RACE 5: A LIFE THAT’S GOOD (#6)
The horse to beat in this full field of maiden special weight runners is probably Bustinmygroove, who makes her second career start for Danny Gargan. She took quite a bit of money in her debut to be bet down to 7-2, and she showed some signs of ability. She had good tactical speed, but found herself in a somewhat uncomfortable spot rating inside and behind the leader on the far turn. Manny Franco attempted to angle her off the rail in upper stretch, but she took a couple of very awkward strides as she appeared to get tangled and lose momentum. It’s taken her two months to get back to the races, but she comes in with a series of solid workouts and must be respected. Yet I prefer another filly with experience. A Life That’s Good switches surfaces after making her career debut on turf in late October. She flashed good early speed, leading through the opening stages before fading in the stretch at 7 furlongs. The pace of that race was pretty honest, and a number of horses, including those involved in the pace, have come back out of that heat to improve their speed figures next time. This filly has an additional hurdle to overcome as she tries dirt, but this is the surface that she’s bred to handle. Her dam was a 15-time turf winner, and her only sibling to race is the dirt stakes winner I Still Miss You. Jeremiah Englehart is a decent 5-for-19 (26%, $1.76 ROI) with second time starting maidens going from turf to dirt sprints over the past 5 years. She’s my top pick, but I’d also use some of the firsters with her. Hip Number One looked pretty good in her Fasig-Tipton workout and is a half-sister to some decent dirt runners, while Gracefully Wild also worked very well at her 2-year-old sale and goes out for a barn that is capable with youngsters.
RACE 8: SAN JUAN DIEGO (#9)
Vineyard Sound is clearly the horse to beat as he seeks his fourth consecutive victory since the claim by Rob Atras. His recent TimeformUS Speed Figures (all 105 or above) tower over this field and he had been steadily ascending the class ladder prior to his race. So why is Atras suddenly dropping him back down to $12,500? It’s not just a weird move, it’s also a weird time to do it. This is the kind of horse that could do very well over the winter at Aqueduct, especially with starter allowance conditions available to him. Yet they now can’t get rid of him fast enough. For what it’s worth, Rob Atras is just 1 for 12 (8%, $0.29 ROI) with horses dropping in claiming price by 50% or more over the past 5 years. He may win, but you’ll do well in the long run betting against runners like this. Wegotoldyougotsold is the obvious alternative, but I have some questions about him as well. He’s not the most consistent sort, but at least he’s likely to get back on another wet track, which he won over last time. He’s a viable contender, but he could face a tough pace situation breaking from the rail. There’s a lot of speed signed on and the TimeformUS Pace Projector that three others in this field are quicker than him early. Once we get past the favorites, I think we can get a little more creative, and I want a closer. The horse that interests me most at a price is San Juan Diego. I know he ran poorly when he returned to Aqueduct last time, but he was facing a slightly tougher field of New York-breds than day. He also didn’t get the most comfortable trip, continually getting shuffled back behind a moderate pace. He had previously run well at Aqueduct last winter and his recent Finger Lakes form stands up fairly well against the rest of these, assuming the favorite regresses. I acknowledge that he’s not a likely winner, but I expect him to outrun his odds.
RACE 9: MAKE IT IN NY (#1)
The likely short prices in this maiden claiming finale don’t do much for me. Another Shot looks pretty logical at first glance. Yet this colt hasn’t really run any faster than some others sprinting and it’s not clear that added distance is supposed to help him based on his pedigree. Among the favorites, Wicked Easy is slightly more appealing. He began his career on turf, and didn’t run that badly either time while never threatening. He was sent off as the favorite when switched to the dirt at Finger Lakes and rallied steadily after a slow start. All of his siblings, including stakes winner More Mischief, have been best on dirt, so perhaps this is where his future lies. I’ll use him, but I prefer a couple of others. Mindfreak strikes me as one that should take a step forward on the class drop. He had no chance to close into a moderate pace going 6 furlongs on turf in his debut, and last time he found himself in a pretty salty maiden event for the level, as winner Work Out earned a 99 TimeformUS Speed Figure. Furthermore, fifth-place finisher Re Created (beaten 27 lengths) returned to win here last weekend with a 76. Mike Maker is 14 for 42 (33%, $2.36 ROI) with 2-year-olds going from maiden special weight to maiden claiming races on dirt over the past 5 years. He’s a major part of my play, but the horse that intrigues me most is Make It In Ny. That 35-length debut defeat looks dismal, even for this field, but there may be reasons to give him a closer look. He was very sluggish early in that debut, immediately losing contact with the field. Junior Alvarado applied some token early pressure and then just sat there, appearing to ease the horse. Yet at about the three-sixteenths pole, Junior shook him up and asked him for run, and the horse suddenly took off. Trakus indicates he ran his final sixteenth in 5.80 seconds (the equivalent of a 23.2 quarter). The fact that he put in no effort for the first part of the race contributed to that fast final split, but this horse may possess more ability than the result indicates. Now he drops in class against a weak field, and returns as a new gelding.