RACE 4: SARATOGA BEAUTY (#5)
This $25k conditioned claiming event is arguably the most competitive race on this entire card. The two horses who are likely to vie for favoritism are Quality Stones and Stunning Munnings. The former is dropping in for a tag for the first time after she was simply overmatched against N2X allowance company when last seen in November. While she was beaten a dozen lengths that day, winner Letmetakethiscall has won two more races since then with impressive speed figures, and Quality Stones finishing amongst horses who would be short prices in this kind of spot. The one problem with Quality Stones is that she appears to be a need-the-lead type in a race that is projected to feature a fast pace. Stunning Munnings will be moving up to the N3L level after winning an easier off-the-turf affair last time. While her speed figures are a little light, she actually ran better than it seems two back when she was steadied trying to come up the rail in the stretch. She makes sense here, but she does get a class test. I want to go in a different direction with a horse that I think will offer some value. Saratoga Beauty ships in from out of town for new trainer Patricia Farro. While this barn doesn’t have great stats with NYRA runners, this filly has run well at this circuit in the past. She was competitive in a New York-bred allowance race at Saratoga over the summer and put in some good efforts here as a two-year-old. She has faced some cheaper company at Laurel in her recent starts, but she was visually impressive two back and just ran into an unusually talented rival last time on Dec. 11 in race that featured a slow pace. I think she’s better than her recent form indicates and she’ll get some pace to close into.
RACE 5: MY ALLURING LADY (#2)
Jill’s a Hot Mess has to be considered the horse to beat based on her last two efforts. Her connections took a shot against stakes company two back, and she delivered a lucrative minor award, grabbing second behind the talented two-time stakes winner Laobanonaprayer. While she lost as the even-money favorite last time, she had the misfortune of running into very talented debut winner Breakfastatbonnies. The problem is that she’s one of many in this field who wants to be forwardly placed, so she could find herself tiring in the late stages once again. I’m using her, but I prefer another runner with more apparent upside. My top pick is My Alluring Lady. This expensive New York-bred daughter of Runhappy took some money first time out, getting bet down to 7-1 in what appeared (a the time) to be a salty open company maiden event at the Spa. In retrospect that wasn’t the strongest race, but a couple of also-rans did return to win on dirt with improved speed figures. This filly flashed brief speed that day before fading; now returns from a layoff for Danny Gargan, who is 11 for 38 (29%, $2.24 ROI) with maiden second time starters on dirt over the past 5 years. She shows some strong workouts for the comeback and picks up leading rider Kendrick Carmouche. I prefer her to some others who have had more experience like Blame It On Mary and the favorite.
RACE 7: GHOSTGHOSTGHOST (#5)
Funny Bones Flag figures to go off as the slight favorite after finishing second at this level last time when she returned from a 7-month layoff. Considering the long break and the fact that it was her first ever dirt start, she ran fine to be second. I prefer her to Dancing Kiki, who finished right behind her that day. Dancing Kiki was curiously bet down to 6-5 favoritism last time but just ran her typical race, never threatening to win while picking up a minor award. Both of these fillies got pretty good trips that day and had no answer late. The horse that is most interesting coming out of that Jan. 1 affair is Ghostghostghost, who checked in fourth behind the aforementioned pair. This filly was supposed to be in front in a seemingly paceless race, but was never able to attain a forward position after steadying at the start. She found herself at the back of the pack after that rough beginning, and her poor trip was compounded by the fact that the surface at Aqueduct was favoring speed on Jan. 1. She’s better than that last performance, which she proved three back on Oct. 12 when she nearly survived a quick pace in a race that fell apart late. I like the 7-furlong distance for her, and she should be able to get the right kind of trip this time as long as she breaks cleanly.