Saturday, February 14
Race 3: Maiden Claiming $16,000 at six furlongs for three year-olds
5 – Shamaley
We’re faced with a $16,000 maiden claiming race in which the two favorites are Face, a first time starter with a very modest pedigree, and Larry Boy, who is going first off the claim for David Jacobson after being off for nearly four months. Clearly the pickings are slim, but I wouldn’t want to take either of these horses at very short prices. Normally, this would be the type of race that I’d just skip, but there’s a runner in here that intrigues me.
I admit that I’d been hoping that SHAMALEY (#5) would show up in a two-turn race instead, since he’s bred to handle much more ground than the six furlongs he encounters again today. Yet despite the fact that these conditions may not be ideal, I believe he’s a horse that we’ve yet to see the best of. His last start is of particular interest to me because I think he was facing a better field than he meets today and he may have been hindered by his post position. He actually broke fine that day and showed decent early speed through the first eighth of a mile. However, the field was tightly bunched and he was shuffled out of position as runners dropped over to the rail heading for the turn. His rider then decided to keep him glued to the rail for the rest of the race as most others avoided the inside paths. I’m not totally convinced that the inside was not the place to be on December 6th, but I think it’s fair to say that Shamaley was always out of position on this day.
Shamaley was entered on December 31st and actually made it to the paddock, where Maggie Wolfendale praised his physical appearance and noted that she expected a better effort out of him. For whatever reason, he was scratched on the way to the gate, so perhaps it’s not a good sign that it took them six weeks to get him back to the races. Nevertheless, the blinkers go on and he gets a huge rider upgrade as Angel Arroyo sees fit to take the mount. I think there are some positive indicators here, and the price will certainly be large enough to warrant taking a chance.
$10 Win 5
$2 Exacta 1,3,4,7 with 5
Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for NY-bred three year-olds
1 – Candid Desire
I know that Pierce’s Prize is the fastest horse on paper, but I don’t trust him. I acknowledge that he’s faced some pretty good New York-breds, but I don’t like the fact that he routinely has trouble finishing off his races. There’s no doubt that he has some ability, but I seriously question his fortitude and will to win races. Sebonack is the obvious alternative, since he has the pedigree, the connections, and the workouts to suggest that he should be able to run. I’ll certainly be using him in my wagers, but there’s another horse in this race that I think will offer better value.
I don’t think we’ve yet seen the best out of CANDID DESIRE (#1), and I believe that he can be in the mix with a step forward today. I was mildly interested in him out of his debut, in which he ran deceptively well despite going off at a gigantic price. Last time, I was very encouraged to see him show more speed, and I’m willing to be forgiving of the fact that he faded late. I think it’s possible (I’m still waiting for more evidence to come in) that the inner track was favoring inside paths, especially late in the day, on January 23rd. Therefore, it’s possible that both he and True Bet were compromised by having to chase outside, where as the first and second place finishers did their best running when they were right on top of the rail. True Bet is also a contender in this race, but Candid Desire intrigues me more. He now gets Lasix and should have more room for improvement as he goes out for low-profile connections, who should ensure that he’s a generous price.
Finally, I’ll just throw a stat out there on a horse that I didn’t mention. I know that Chad Brown is excellent with first time starters on the turf and won with a few on dirt in Florida last weekend, but on Aqueduct’s inner track he is just 1-for-26 with first time starters over the past five years. I’ll have to let Woodford Pine beat me.
$15 Win 1
$4 Exacta Key Box 1 with 3,6,7
Race 6: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for NY-bred three year-olds
4 – Possessed
I see POSSESSED (#4) as a standout in this race. On paper, the two other major contenders are Organic Gemini and Buddy the Elf, and I can poke holes in the form of each of them.
As was previously mentioned, I’m very interested to see if the rail was helping horses on January 23rd, so think it’s possible that Organic Gemini’s late run may have been a bit of an optical illusion since he spent nearly the entire race down inside. He’s an improving horse, but only his last race makes him a true contender here, and I’m dubious about the strength of his performance. Buddy the Elf, likewise, has run one race that makes him competitive here, and I’m very skeptical of the speed figure that he was assigned. Regal Minister, the winner, ran the best race that day and has come back to equal the effort, but the horses who finished behind him have just not been able to duplicate the Beyer speed figures that they were assigned. Obviously, I expect Buddy the Elf to run a better race than he did going two turns last time, but I still doubt that he’s in the same league as Possessed.
There is nothing phony about Possessed. He has run very well in all three of his starts, including last time when he gamely hung in until late behind the promising Tencendur, despite the fact that he probably doesn’t want to go two turns. If he is able to get back to his effort from two back I don’t think he’ll lose this race.
$25 Win 4
$5 Exacta 4 with 1,3,7
Race 8: The Broadway at six furlongs for NY-bred fillies and mares
1 – Blithely
I’m not going to get too creative here. I believe that the three most talented horses in this race are those that completed the trifecta in that January 29th open N2X allowance/optional claimer, and if you’ve seen that race, you know that BLITHELY (#1) almost certainly should have been the winner. I give credit to Isabelle for running such a strong race off a long layoff, but she got a perfect outside stalking trip whereas Blithely had her momentum stopped twice at key points in the stretch drive, and was still running on strongly as they crossed the wire.
Blithely has been quietly improving with each start since returning from a long layoff last summer, and I believe that she’s turning into more than just a good New York-bred. You can certainly say the same for Isabelle, but I believe that she’s put in a difficult position today with the other speeds drawn outside of her. Atlantic’s Smile has to go to the lead once again and Uncle Southern should be chasing outside keeping her honest early. Isabelle is not as quick as Atlantic’s Smile early, so it’s likely that she’ll have to take some dirt in her face and I’m just not sure how she’s going to react to that.
Blithely, on the other hand, is versatile enough to make the most of her rail post position, and to adapt to any pace scenario. Few jockeys have been riding better than Manny Franco at this meet, and I believe he’ll pick up another stakes win here.
$20 Win 1
$10 Exacta 1-4
$5 Exacta 1 with 2,5