We’ll all be celebrating the beginning of a new year after today’s card comes to a close. Looking back, 2014 was fantastic on so many levels. I want to thank everyone who enjoyed this site, interacted with me in the Twittersphere (and in real life), or just stopped by for a tip.
I am happy to report that, regardless of today’s results, for the third consecutive time since I created this site in early 2012, I’ve been able to enjoy a profitable year at the races. It certainly wasn’t easy, and I had my fair share of ups and downs, and near-sleepless nights along the way. Yet, while that’s an achievement that I am quite proud of, I can also say that, even looking beyond the monetary rewards of playing the races, I still feel that the routine of maintaining this site — justifying my opinions in a public forum — drives me to learn and better myself, and that’s the other major component of what makes this all worth the effort that I put in. (…though all of your words of encouragement definitely don’t hurt, either.)
Thanks again, everyone, and Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 31
Race 2: Maiden Claiming $25,000 at 5 1/2 furlongs for NY-bred two year-old fillies
1 – Rhody Rendezvous
5 – Little Nell
Though I’m undecided about the presence of a possible inside speed bias on November 30th, it’s still never ideal to go four-wide around the far turn, even on a fair racetrack. RHODY RENDEZVOUS (#1) served notice that she might be moving in the right direction when she showed newfound early speed before fading on November 16th, and she took yet another step forward in her most recent effort on closing day of the main track meet. That time, after veering in and bumping hard with eventual next-out winner Enduring Touch at the start, she settled into a midpack position for the run up the backstretch. Rhody Rendezvous then commenced a wide bid on the turn, moving up a couple of positions, before fading late. All things considered, I feel that she did more running than likely favorite Gethot Stayhot, who finished ahead of her last time.
While I view Rhody Rendezvous as the most likely winner, I’m also interested in LITTLE NELL (#5), who makes just the second start of her career today. In her debut, she was off slowly and steadied at the start, losing valuable early position in a race where no one was able to mount much of a late run behind a runaway winner. I feel that the field she’s coming out of was a decent one for the level, and now that she gets on a fast track, with a clean break she could find herself in the mix at a price.
$15 Win 1
$10 Win 5
$4 Exacta Box 1,5
Race 3: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for NY-bred two year-old fillies
6 – Beating Heart Baby
Of the horses that have racing experience, I strongly prefer BEATING HEART BABY (#6). This filly was off slowly and just a bit sluggish in the early going of her debut. Leaving the backstretch, she launched a bid from far back and sustained that run through the stretch, passing more than half of the field before galloping out very strongly. She may ultimately want to go farther than six furlongs, but with routine second out improvement she should prove to be good enough to handle this field. I also feel that that the race she’s coming out of was a stronger one than the fields Fenwick Hall has been facing.
While I’m interested in playing Beating Heart Baby, I’ll also mention that Ginned Up (#2) is the firster that I’m most interested in. She’s bred to be a good one as her dam is a half-sister to the talented warhorse Affirmed Success, and I was impressed by her fluid sales workout in 10-flat. Her dam was a turf horse, but Ginned Up certainly has enough dirt influences in her pedigree to suggest that she could be successful at today’s trip.
$15 Win 6
$5 Exacta Box 2,6
Race 5: The Bay Ridge at 1 1/16 miles for NY-bred fillies and mares
8 – Miss Da Point
Carameaway (#1A) has been a different animal ever since the summer at Saratoga. Not only is she competing in the afternoons with a newfound vigor, but she’s carried that over to her morning workouts, which continue to be strong heading into this race, suggesting we’ll see another top-notch effort out of her. That said, one possible thorn in her side could be the presence of Miss Narcissist. Though she was eliminated by a poor break last time, she is supposed to be the main speed of this field and might force Carameaway into a stalking position. Either way, Carameaway is a deserving favorite and the horse to beat.
While I have the utmost respect for Carameaway, I also acknowledge that MISS DA POINT (#8) may have run the better race last time. Even forgetting for a moment that Miss Da Point was coming off a five-month layoff, Carameaway had everything her own way up front once Miss Narcissist didn’t break, and Miss Da Point almost ran her down despite her archrival being afforded a clear pace advantage. Miss Da Point went off form last summer and was given a well-deserved vacation after making her first 26 starts in the span of just over 20 months. She appears to have returned in excellent form and has already proven herself to be adaptable to just about any pace scenario she might encounter in this large field. While I admit that I have a fondness for this filly, that fondness has actually paid off in this case since she rarely gets the respect that she deserves at the windows. She seems to thrive in the winter months and the inner track is her favorite surface. I have no knocks against her and she’s my pick.
Just to mention a few others: Macha brings decent form from the West Coast, but a previous trip east was unsuccessful and I wonder if she’s actually as good on dirt as she is on turf. Up and coming late-season three year-olds Flipcup and Storied Lady certainly have claims here as well, though I think both still need to improve just a bit to successfully tackle the top two choices. Flipcup was able to take advantage of a great trip to finish second in the Empire Distaff before being hindered by a wide trip in the Comely. I’m always looking to play horses who raced against biases, but I wouldn’t like this filly that much even if I drew a line through that last race, so I don’t see any reason to upgrade her for being a victim in a situation where she had little chance anyway. Storied Lady is interesting to me at a bit of a price, but she’s stepping up in class and the post position will do her no favors.
$20 Win 8
$10 Exacta Box 1,8
Race 7: Allowance N1X at one mile and 70 yards for NY-bred fillies and mares
6 – Graceful Gal
I suppose that you’re supposed to give Sheriffa strong consideration here given that she’s the lone speed and is good enough to win a race at this level. I just don’t think she wants any part of racing around two turns and I can’t bring myself to take a short price on her.
The major problem with this race is that the pickings are pretty slim once you get past the likely favorite. I know that it’s usually counterintuitive to pick a horse that isn’t racing over its preferred surface, but as far as I can see there is only one runner in this race that possesses true talent over a route of ground, and that’s GRACEFUL GAL (#6). I’ve been following this filly with interest since her career debut and I believe she actually has some ability, and might even be bound for New York-bred turf stakes races down the line, as long as she continues to develop. Yes, I realize it’s comparing apples and oranges to talk about her potential on turf when assessing her chances in this dirt race, but I actually don’t think she ran as badly as it might look on paper in her lone dirt start.
Breaking from the rail, she was a bit sluggish when taking dirt in the face early and dropped farther back than she probably needed to. After all, it’s not as if this filly is actually that slow early. She rated just a few lengths off a pretty strong pace on the turf three races back, so she does have some tactical speed. Once Jose Ortiz asked Graceful Gal for run last time, she launched a strong wide rally on the far turn, passing horses while giving away quite a bit of ground in the process. According to Trakus, she actually maintained a faster average speed than G Note despite finishing almost four lengths behind that rival. As long as Graceful Gal doesn’t lose contact with the field early today, I have confidence that she’s the strongest finisher in this race and I’m willing to take my chances with her on the wrong surface against a pretty weak field.
$15 Win 6
Race 8: The Alex M. Robb at 1 1/16 miles for NY-breds
4 – Readthebyline
1 – Big Business
We made a nice score with READTHEBYLINE (#4) last time at just over 5/1, and while he’s certain to be a shorter price against a tougher field today, I still think he’s the most likely winner and the right horse to take on top. Michelle Nevin does very well with runners stretching out on the dirt, winning with 11 of 33 horses making that move since she began her training career, good for an ROI of $3.90. Unlike some people have suggested, it’s not as if this horse’s good efforts for Michelle Nevin have come out of nowhere. Even when Readthebyline was in Rick Schosberg’s care, he could pop up with a seriously good effort on occasion, especially when allowed to make a clear lead. Looking back through Readthebyline’s past performances, it’s also clear that he does his best running at distances between a mile and a mile and a sixteenth on the dirt (he’s 5-for-10 at those distances and 2-for-25 at all other distances/surfaces). Plus, he has no problem handling two turns on the inner track. With no other speed signed on and him likely to make an uncontested lead through soft fractions, I can’t pick against him.
However, that’s not to say that he won’t face some serious challenges, including a formidable one from the horse that will likely be his closest pursuer early, BIG BUSINESS (#1). The only knock against Big Business, is that, unlike Readthebyline, he has never won a race around two turns on the dirt. That might just be circumstantial since he’s certainly run some strong races going as far as nine furlongs, but I do think he’s at his best between seven furlongs and a mile. Nevertheless, he enters this race in excellent form having finished a very good fourth despite racing against the grain of the track in the prestigious Cigar Mile last time. Though he’s my second choice, I’ll be using both of these horses strongly as I feel the winner is likely to come from one of these two runners.
Effinex, Awesome Vision, Gridley Here, and Beautyinthepulpit are all talented runners who are proven at this distance, but they will all be at the mercy of what figures to be a moderate to slow pace, and for that reason I’ll restrict their use to primarily “underneath” in exactas and trifectas.
$25 Win 4
$15 Win 1 (Payout: $53.25)
$10 Exacta Box 1,4
Race 9: Maiden Claiming $25,000 at one mile for NY-bred two year-olds
7 – Shamaley
6 – Beau Jangles
Who doesn’t want to go out in a winner with a clever pick in the final race of the year?
This is certainly a good race to try to be a little clever with almost no proven dirt route form to go on. I suppose that one could make a case for Black Friday Rush and False Positive with their 40+ Beyers going this distance on the dirt, but I’d rather try to catch a bigger price with one of the more lightly raced runners. Let’s look at a pair horses who have yet to go long on dirt and are bred to do so:
SHAMALEY (#7) has caught sloppy tracks in each of his starts, both of which came at six furlongs. Today he gets a positive rider upgrade to Israel Rodriguez as well as the addition of blinkers, which will hopefully add a bit of early speed to his arsenal. This horse is certainly bred to excel as the distances stretch out since his 10-for-82 dam found most of her success routing on dirt, and his sire, Marsh Side, was a true marathoner, winning Woodbine’s Valedictory stakes at 1 3/4 miles along with a handful of stakes at 1 1/2 miles on turf.
BEAU JANGLES (#6) has been slow to come around through two starts, but that’s typical of Pat Kelly runners. He showed absolutely nothing in his debut and then against lost contact with the field early on turf last time before passing some tired runners in the stretch. It’s still unclear which surface he prefers, but there’s plenty of route pedigree on his dam’s side. His dam’s most notable relative is her popular half-brother Evening Attire, winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup and a slew of other stakes at a variety of distances during his eight-year career on the track. While none of her other siblings achieved that level of success, most of them have done their best running around two turns or farther. This gelding gets Lasix today, and drops in for a tag for the first time as he makes his first start in a dirt route so perhaps we’ll see an improved effort.
$10 Win 7
$10 Win 6
$2 Exacta Box 6,7