandra fans than me—but she’s likely to be favored despite the fact that other horses have simply run better races. Also, while Kiaran McLaughlin sports excellent layoff numbers with horses returning in dirt sprints, his statistics are decidedly less stellar with horses returning in dirt routes.
There are plenty of ways to go when searching for an alternative, but the one that I’m most interested in is LUNA TIME (#1). This filly ran a deceptively good race in her debut and is bred to improve as she stretches out in distance. Luna Time was away with the field, but quickly dropped back and was visibly uncomfortable with the kickback as she strode awkwardly through the first eighth of a mile. However, once she settled into stride, she began to make up some ground. She passed a few horses on the far turn and though the stretch, but what caught my eye was the way she continued to run on strongly after the wire, running right past the winner on the gallop out as she continued on into the clubhouse turn. Her dam was a stakes winner going long on the turf and she is a half-sister to Sir Whimsey, a graded stakes winning router who placed in the Pimlico Special (G1) at 1 3/16 miles.
I’ll bet Luna Time to win at what should be a fair price, and will use her in the exacta with fellow second time starter Dragonberry (#3), who was caught behind a slow pace in her sprint debut. She also galloped out very well once in the clear and should improve stretching out as perhaps the lone speed today.
$15 Win 1 (Payout: $84.00)
$5 Exacta Box 1,3 (Payout: $105.50)
Race 4: Optional Claiming $62,500/N2X at 1 1/8 miles
2 – North Slope
I’ve had a couple of debates with a friend of mine about my pick in this race, NORTH SLOPE (#2), who is a horse that I’ve been wrong about on more than a few occasions. However, I feel that he ran perhaps the best race of his life last time, and that the improvement was due to a more aggressive ride and the switch back to the dirt. (For what it’s worth, my friend, whose opinion I respect, thinks he’s strictly a turf horse who just prefers very firm courses.) I admit that I do have some questions about whether he can handle this demanding nine furlongs, but it appears that he’s the main speed today and his morning worktab would suggest that he’s sitting on a big race.
This is no longer the greatest wagering race after scratches, but it is still one that I’ll be watching with interest.
$15 Win 2
Race 6: Claiming $35,000 N3L at seven furlongs for fillies and mares
2 – Daddy Loves Gold
The horse that I see as being the most likely winner on the card is DADDY LOVES GOLD (#2). I know it looks like the connections are giving up on this filly, and I would agree with them that she’s probably not going to win an N1X allowance race on the turf. However, I believe that getting back on the dirt, especially at this level, is going to work for her. She’s always posted excellent times in the mornings over dirt surfaces and she had the major excuse of racing against a rail bias in her only dirt start at Belmont last fall, which came against a much, much tougher field than the one she meets today. She’s not going to be a huge price, but she’ll probably be the second choice behind How, who also drops in class, but just isn’t very good. I think that Daddy Loves Gold is a great bet at odds of 2-1 or higher.
$20 Win 2 (Payout: $45.00)
Race 7: Claiming $40,000 N2L at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf
2 – Greeley Pack
Clearly, Shore Runner (#8) is the horse to beat after having run very well against tougher company recently. The only possible—very minor—knock on him is the slight cut back in distance to five and a half furlongs, though I don’t imagine that it will pose much of a problem. I believe he is the most likely winner, but I am taking a small shot against him since I think another runner in the race could potentially offer better value.
GREELEY PACK (#2) has been the victim of a few ill-conceived rides and some bad placements in his career. This is a turf horse, and one with enough speed to keep him in close contact to the leaders early. For whatever reason, he’s spent much of his career running on the dirt as a closer, which has hardly been a successful formula for him.
Greeley Pack got back on his preferred surface last time and actually ran a decent race, making up some ground late after having to search for a clear path in upper stretch. He certainly ran a better race than Soul House that day, and that rival would have been one of the top choices here prior to being scratched. I love the switch to Javier Castellano, who should be able to take advantage of the early speed that this horse possesses. Perhaps it’s a stretch to suggest that he can beat the favorite, but at odds of 8-1 or higher, I think he’s the right horse to bet.
$10 Win 2
$5 Exacta 8-2
Race 8: Starter Allowance $50,000 at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
2 – Call Wil
If Aripeka (#6) runs back to his last turf race, the rest of this field might be competing for the runner-up spot. However, I think it’s fair to question whether we’ll see that sort of performance out of him. There had to have been some sort of setback for this horse to miss the last seven months, and Eddie Kenneally’s numbers with layoffs of this type are not great: 2-for-19, $0.95 ROI, with layoffs of 180 days or more returning in turf routes.
I’m taking a shot with CALL WIL (#2), who actually was keeping good company in a few of his turf races in Florida this summer. Both War Classic and Golden Jason, who finished just ahead of him two back, would probably be vying for favoritism in this race. For today’s race, Call Wil gets a huge trainer switch to Steve Klesaris, as well as a rider upgrade to Angel Arroyo. I feel like there is potential for further improvement with this horse, who has some strong turf pedigree in his female family, with his dam being a half-sister to near-millionaire Hot Cha Cha, winner of the Grade 1 Queen Elizbeth II Challenge Cup.
I’ll bet Call Wil to win at what should be a fair price and will use him in the exacta underneath the aforementioned Aripeka as well as recent Michelle Nevin claim Arch Avenger (#11).
$15 Win 2
$5 Exacta 6,11 with 2
Race 9: The Caress Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf for fillies and mares
2 – Angel’s South
This is a very confusing race with many ways to go. Free as a Bird has to be considered the most likely winner. She’s really responded to her connections’ decision to focus on turf sprinting and has shown a remarkable level of consistency despite running in some very competitive spots recently. The only problem is that her good form is so obvious that she could potentially be an underlay. Horses like Jewel of a Cat and Madame Giry have been excellent from time to time, but have lacked the consistency of Free as a Bird. Both can win, but I’m not that enthusastic about either one. Coarsegold appeared to also appreciate turning back in distance this year, and has been hindered by slow paces in her two most recent efforts. When she got a fair pace to run into three back, she was able to win a stakes in the Safari Queen. However, there is another horse exiting that race who I’m more interested in.
ANGEL’S SOUTH (#2) has sprinted on the turf just once in her career, in the aforementioned Safari Queen. It’s a race that’s worth watching (see above) because the chart callers completely missed the fact that this mare had a nightmare of a trip through the stretch. She undoubtedly should have won that day, and it’s entirely possible that she’s actually best racing over these sprint distances. I am mildly concerned about the layoff, but Javier Castellano sees fit to take the mount and I think that this is the day to get a price on her.
$10 Win 2