RACE 6: BAY STREET MONEY (#7)
High Tide is the horse to beat after finishing second when last seen at this level in October at Belmont. He just got run down in the late stages going 11 furlongs in an effort that represented a marked improvement upon his disappointing return from a yearlong layoff at Saratoga. He was flattered when last-out winner Compliant returned to just miss at the N1X level here last weekend while improving his TimeformUS Speed Figure by 4 points. High Tide will have to cut back to 1 1/8 miles here, but that’s not a major concern for a horse who appears to possess some tactical speed. He seems dangerous for the red-hot Todd Pletcher barn. I’m using the favorite prominently, but I’m more interested in a horse exiting a different race. Bay Street Money showed promise for Jimmy Jerkens early in his career before tailing off a bit and getting dropped in for a tag two back. He was claimed out of that race by Rob Atras and made his first start for the new barn last time going a mile. That race featured a lack of early speed and was run over a course that was strongly biased towards horses that rode the rail. That made gate-to-wire winner Winters Back nearly impossible to run down, and compromised Bay Street Money, who worked out a two- to three-wide trip. Being slightly off the rail might not sound like such a big deal, yet many horses who got similar trips to Bay Street Money finished far back in their races on November 6 and 7. I expect him to improve over a fair track, and he figures to relish the slight stretch-out to 9 furlongs.
RACE 7: DURKIN’S CALL (#5)
It’s hard to trust anyone in this wide open claiming affair. The classiest horse in the field – at least recently – is probably Heavy Roller, but there are some serious questions hanging over this 6-year-old. Following a win off the $62,500 claim at the start of the year, he’s steadily dropped in class as his form has also declined. There are also two voided claims in his past performances in just his last 3 starts. The July 11 voided claim is listed as “administrative,” but the Sep. 26 voided claim was due to the vet. He’s now been off for over two months since that disappointing last outing and he faces a pretty salty field for the level. I don’t want to leave him out given the trainer, but he’s difficult to rely on. Hammerin Aamer also makes some sense as he drops in class. The connections claimed him at this $20,000 level, so it’s not that surprising to see him back here after a couple of starts. He’s never cared for a sloppy track, so I can excuse his effort two back, and last time he was compromised by a slow pace. He’s capable based on his recent form, but he just doesn’t win very often. I’ll use them, but I think this is a spot where we can get a little more creative. There’s plenty of speed signed on, with horses like Flowers for Lisa, Big Mountain, and Kampai all seemingly committed to the lead. I’m hoping that helps to set things up for Durkin’s Call. This gelding looks a little slower than some others in here, but he’s subtly been rounding back into solid form ever since the claim by James Ferraro. He ran deceptively well in that Oct. 17 race at this level and then was slightly overmatched in two tougher spots. While he only finished fourth when last seen on Nov. 20, I didn’t think he got the most comfortable trip that day. Eric Cancel kept him inside throughout trying to rally through kickback, and he was just hitting his best stride across the wire. I don’t mind him stretching out, since he was once best routing. In fact, all 3 of his lifetime victories have come at this distance.
RACE 8: DANFUSI (#1)
I suppose Wild William is the horse to beat as he moves up in class to face allowance company after a couple of wins against conditioned claimers. A repeat of either of those last two efforts will make him tough to beat, but I think he’s facing a much tougher assignment here, and I’m skeptical about whether he really classes up against this field. While he set a legitimate pace in that Aug. 20 victory at Saratoga, he benefited from a very firm turf course that appeared to be carrying speed. And then last time he was allowed to walk along on the front end though ridiculously slow early fractions. That’s not supposed to happen here with a few other key speed rivals signed on. Among the speeds, I’d be more inclined to take a horse like Our Destiny, who beat a solid field at Saratoga two back and hasn’t had an opportunity to sprint on turf since then. Three Outlaws has been a bit of a disappointment lately, but he could work out the right trip here, closing into an honest pace. I’m using both of them as alternatives, but my top pick is Danfusi. Perhaps making the lead from the rail will be a tall order for this horse, since it’s unclear how fast he really is, having only competing in routes during his career. That said, he strikes me as a horse that may appreciate this turnback given his headstrong nature and bountiful natural speed going longer. It may appear to some that he’s tailing off, but I can excuse his last race since he was stalking two-wide on Nov. 6, a day that featured a significant rail bias on the turf. Brad Cox is 4 for 14 (29%, $2.11 ROI) with horses going from routes to turf sprints at NYRA over the past 5 years. While I have concerns about his potential trip, at least he’s coming out of solid races and will be a square price.