I’m not trying to beat DANNY CALIFORNIA (#3), who figures to be favored here. This gelding would be pretty formidable if able to run back to his Oct. 20 triumph, in which he beat claimers by over nine lengths. On the surface of things, it might appear he’s regressed since the claim by Orlando Noda, but he’s actually been a victim of circumstances. Two back he was badly compromised by a slow pace during a time when kickback was hindering closers. Then last time he was unwisely placed on the rail behind two longshots heading into the far turn, and was forced to lose momentum before coming on again. He’s just very logical while facing a slightly softer field and would benefit from a more aggressive ride.
His main rival appears to be Joe’s Smokin Gun (#7). This horse is hard to take based on the form prior to his last race, since he has been outclassed at this level a number of times in the past and has struggled to even win claiming races. He did show improvement last time in a race that came up very fast, but that figure needs to be validated. More importantly, Rudy Rodriguez is a remarkable 30 for 71 (42%, $2.67 ROI) first off the claim in dirt routes at Aqueduct over the last five years. With numbers like that, how much does the prior form really matter?
The other runner I would use is Ten Twenty Nine (#6). He’s done well to win four races this year after coming into the season with a 1 for 25 record, and he has continued to get better since the claim by Chris Englehart. He’s run well over the NYRA circuit in the past and this one-turn mile distance is ideal for him. I’ll throw him in underneath.
Exacta: 3 with 1,5,6,7
Trifecta: 3 with 6,7 with 1,4,5,6,7