Feature Horse: Blessed Halo Can Wire Aqueduct’s 8th

AqueductLogoAssuming they remain on the grass today at Aqueduct (they were off the grass on Wednesday and had to take a few off the grass on Thursday), the 8th race is an interesting optional-claimer going six furlongs on the outer turf course.

Our key horse is #6 Blessed Halo (12-1). He’ll have to deal with the speed of Dr. Shane early on here but there’s not a ton of other speed in the race. Blessed Halo last  raced on October 5th at Belmont going seven furlongs on the Widener turf course, a time of the meet when the rails were down and being on the inside was the most important thing. The top three finishers from that race all spent most of the time inside,  including repeat winner Dowse’s Beach (he ran a 94 Beyer that day and repeated with a 102 on Sunday). Second and third place finishers End Play and Toughest O’mbre are back in this spot.

Blessed Halo chased Dowse’s Beach early on while on the outside, and reasonably faded as he was not only chasing a top rival (for this class level) but also doing so while against the grain of the racetrack. His previous turf race, on July 6th, featured a very fast pace that came apart and he was on that pace, finishing ahead of his pace rival, the 7/5 favorite, and only getting beaten by a length. Both performances were better than they look on paper.

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Breeders Cup Saturday

bc_logo_4c1After the five race appetizer on Friday, there are nine Breeders Cup races on Saturday with a lot on the line and some great fields to dig into, and prices to take swings with. Let’s look at the fields.

Breeders Cup Saturday

Filly & Mare Sprint

There are a few things that stand out about this race. The first is that there should be a lot of speed and the second is that if #13 Marley’s Freedom (8-5) runs back to her recent form she is going to win. Plus, since she can sit a few off the pace and is drawn well outside, she should benefit from the fast pace. This makes here a very likely winner for trainer Bob Baffert. Simply, her Ballerina was a dominant effort and maybe the best race run this year by anyone in this field.

There are a few others that are usable somewhere. For us, one is #12 Anonymity (15-1). She’ll be part of the pace but is at least drawn well outside. She fires every time for trainer Richard Mandella and last time was part of a very fast pace in the LA Woman at Santa Anita, holding well as that race fell into the lap of #7 Skye Diamonds (10-1). She has won at seven furlongs and will stalk outside here today. She’s a big-priced alternative to the big favorite.

#5 Golden Mischief (10-1) ran a solid race last time in the TCA at Keeneland and was jostled and shuffled a bit between horses on the turn in there. The distance is a question but she’ll definitely benefit from the pace.

#1 Selcourt (4-1) has been out since March and drew the inside for this elongated sprint that will put a lot of pace pressure on her. Plus, her big win in the Santa Monica was aided by a very slow pace that she won’t get in this spot. She is one to oppose.

Vertical Strategy – We’ll mostly lean on Marley’s Freedom on top and try to get Anonymity and Golden Mischief in there with her.

Multi-Race Strategy
A – 13
B – 5
C – 12

Turf Sprint

This race is always chaotic and that is especially true this year with the expected turf condition. The likely favorite is #5 Disco Partner (7-2) who, on a firm course in New York, would be a horse you can lean on. However, away from New York and on a yielding course, he becomes one to oppose at a short price. He gets a break this year in that the race is back at 5 ½ furlongs (it was five last year at Del Mar) but he just doesn’t handle the softer going that he is going to get here.

#9 Stormy Liberal (4-1) won this race last year but he too has to answer the question about the yielding going and this race is very wide open to take a short price. To be fair, he’s 3-3 in his last three races with wins by a nose, nose, and head. He will be tough to beat if he handles the course.

#11 World of Trouble (6-1) might well take more money than that price and he’ll have to deal with a lot of other speed. That said, he has legitimate turf sprint speed and he’s handled off going in both of his turf starts. He’s very live and we’re using. #12 Richard’s Boy (12-1) was second in here last year but his last race, an 89 Beyer where he blew a lead against Cal-breds at 1-5 is a bit discouraging (though that was off a two month layoff and just two weeks ago so it’s possible he wasn’t fully cranked). #14 Conquest Tsunami (6-1) drew way outside but he’s fast and should get a good stalking trip. The distance might be a touch short for him, however.

I struggled with the Parx Dash horses. Pure Sensation, who wasn’t doing well enough to enter here, wired the field setting a moderate pace on the inside. #4 Vision Perfect (15-1) pressed 3-wide and held on well to be beaten just a neck. #6 Rainbow Heir (12-1) was running for the first time since January (he was covering mares in Florida) and had a good trip but was hurt by the pace. We’ve always liked this Jersey-bred and he’ll be better this time. He does have to handle the yielding going, however. Finally, #2 Bucchero (10-1) had the worst of it. He had to steady while wide on the bend, lost position, then came on again. Based off that race, he is the one you’d want. But then, while he won the Woodford last time and improved his figure five points, I’m not sure that he ran much better than he did at Parx considering his trouble. Further, he had a perfect trip in there and is going to have to run much better to win here. That does give me some pause with these horses, but I wouldn’t want to see Rainbow Heir win and have nothing. As confusing as this entire race is, we were led to…

This horse might be our craziest pick of the weekend. We’re going to try #8 Chanteline (15-1), who will likely be bigger than her morning line price. Granted, she’s been facing fillies so this is a step up in class. But we liked her race three back when she pressed a wicked pace in the soft turf Caress at Saratoga, a race that fell apart late. Two-back, she got a great trip but ran a 104 Beyer that will put her in the mix. Finally last time, she ran very well in the Franklin County, getting shuffled back around the turn and when she got clear, she flew home. She’s in great form and will be a huge price in an open race. She’ll need to get a good trip but if she does, her best race gives her a legitimate shot.

Vertical Strategy – We’ll tread lightly here because there are so many possibilities but we do want to play a few tickets with Chateline in the number. We’ll use with World of Trouble, Stormy Liberal, and Rainbow Heir, primarily, but many in the third slot.

Multi-Race Strategy
A – 6, 8, 9, 11
B – 12, 14
C – 2, 4

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Breeders Cup Friday

bc_logo_4c1After a few months away from the site, we’re back and will be firing away over Breeders Cup weekend. On this post, we’ll run down the Friday races and we’ll follow up with the Saturday races in our next post.

Juvenile Sprint

As you might expect, this race is completely wide open and we’ll try #4 Stillwater Cove (20-1) on top. She exits the one-mile Natalma at Woodbine where she was up on a very fast pace that incinerated late (the top four finishers were 10-7-9-12 at the first call). She gets back to 5.5 furlongs today where she won the Bolton Landing at Saratoga, beating one of today’s rivals #9 Chelsea Cloisters (8-1). Both of these are trained by Wesley Ward.

#12 Pocket Dynamo (20-1) will be a huge price coming out of a fifth place finish in the Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket. In that race, he was bottled up inside behind runners the entire way. That was also his first start in nearly three months and when he was clear, he was running a bit, though it was too late to win. The winner that day was #8 Sergei Prokofiev (6-1) for Team Coolmore. He was also back and inside, but was navigated outside and finished strong to get up and win.

#2 Soldier’s Call (9-2) is a 2-year old that faced elders in the G1 Prix de l’Abbaye last time and ran a huge race, pressing the pace and only getting run down late. He did not draw well, however, and will have to break well and be a part of the expected fast pace from down inside. #5 Bulletin (10-1) might be the inside speed and that could be the place to be with the rails coming down for the first time on Friday. That said, he has one easy win against overmatched foes at Gulfstream in September and he is probably going to be shorter than his 10-1 morning line price.

Vertical Strategy– We are going to build tickets around Stillwater Cove and Pocket Dynamo, trying to get one of them into the exacta.

Multi-Race Breakdown
A –4, 8, 12
B – 2, 9
C – 10

Juvenile Fillies Turf

This race features the horse that is most likely winner of the Friday sequence and possibly the most likely winner of all 14 Breeders Cup races, #6 Newspaperofrecord (2-1). She has dominated two fields, winning by 6 ¾ and 6 ½ lengths, including the latter race in the Miss Grillo. Both of her wins have been on yielding turf and that feels certain on Friday. She gives the impression that she could be any kind. She is clearly superior to her American rivals and the Euros seem a cut below as well. She’s one to lean on.

The other horse we want to use in here drew poorly, #14 East (20-1). Her win, albeit against weaker, at Saint Cloud on October 5thcame just 11 days after her debut win. That G3 victory included East getting shuffled back a bit into the lane, she had to wait, and when she tipped out, she flew home to win going away. The extra furlong should be no problem. She’ll have to work out a trip but she’s the other horse that intrigues.

#11 Lady Prancelot (30-1) might not be good enough and the likely-yielding going is a concern, but she had to overcome some moderate paces in her two California starts and maybe has some upside. Lastly, the field she beat likely was a cut below but #1 Concrete Rose (6-1) has run well in both of her starts, was very green in her debut and more professionally last time in the Jessamine, and has impressed visually both times. She should get a great trip from the inside post.

Vertical Strategy– We’ll play trifectas trying to get both Newspaperofrecord and East into the money, mostly leaning on Newspaperofrecord on top.

Multi-Race Breakdown
A – 6
B – 14
C – none

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The Preakness Pick-5

This is a tough sequence considering the weather and the expected off track, but there are a few reliable horses that we can focus on. Of course, that list is capped by Kentucky Derby winner Justify, who we will not be spending too much energy trying to beat in the Preakness.

Race 9 – G3 Galorette – #5 Cambodia (8-5) won this race on good turf last year and will try on likely “soft” turf on Saturday. We’re not exactly sure how good she is but she’s better than she showed last time in the G1 Wiley against tougher. #6 Blessed Silence (12-1) ran well in spots on softer ground in France and caught a good Chad Brown runner in Inflexibility in her US debut last month at Aqueduct. She should have been second in that race, but she’ll be a good price here. Finally, #8 Elysea’s World (9-5) isn’t the most reliable win candidate but she always fires. We do wonder if she prefers firmer turf.

A – 5, 6, 8
B – none
C – none

Race 10 – G3 Maryland Sprint – #9 Long Haul Bay (2-1) is perfectly drawn outside and his return race at Aqueduct was excellent. The horse he beat there, Mighty Zealous, came back to win and improved his figure by one point. A repeat of his last race likely wins this one. Our longshot use is #6 Irish Colonel (10-1) for Cathal Lynch. He’s 2-4 on wet tracks and should get a fast pace to attack. #5 Switzerland (5-2) has won three in a row after being a money burner earlier on in his career. He needs to avoid a speed battle but he’s always hinted at ability.

A – 5, 6, 9
B – none
C – none

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The Kentucky Derby Pick-4

Let’s take a look at the daunting pick-4 sequence that ends on the Kentucky Derby.

Our full Derby preview and write-up can be found here.

The sequence includes Races 9 – 12 – the American Turf, Pat Day Mile, Turf Classic, and the Derby itself. Let’s go through the sequence.

Race 9 – American Turf (G2) – First off, #12 Rushing Fall will scratch after running in the Edgewood on Friday, but this is still a wide-open field of 14, with AE #15 Alternative Route drawing in. The favorite is likely #11 Untamed Domain (5-1), who flopped on dirt at Tampa Bay and didn’t run all that well at Gulfstream in his season debut. We’re a little concerned, but don’t want to overreact to a race at Gulfstream, where the turf can be a little unique and thin, and to a race that was his first start off the bench. That said, we’re only using as a backup.

#10 Maraud (6-1) is our top pick. He ran well to win the Palm Beach two-back, tracking the loose leader and last time moved up on the turn but never really got clear as Analyze It ran away on the yielding track. Plus, he has tactical speed so he won’t get disadvantaged by what could be a slow pace. We’re also using #9 Captivating Moon (6-1) as an A. He always fires and has faced some very good horses in his last two starts (especially last time). There are no such killers in here. The concern is the potential for a moderate pace. #7 Tigers Rule (15-1) lost all chance when he had to steady at the top of the lane last time but he tried to the wire. He might be too far back but he’ll be a bigger price than he should.

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The Run For the Roses

kentucky-derby-logo-whiteIt’s time for the 144th Run for the Roses. The Kentucky Derby is Saturday at Churchill Downs, and as usual, a contentious field of 20 has been assembled to go 10 furlongs for a spot in the history books.

It’s been a notable prep season, with pace and race shapes had a defining impact on the results, which, of course, shapes our analysis of the Derby itself.

Before we go through the field, let’s look at the prep races, where five of the six were unquestionably defined by the race flows.

(Site note – we’ll have plays on both the Oaks and Derby cards coming over the next couple of days, including a pick-4 play into the Derby itself.)

The Preps – Fast Paces

Louisiana Derby– Noble Indy ran huge to win on the fast pace, which aided My Boy Jack and Lone Sailor.

Florida Derby– Audible and Hofburg capitalized on one of the fastest first quarters (21.9) in Florida Derby history.

Wood Memorial– Vino Rosso capitalized, as did Enticed, though the latter was closer to the pace.

The Preps – Slow Paces

Arkansas Derby– This was one of the slowest paces in race history and the race was handed to Magnum Moon on a silver platter. Quip (pointing to the Preakness) tracked the pace and was second while Solomini and Combatant had no chance behind the tepid fractions.

Santa Anita Derby– Justify set the slow pace while Bolt d’Oro had to chase him around the track.

These paces and race flows help shape our opinions of the horses that emerged from the preps and into the Derby on Saturday.

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Ride the Rainbow

rainbowpick6

We’ve been a little behind in getting some posts up – sadly work and life have gotten in the way – but we’re back for the big Florida Derby Day card at Gulfstream today which includes a mandatory payout (so you don’t have to be the only winner like the logo says) in the Rainbow-6. The carryover entering the day is over $4.7 million and the pool could well exceed $20 million.

Let’s take a look at the sequence.

Race 9 – The opener is a turf route for three year olds and we’re going to use the favorite, #7 Art Collection (9-5) but only defensively. He is first time Scooter Dickey after running third on debut for Chad Brown. Our top two are the two inside runners, #1 Wisely (5-1) and #2 Rhode Island (6-1) for Mark Hennig and Shug McGaughey respectively. Both trainers are better with second timers and both horses come out of a race where they were hurt by a very slow pace.

A – 1, 2
B – 7
C – none

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Derby Trail Preview: Rebel (G2)

Today at Oaklawn, they run the Grade 2, $900,000 Rebel Stakes and it drew a strong field of 11, including several that come out of the strangely run Southwest Stakes.

Last month’s Southwest was run on a gold rail, which strongly aided the winner, My Boy Jack, and hurt several others.

Meanwhile, Solomini ships in from California for Bob Baffert in his first start after being DQ’d in the G1 Los Alamitos Futurity.

Let’s go through the field.

#1 Title Ready (8-1) – He steps up from an allowance win for Steve Asmussen. The 89 Beyer earned that day is not that far off what he’ll need here and that race was off a nine-week layoff. The speed horse he dueled with (and defeated) last time came back to run 2nd with the same 82 Beyer he earned that day. It’s also noteworthy that his return race, by far his best race, was the first time he wore blinkers. This is an interesting, improving runner that should be a good price.

#2 Curlin’s Honor (12-1) – He’s 2-2 for Mark Casse but both wins have come sprinting and he has to get a lot faster. He is by Curlin and there is some route quality in the pedigree (including four-time dirt route winner Swinger’s Honor), but he’ll have to take a big step forward on figures.

#3 Solimini (3-2) – He ran a good race in the Breeders Cup while forging a fast pace on the dead rail. His DQ in the Los Alamitos Futurity was a little suspect, and Bob Baffert seemingly wins with everything he sends to Oaklawn. The deserving favorite starts from Gate 3, but he’s not unbeatable and the Baffert-factor means he’s probably a bit overbet in a race that features some interesting alternatives.

#4 Magnum Moon (7-2) – One of the interesting alternatives is Magnum Moon, who won on debut and then an allowance for Todd Pletcher. He overwhelmed a field at Tampa at 1-10 without being asked while stretching out to two-turns for the first time. But again, in an open race, here’s a horse that is going to take a lot of money and is facing a very good field. We’d use him in a Pick-4 but prefer others.

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Aqueduct All-Stakes Late Pick-4

Our last post of the day looks at the all-stakes late pick-4 at Aqueduct that finishes with the Gotham, a key Kentucky Derby prep race that came up pretty strong.

Let’s go through the sequence.

Race 7 (Stymie) – #3 Harlan Punch (3-1) won with a picture-perfect trip on Sunday and comes back on short rest to try here. While he’s been in good form and a mile is the perfect distance, he won’t get a better trip than Sunday (or ever) and he might have to run back to that race here. #5 Watershed (6-1) is our top pick. He didn’t like the slop last time and was hurt by being inside at Laurel two-back while turning back to a mile today. #6 Vulcan’s Forge (5-2) is a reliable late-runner for Todd Pletcher and gets back to a mile but could be overbet off a race in which he closed from behind a fast pace.

A – 5, 6
B – none
C – 3

Race 8 (Heavenly Prize) – #1 Divine Miss Grey (2-1) has been in great form and can handle any pace scenario. Plus, with the scratch of Bishop’s Pond, the pace up front should be a little slower than expected. We’re leaning on her but will back-up with #3 Highway Star (3-1) who has some back races though her form tailed off last year. #7 Holiday Disguise (7-2) is hurt by the scratch of Bishop’s Pond but is very talented and should improve in her second start off a long layoff.

A – 1
B – none
C – 3, 7

Race 9 (Tom Fool) – #1 Green Gratto (20-1) has been embroiled in some fast paces lately and meets his easiest pace scenario in some time. He’s popped at big prices before and will be a huge price. #4 Threefiveindia (5-1) might be a touch below but also might have been too close to a fast pace last time and he’ll get the jump on the late runners. #5 Skyler’s Scramjet (9-2) might not have liked the mud last time despite winning and has been in great form for Michelle Nevin. We’ll also use #10 Spartiatis (15-1) who goes out as a big price for Rudy Rodriguez and is drawn well on the outside.

A – 1, 4, 5
B – 10
C – none

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