RACE 1: SAFFRON GIRL (#2)
Vibrance is obviously a very likely winner of this race if she improves at all off her debut effort, and that’s a reasonable expectation. While she had trouble keeping up with the leaders on the far turn she was staying on well at the end of the race, suggesting that the stretch-out in distance shouldn’t be a major issue. However, now they’re dropping in class second time out and Brad Cox doesn’t have the best statistics with this move. Furthermore, that wasn’t the strongest race that she’s exiting, so I’m not sure this drop in class is as drastic as some may perceive it to be. I want to take a shot against her with a new face and Saffron Girl fits that bill. It may seem counterintuitive to take a Linda Rice first time starter here, since her runners generally tend to do better second time out. However, she has outstanding statistics in this specific situation. Over 5 years, she is 5 for 14 (36%, $2.86 ROI) with firsters in maiden claiming dirt routes. Some of this filly’s workouts seem decent and she has the pedigree to be a decent runner. Her dam was 2-for-2 during her racing career and she’s produced some decent runners, including Really Mr. Greeley, a winner of the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue. She might not have to possess that much ability to take down this group.
RACE 5: BEACHSIDE (#3)
Other Things Equal figures to go off as the prohibitive favorite as he drops back in for a tag. This horse earned a pair of speed figures at Belmont that would almost certainly beat this field were he to repeat them. However, he’s coming off a poor effort as the favorite last time when he faded badly against a decent starter allowance field. While even that 94 TimeformUS Speed Figure gives him a shot here, it doesn’t justify the even-money or odds-on price that he’s likely to be. He’s drawn well outside of the other speeds and he might have a class edge over this group, but I think there are some other intriguing options to consider at far better prices. My top pick is Beachside, who makes his first start for a tag. This gelding showed some promise as a 2-year-old before going to the sidelines last winter. He returned in September at Belmont and actually ran quite well to be third behind the talented Doups Point, earning a 103 TimeformUS Speed Figure which puts him right on par with Other Things Equal. His last race at Aqueduct was far worse, but I think it’s worth dissecting that performance. There was no speed at all in that Nov. 17 affair and Beachside is a runner who appreciates some pace to close into. Furthermore, that race was run during a time when the kickback was very detrimental to horses trying to come from off the pace, and Beachside was taking the worst of it in behind the leaders. While it’s not encouraging that he backed up to last, Junior Alvarado basically eased him from the quarter pole home, so the margin of defeat is exaggerated. He seems like a candidate to rebound here with a better setup and he should be a square price.
RACE 6: BEBE BANKER (#9)
I’m hardly way against Operation Roses in this spot, since he will be very difficult to beat if he repeats his stellar debut performance. The word was out that day as he got bet down to 3-2 odds off a strong worktab down at Palm Beach Downs. Breaking from the inside, he was hustled to the lead and hounded early before drawing away impressively through the lane. However, it is worth noting that he achieved that score over a sloppy, sealed track, a surface that he’s certainly bred to relish as a son of Super Saver. While he’s predicted to make the lead once again here, he will have to stretch his speed out to 7 furlongs over a surface that has been quite demanding in recent days. I respect this horse and won’t be surprised when he turns out to be an exceptional New York-bred, but I’m also not thrilled with the idea of taking a short price on him when there’s still a little bit of uncertainty hanging over him. The logical alterative is Financialstability, but I’m getting tired of this horse. He’s now lost twice in a row at this level, both times bet down to short prices. I suppose the distance and lack of aggression were an excuse last time, but he was supposed to win two back when wired by Foolish Ghost at 1-2 odds. I want to go in a different direction, so I’m taking a shot with Bebe Banker off the claim. This horse is one of the few in this field who has earned a speed figure that puts him on par with the favorite, having earned a 109 TimeformUS Speed Figure when second at this level back on Sep. 27. He ran poorly after that, but he got back on track last time at Aqueduct, resolutely clinging to the lead until the final strides in a blanket finish. There was some quality to that claiming field, and it’s a good sign that Rudy Rodriguez is moving him back up in class off the claim. Rudy has great stats with this move at Aqueduct in general, and I don’t mind the slight turnback to 7 furlongs for this horse.