Saturday, January 17
Race 1: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for NY-bred fillies and mares
8 – Wantagh Queen
Most of you probably know that it’s pretty uncharacteristic for me to pick out a first time starter as a possible wagering opportunity, but I think this might be the right kind of race in which to do just that. Of those that have run, the two main contenders are hardly trustworthy. Jilly Mac has had plenty of chances and comes off a relatively poor effort in which she was a bit wide, but had no late punch through the stretch. Bossy Boots comes out of that same race, and while she did clip heels after the start, causing her to drop far back, it was a race that fell apart late and she also had very little to offer. I can’t get excited about taking short prices on either one. The only other experienced alternative is Agate, who I was a fan of when she first appeared last season, but she has plummeted into the maiden claiming ranks upon returning from a long layoff and hasn’t quite been the same horse since.
So, by process of elimination, I’m forced to give serious consideration to one of the first time starters, and WANTAGH QUEEN (#8) is the only viable option. One would not expect to find much substance in the pedigree of a first time starting four year-old that sold for just $2,500 as a weanling, but that’s hardly the case with this filly. There are actually some high-quality New York-breds in her female family. Wantagh Queen’s dam, Queen of the City, has produced one other foal to race, and that is Escapefromreality, who won the Albany Stakes and was second in the Grade 3 Withers as a three year-old. Queen of the City is out of Biogio’s Beauty, a solid racemare that won 5 of 19 starts and nearly $200,000. She is also the dam of Jeter, a popular, hard-knocking runner on this circuit. The weanling price tag is a bit of a concern, but it’s worth noting that Escapefromreality had yet to even make a start when this filly was sold at auction. With little else to grasp onto here, I’m willing to take a shot with this filly at a price.
$10 Win 8
Race 3: The Interborough at six furlongs for fillies and mares
1 – Stormy Novel
I suppose that last month’s Garland of Roses is a good place to start, since the first, third, and sixth place finishers from that race have resurfaced in this spot. My feeling is that Winning Image ran a winning race that day and was much the best, while Expression and Willet received a very favorable pace setup and were able to take advantage of circumstance.
Expression is an admirably consistent runner, but her typical speed figures in the high 70s and low 80s are probably not going to prove sufficient this time. Willet (#3) can run much faster than she did last time, but this seven year-old mare has undoubtedly seen better days. That said, she was still running races that would make her very competitive in this spot as recently as three to four months ago. I’m not totally counting her out, but I prefer others.
Bridgehampton set the pace in the Garland of Roses, but Winning Image had her measured at the top of the stretch, and Bridgehampton totally threw in the towel once she was passed. Perhaps she just didn’t like the sloppy track, but I find it very difficult to trust a mare who too often has trouble finishing off her races. I also am not sure that C. C. Lopez will prove a good fit for her. Her regular rider Jose Ortiz understood that you have to leave Bridgehampton alone early in a race to conserve any energy at all for the stretch drive, and I wonder if a hustling rider like C. C. Lopez will overuse her early and have nothing left when the real running starts.
I believe that Aireofdistinction (#7) is the horse to beat, and I strongly considered putting her on top. She’s faced decent fields out of town, and her last effort was a very good one. David Jacobson typically does very well with trainer switches such as this, and the only thing that gave me slight cause for pause is the layoff. It seems curious that she’d get four months off after running one of the best races of her life, and David Jacobson’s layoff numbers are not all that strong. I’ll be using this mare, but at the price, I prefer another runner.
STORMY NOVEL (#1) is my top pick. Like her full-sister Bridgehampton, she can be a little inconsistent, but I believe that her best races are good enough to beat this field. She ran very well in the Miss Preakness last May when chasing the talented Miss Behavior. Then, in the Miss Woodford at Monmouth, she may have run the best race of her life after attacking a fast pace four-wide before holding off the late surges of the closers in a race that otherwise fell apart. Her form eluded her in early fall, but she was impressive last time when dropped into an easier spot at Laurel.
John Servis doesn’t ship many runners to New York, but he’s been fairly successful when he does send them over. From 14 starts on the inner track over the past 5 years, he’s saddled three winners that have paid $25.00, $16.80, and $10.40, giving him a healthy ROI of $3.72, and that doesn’t even count Nasa, who ran a strong second in the Jerome a couple of weeks ago.
$15 Win 1
$8 Exacta Box 1,7
$4 Exacta Box 1,3
Race 6: Claiming $32,000 at one mile
7 – Frazil
“Trust” is the key word in this sixth race, and a general lack of it among the more fancied runners has led me to a long shot. While I believe that North Ocean is the most talented runner in this race, I don’t trust him to repeat his last effort. His Beyer speed figure looks a little suspicious upon further inspection and I’m not sure that he can successfully rate off the speedy Attractive Ride without engaging him in an early duel. I won’t be surprised when he wins, but I want to play against him at a relatively short price.
I’m taking a shot with FRAZIL (#7), who I don’t totally trust either, but at least this one is going to be a big price. After initially holding his good form for new trainer Steve Klesaris, his last two efforts were very disappointing. That said, he did have excuses in each of those races. Two back, he was left about three lenghts behind at the start and was always out of position going a distance that is a bit too far for him. Then last time, he was hung out four-wide on the far turn and was carried out even further by a drifting Regulus before giving up. Now he drops in class and I’m hoping that he can attain a good early position rating just behind Attractive Ride and North Ocean. I’m not totally convinced that he can still run his better races, but I also have questions about his competitors, who will all be significantly shorter prices.
Pulpit’s Express (#3), Chief Energy (#6), and Cousin Michael (#8) all scare me and they will be the others that I’ll use.
$10 Win 7
$2 Exacta 2,3,6,8 with 7
Race 8: Allowance N1X at one mile and 70 yards
3 – Finn’s Quest
4 – Lieutenant Seany O
After losing this race to two aborted cards, it will finally go off this afternoon. FINN’S QUEST (#3) appeared as if he would be helped by the draw initially, hurt by it on the redraw, and now he’s back inside. He had every right to need his return race when racing against the very talented Liam’s Map, and his races from last winter would make him very competitive with this field. I just view him as a logical contender who should be a fair enough price.
I prefer him to likely favorite Sassicaia, who has just been a major disappointment. He was lucky to break his maiden when Rare Eagle got stuck down on the deeper inside portion of the track on November 7th, and then last time he had little to offer through the stretch when finishing ahead of weaker runners. I’ll use him as a backup, but I’m trying to beat him in this spot.
The other horse I’m interested in trying to get into the mix is LIEUTENANT SEANY O (#4). He has consistently run races that are fast enough to make him a factor against this bunch and figures to work out yet another good trip sitting behind the early speed of Old Upstart, Coach Inge, and Celebrated Talent. I know that he doesn’t appear to have the upside of a runner like Sassicaia, but he’s spent much of his career facing better allowance fields than this one and I think he makes perfect sense in this spot at a square price.
$15 Win 3
$10 Win 4
$4 Exacta Box 3,4,6