Friday, December 26
Race 2: Maiden Special Weight at 1 1/16 miles for two year-old fillies
4 – Been Here Before
Ring Knocker (#1A) is the horse to beat and needs to be discussed first. She has run the fastest races and should play out to be the controlling speed, but she still has to prove that she can negotiate a route of ground. Her pedigree suggests that it should be no problem, but she is a quick, precocious runner whose main weapon so far has been her speed. While she was beaten by a legitimately good horse in Momameamaria last time, I didn’t love the way she finished off that race, and I’m not looking to bet her here at another very short price. Her less fancied entrymate Tizthefastlane (#1) appears to be improving and isn’t without a chance as well, but I prefer a different horse out of her last race.
Doukas (#7) is the other obvious main player based on her lone dirt performance in an off the turf one-turn mile at Aqueduct last month. She showed some ability on turf, but it’s possible that she’s equally good, if not better, on dirt. While she did sit a perfect trip that day, she finished up strongly and is a logical win candidate today.
Since I’m not enamored with either favorite, I’m taking a shot with BEEN HERE BEFORE (#4). This filly also has some questions to answer, but at least she’s going to be a bit of a price. I thought she ran fairly well in her debut on turf, she when was rated far back in the field, and made a mild late run to pass half of the runners and photo with Doukas for fifth. Then last time she was again entered against Doukas in that maiden race won by Summer House that came off the turf. She was quite a handful for Cornelio Velasquez that day as she was running up on horses’ heels early and reluctant to settle in the early going. She moved up nicely along the rail on the turn and angled out sharply in the stretch before flattening out late. She was passed and beaten a few lengths by Tizthefastlane, but I thought that she did more overall running than that rival. Now Kiaran McLaughlin adds Lasix and, after displaying some greenness last time, the added experience should work to this filly’s advantage today. The lack of pace is still a minor concern, but at a price of around 5/1, I think she’s worth a shot.
$15 Win 4 (Payout: $81.00)
$5 Exacta 1,7 with 4
Race 4: Claiming $10,000 at one mile
2 – Lucky Lotto
Socialsaul (#8) is back for his eighth start in the past 68 days, and will try for his sixth win during that same period. He’s the horse to beat as he drops back down to this bottom-level claimer and, while most of the familiar faces in New York don’t appear to pose major threats, I see a new challenger from out of town that intrigues me.
LUCKY LOTTO (#2) has spent his entire career racing at Woodbine, so he has never been tried over a dirt track in the afternoon (though I’m sure he has plenty of experience running over the dirt training track in the mornings). At one time, he was pretty good, racing competitively in high-level allowance races on that circuit. However, he hasn’t been quite the same horse since returning from a nine-month layoff earlier this year. As recently as early last month, he was running fast enough to contend here, and he’s proven that he fits against this level of competition. Additionally, I’m interested to see how he takes to the dirt surface, since his pedigree suggests that he should prefer it. The majority of this dam’s foals have been more successful on dirt than turf or synthetic surfaces, and they’re led by Embellishing Bob, who earlier this year won the Derby Trial. This trainer has had little success with his NYRA runners, going 0 for 15 over the past five years, though most of the horses in that sample were long shots.
I can’t get excited about Socialsaul and I see no other alternatives, so I’ll take my chances with this out of town runner.
$15 Win 2
Race 5: Starter Allowance $50,000 at one mile and 70 yards for fillies and mares
7 – Prize Taker
Say what you will about Wraith’s (#2) will to win races, but it’s hard to get around the fact that she’s simply the horse to beat. She’s consistently run 10 to 15 Beyer points faster than any of her competition here, and she has been successful routing in the past. She’s shown improved early speed in her recent sprint races, and that should help her as she stretches back out around two turns this afternoon. She’s not a terribly exciting bet at a short price, but she is the most likely winner.
That said, I can’t resist taking a shot with PRIZE TAKER (#7). She’s far less reliable than Wraith, and may possess even less competitive spirit than that rival. However, she has shown hints of ability on occasion, and if you’ve seen her in the flesh, you know that there is the–until now, dormant–potential for better within her. While she has been successful going short in the past, I think she does her best running from about seven furlongs out to today’s distance. She clearly needed her October return, but I thought she took a subtle step forward last time when she showed uncharacteristic early speed before fading on the turn while racing in tight quarters. Prize Taker gets a pretty aggressive rider on her back today and I’d like to see her placed in a stalking position behind the two speeds so that she can get the first run on Wraith.
$10 Win 7
$5 Exacta Box 2,7 (Payout: $36.00)
Race 6: Maiden Claiming $40,000 at six furlongs for NY-bred two year-old fillies
2 – Runningtheshow
6 – Accelebrate
Class dropper She’s All Even (#9) would be a deserving favorite after showing good speed before fading when racing much better runners in her debut. That said, there are a couple of longer prices that I’ve been waiting to bet back in a spot like this.
RUNNINGTHESHOW (#2) ran much better than it appears last time when her rider lost the irons at the start, forcing her to be steadied out to the back of the pack early. Then, as she tried to move up heading into the far turn, she ran up on horses’ heels and was forced to steady again. She did pass some tired runners late, but she was never going to make an impact that day. Now she moves into the barn of Leo O’Brien, which I don’t view as an altogether negative switch. As long as she breaks cleanly today, she should be set for her best performance yet. Whether that will be good enough to make a major impact against this field remains to be seen.
I also want to use ACCELEBRATE (#6), who I liked quite a bit last time when absolutely nothing went her way. That was a race that was dominated by horses who raced up close to the pace, and Accelebrate lost all chance at the start when she broke about two lengths slowly. She continued to race wide for much of the way, and though she was closing decently in the late stages, she had been given too much ground to make up. Previously, she had put in decent efforts against tougher fields than this, and I think she deserves another shot. In some ways, she might be the horse to beat.
$15 Win 6
$2 Exacta Box 6,9
Race 8: Optional Claiming $62,500/N2X at six furlongs for fillies and mares
4 – Irish Whisper
Like many others, after initial viewings of the November 19th card, I deemed it likely that the track had become strongly tilted towards inside speed at the end of the day, especially through the final three races on the card. However, in retrospect, as more evidence has come through in the form of horses running back out of those races, I’m reconsidering my initial assessment. Freudie Anne, the blowout winner of the seventh race on November 19th while riding the rail, came back to run nearly as well in winning the East View a couple of weeks ago, and High Noon Rider, who also rode the rail when winning the 9th race on November 19th, came back to put in a very solid effort when third in the Springboard Mile next out. Additionally, some other horses who rode the rail late in the day on November 19th have come back to run just as well in subsequent starts. For instance, Irish Sweepstakes, who not only rode the rail on November 19th, but was closing into a very fast pace, actually ran one Beyer point higher in her next start.
The only horse to return from late in the day on November 19th to provide any strong evidence in favor of the rail bias theory is Atlantic’s Smile. After dueling for the lead two-wide through very fast fractions, she faded late in a race that totally collapsed, with the winner being the lone exception to the race flow. Atlantic’s Smile then returned with a blow-out win, earning a spectacular 90 Beyer in her next start. So should I believe that the rail bias did her on November 19th, or was she just cooked in a very fast pace? Until proven otherwise, given the lack of more evidence for a rail bias on November 19th, I have to believe that Atlantic’s Smile was just cooked by the pace that day.
If that is true, you must upgrade the performance of IRISH WHISPER (#4), who survived a hot pace on November 19th, and drew off impressively in a race that otherwise collapsed. I think it’s entirely possible that Irish Whisper has returned as an improved filly late in her four-year year, and if she repeats her last race, I think she’s going to win. While there are other pace pressers entered, none of these runners possess the early speed that Irish Whisper displayed last time. Laguna Girl might have posed a serious pace threat at one time in her career, but I think that lately she has lost a step, and has also lost just a bit of her early foot. Drawing the far outside post position here, I’ll be surprised if Manny Franco sends her too aggressively early.
If Irish Whisper makes the front, which I believe she will, I think she’ll win.
$25 Win 4
$5 Exacta 4 with 2,3,5