Monday, January 19
Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at one mile and 70 yards for NY-bred three year-olds
2 – Tencendur
8 – Summer Hawk
TENCENDUR (#2) is a standout here. Not only did he run a solid race in his debut, making a wide sweeping moving on the turn before flattening out to finish third, but he did so against open company. And it’s not as if that was a weak open maiden field. Each of the top two finishers appear to have bright futures, and the winner is now down in Florida preparing to get his shot on the Derby trail. If Tencendur merely repeats his debut effort this afternoon, he will prove very tough to beat.
The pace scenario of this race is a bit murky. Foxhall Drive showed some early speed in his first start, but that was on the turf. I think it’s more likely that stretchout sprinters Possessed and Summer Hawk will go on early to set what should be a moderate to slow pace. I have doubts about Possessed getting a route of ground, but not so with Summer Hawk, who intrigues me at a price. By a Belmont/Travers/Jockey Club Gold Cup winner and out of a dam that did her best running in turf routes, SUMMER HAWK (#8) should have no problem with this distance. He actually broke very alertly last time before being taken back off the pace, and if he is able to get the jump on the field early once again today, I think he might be able to take them a long way up front.
$25 Win 2 (Payout: $56.25)
$10 Win 8
$5 Exacta Box 2,8
Race 5: Starter Allowance $50,000 at one mile
6 – Howl
In some ways, this might be the most exciting opportunity on the card. I view HOWL (#6) as one of the most likely winners of this race, yet I get the sense that he is going to go off as one of the longest shots on the board. In a race where five of the seven runners are moving way up in class, not only has Howl been racing at this level, but he’s been doing so against much tougher fields than the one he meets today. He apparently needed a couple of races to get fit after returning from a break, but his last race is a sign that he’s back in form, and if he repeats that effort, I think he will win this race.
That January 1st starter allowance race was dominated on the front end, with Peaceful Talk taking the field wire-to-wire and Mambo at the Gym chasing all the way before tiring in the stretch. Howl was the only runner to make any kind of significant run from the back of the pack, and don’t let the running line fool you — he was really running late, putting over six lengths between himself and the rest of the field from the eighth pole to the wire. Then after the finish, he continued to gallop out very strongly, actually running by the winner into the clubhouse turn. Howl has run well enough to beat this field in the past, and I think his last effort signals that he’s ready to do it today.
Perhaps this race doesn’t exactly set up for a closer, but I don’t trust the likely speed Empower, who had everything go his way last time when facing a much weaker group, and he’s supposed to get at least some pressure from either Prince Zurs or Kowboy Boots.
$20 Win 6
$4 Exacta 2,3,4,5,7 with 6
Race 6: Maiden Claiming $40,000 at six furlongs for three year-old fillies
7 – Nejma
I don’t have anything particularly clever to say here. I just can’t resist the jockey switch from Mary Brock to
Cornelio Velasquez Junior Alvarado, or the trainer switch from James Ferraro, and more recently Matthew Peebles, to the capable Bruce Brown. While NEJMA (#7) hasn’t received rides that I could classify as poor, I do think it’s possible that she could benefit from some more energetic handling, especially through the stretch. I’m not especially afraid of any of the other experienced rivals she meets today, and actually think the biggest threats could come from the first time starters.
$20 Win 7 (Payout: $63.00)
Race 8: The Jazil at one mile and 70 yards
6 – Irsaal
Don’t get me wrong – I think the entry will prove very tough to beat here. While both Micromanage (#1) and Misconnect (#1A) got relatively good trips in the Queen’s County, they both stepped up their game that day and a repeat of those efforts will make them tough to beat here. The obvious alternative, if you’re looking for one, is Schivarelli (#5) since he has flashed some serious ability in the past, and may appreciate getting back onto the inner track. However, I feel that Schivarelli will ultimate prove best going a one-turn mile or shorter, and that today’s distance is stretching it just a bit for him.
I don’t often like to pick horses based solely on the strength of one good race, but I have to do just that with IRSAAL (#6). You really need to watch his December 27th effort to appreciate just how well he ran that day. He hopped slightly at the start, and Jeremy Rose smartly took him in hand to tuck in behind the pack rather than get caught wide into the turn. The early pace was not slow, but this race was won on the front end by the stretching out Dream Saturday, who put in a lifetime best effort in victory, and no horse except the runner-up was able to mount much of a run from the back of the pack.
Irsaal was still back in eighth, over eighth lengths from the lead as the field passed the three-eighths pole. After initially trying to make an inside run, Jeremy Rose was forced to angle Irsaal to the far outside around a wall of four horses coming to the top of the stretch. Most horses would have lost momentum when asked to make such a move, but Irsaal was undeterred and sustained his strongly rally through the stretch. Today, Irsaal shouldn’t have to come from so far back, and if the same Irsaal that showed up last time is present again today, I think he can beat this field at a price.
$15 Win 6
$10 Exacta Box 1,6
$5 Exacta Box 5,6