RACE 1: TEETOTALER (#5)
The most experienced member of this field, Chasing Cara, is undoubtedly the horse to beat as she drops back into maiden company after contesting stakes. To her credit, she’s improved in recent starts despite racing against tougher competition. She overcame a slow start to get up for third in the Joseph A. Gimma, and proved that performance was no fluke in the Maid of the Mist, when she again finished third after contesting an honest pace. The winner of that race, Laobanonaprayer, returned to win again impressively earlier this month. Stretching back out to a mile should help, and she has the tactical speed to control this affair from the outset. I’m taking a shot against her with a more lightly raced rival, but this filly merits respect. My top pick is second time starter Teetotaler. This $500k yearling purchase just never looked comfortable in her debut. She broke a step slowly and found herself at the back of the pack taking a ton of kickback, which was an issue on the main track during that first week in November. She never commenced a rally, but Carmouche was just easing up on her late. That’s been a productive race, as fourth-place finisher Out First returned to win with a 93 TimeformUS Speed Figure, and the 9th-place finisher won a maiden claimer next out. She obviously has a right to do better stretching out as a daughter of multiple Grade 1 winner Artemis Agrotera, making her a half-sister to 9-furlong Albany winner Chestertown. I would expect her to show more speed this time with blinkers added. She’s my top pick, but there are other inexperienced fillies to consider. Quiet Type switches to dirt with more of a main track pedigree, and Home for Christmas also tries dirt for the first time for Christophe Clement, who has strong statistics with this move.
RACE 8: NEURO (#6)
There are many ways to go in this wide open New York-bred maiden event. A horse like Rift Valley figures to attract money, and could potentially go off as the favorite despite the fact that he still has much to prove. This $600k son of Pioneerof the Nile obviously has upside in just his second career start, but it’s not as if he did much running in his debut after breaking a bit sluggishly. The added distance is supposed to help, but runners like this often get overbet. I would consider some others exiting that Nov. 12 affair, such as Not Phar Now and Ernie Banker, though I wasn’t thrilled with the way the former ran last time out. There are also some intriguing first time starters to consider, including King Angelo, who worked a best-of-308 bullet on Nov. 15 at Belmont. However, he has more of a turf pedigree, so it is perhaps best to watch one. I’m going in a slightly different direction with Neuro. This horse has made the majority of his starts on the turf, but his two dirt performances certainly put him in the mix here. He stayed on well to be second going this distance on Oct. 1, and then I thought he again ran well just 16 days later when trying to rally in behind horses through the entire stretch drive. His last effort on turf signals that he’s in the best form of his career right now. I believe he deserves to be favored here, and he might get somewhat overlooked due to the fact that he’s had more chances than some others.
RACE 9: FARRAGUT (#5)
Two runners who figure to attract support in this New York-bred allowance are Luna’s in Charge and Jemography. The former ships in from Kentucky after contesting a series of open company races this fall. This 4-year-old is consistent and versatile, usually picking up checks regardless of surface or distance. However, he rarely wins and he may attract plenty of support as he seemingly drops in class. I’m using him, but he’s not the kind of favorite that I want to endorse. Jemography has won plenty of races, but he’s done so out of town at Finger Lakes. Since coming to the NYRA circuit this fall he’s stepped up his game, twice finishing second at this level. However, now he’s facing what appears to be a stronger field at this level than the one he encountered last time. I’m using both of them, but there are others to consider. Raven Rocks was a gutsy maiden winner last time and has room for improvement, though he does have to step forward on the speed figure scale. And a longshot like Bulwark would be tough if able to run back to the massive 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure he earned when breaking his maiden last year. However, he has to contend with a layoff and a potential wet track. I’m most intrigued by Farragut. I know that I’ve been chasing this horse a bit, but he has run better than it appears in a few of his recent starts. He got caught chasing a very fast pace when he was third at this level three back behind the talented Six Percent. And then last time he was always out of position chasing wide in a race that was dominated by horses who rode the rail. I don’t mind the turnback for him given the amount of pace signed on here, and he’s handled wet tracks before.