RACE 1: ALWAYS CARINA (#5)
Well-bred first time starter Always Carina is by 12% debut sire Malibu Moon out of a dam who earned her only victory in an off-the-turf event going a mile at Belmont. This dam’s only other foal is Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Structor, and the second dam Miss Seffens was a multiple stakes-winning dirt sprinter. Chad Brown is just 13 for 80 (16%, $0.87 ROI) with 3-year-old and up first time starters in dirt sprints at NYRA over 5 years, suggesting that these runners often get overbet. Perhaps this filly will also take plenty of money. She was working like a good thing last summer at Saratoga before getting scratched out of a maiden race on the penultimate weekend of the meet. The most impressive of those summer workouts was in company with Zainalarab, who won her debut impressively last fall at Belmont. Her recent drills in Florida are more of a mystery, but I anticipate that she’ll be tough in this relatively soft-looking maiden affair if she still has the ability she displayed last year. The other first time starter who could take money is After the Party. Progeny of Into Mischief are always dangerous in their debuts, and the dam was a minor stakes winner sprinting on dirt. Additionally, the dam is a half-sister to Grade 1 Las Virgenes winner Callback. Jeremiah Englehart is just 4 for 31 (13%, $1.18 ROI) with 3YO+ firsters in dirt sprints at NYRA over 5 years. I’d use both of these, as I’m not thrilled with some of the experienced runners. Before You makes her first start for Bill Mott, but I wasn’t thrilled with her debut at Tampa where she wasn’t facing a particularly tough field. Venus Oyzo might be more dangerous, since she’s at least run competitive speed figures at this level. Plus she was wide against a bias last time.
RACE 5: SWEET LARISSA (#3)
Cazilda Fortytales comes into this race off the best last-out effort, but that performance came at the end of 2019, so she’s been off for over 16 months. She can win here if she returns in top form, and I suppose it’s a good sign that the claiming tag is waived. Yet she’s still hard to trust at any kind of short price. I prefer some more lightly-raced options. The favorite could possibly be Rainbow Gal, who makes her first start off the claim for Orlando Noda. The barn change isn’t exactly a positive, since former conditioner Bruce Levine was winning with a high percentage of his runners over the winter. That said, this filly did improve second time out and now gets a rider upgrade to Jose Ortiz. I’m using here, but there are a couple of intriguing dropdowns to consider. One of those is Raffinity, who returns from a layoff after making one start at Saratoga last summer. She was fairly green that day, finishing well behind a trio of talented fillies in a fast race for the level. She certainly has a right to improve in her second start, though Rob Atras isn’t known for success with young horses. I prefer Sweet Larissa at a similar price. This filly was off slowly in her debut and proceeded to race extremely wide around the far turn. According to Trakus, she covered 50 more feet than the winner around that one turn, which is basically as high a ground loss figure as you’ll see in a one-turn race. All things considered she stayed on well at the end, and earned a decent speed figure. I think she can step forward in her second start for Mark Hennig, who is 8 for 34 (24%, $2.40 ROI) with maiden special weight to maiden claiming dropdowns a NYRA over 5 years.
RACE 8: BATTERBATTERSWING (#8)
If not for his last outing, The Caretaker would be a clear favorite in this spot. He ran well enough to win at this level back on Dec. 19 when rallying wide against a rail bias to just miss. He also put in a good effort first off the claim for Wayne Potts two back going a sprint distance. While the stretch-out to a mile may not have agreed with him last time, he still ran poorly after showing no signs of early speed. He’s now been gone for more than 11 weeks since that race, and he’s only worked 3 times in the interim, all spaced far apart. Perhaps it’s just as simple as him getting back to the right distance, but you have to be a little concerned that he’s gone sour. I have similar concerns about Durkin’s Call, who exits an uncharacteristically poor effort off the claim for his new barn. He ran one of his better races two back, but he got a great trip that day closing into a quick pace. That was also going a mile, which seems like a more comfortable distance for him than this 6-furlong trip. I prefer some bigger prices who possess more tactical speed than this pair. One of those is Ark in the Dark. This Parx-based runner had been in solid form through the winter, picking up checks at the N1X allowance level before breaking through that condition on Mar. 15. He tried starter optional claimers last time and the result was a disaster. However, note that he got involved in a very fast pace that fell apart. The two horses with whom he was dueling on the front end, one of which was favored, faded to finish 5th and 7th. He’s better than that, and should appreciate the slight cutback. Yet my top pick at a bigger price is Batterbatterswing. His poor result and voided claim last time may turn off some potential supporters, and that’s probably fair. However, it is worth noting that he never really had a chance in that Marc. 13 race given that he was wide against a rail bias. Actually, he’s been wide against rail biases three times in a row, and he still put forth competitive efforts on two of those occasions. The further good news is that there’s no scary drop in class following that last race, and he had been relatively consistent up until that point. He has the tactical speed to work out the right trip here and will be a generous price.