RACE 1: CANTRELL HILL (#5)
Summer Bourbon may attract some support given his recent success at this level. He’s won two of his last three starts and was a close second last time at the $20k level. All of his recent speed figures are respectable and he just appears to be in strong form for trainer Jesus Romero. However, there are a number of rivals making their first starts off the claim who have more upside than the rail-drawn runner. Dream Bigger and Binkster exit the same NY-bred race at the $25k level in early October. The pace of that race was fast and contested, which set it up for closer Durkin’s Call to dominate that race with a late run. Dream Bigger was involved in that quick opening quarter, but Binkster arguably ran the better race, making a middle move before fading in the last furlong. Binkster was claimed back by former connections while Dream Bigger now makes his first start off the claim for the dangerous Mertkan Kantarmaci barn. I’m using both, but I’m a little concerned that the pace of this race could heat up with the speedy Jersey Joe B in the mix. For that reason I’m going in a different direction with Cantrell Hill. I like this 5-year-old turning back in distance after trying 1 1/16 miles at Belmont last time. He didn’t get the most decisive ride that day and was always out of position. He had previously run well sprinting and I think he’s going to get the pace setup he needs. Some will be turned off by the presence of Randi Persaud as the new trainer, but the stats say there’s nothing to worry about. Surprisingly, Persaud is 8 for 35 (23%, $5.53 ROI) first off the claim on dirt at Aqueduct over the past 5 years, and 6 for 20 (30%, $8.70 ROI) in sprints.
RACE 7: RUVIES IN TIME (#6)
Breakfastatbonnies looked like she might have New York-bred stakes in her future following that impressive 11-length debut victory last winter. However, she’s been seen only sparingly since then, and has generally been a disappointment. Her only start in the past 7 months resulted in a desperate nose victory against much weaker competition. I think she’s vulnerable in a race where she figures to take money as the lightly raced new face among a field of familiar older rivals. I think the horse to beat is actually Honey Money. This 4-year-old has been a very good claim for Wayne Potts. Though she has lost all three races at this condition since moving up in class, she hasn’t run badly in any of those spots. Some may be turned off by her last race but that was during a time when Wayne Potts was serving a suspension. She just looked a little flat that day and she was ridden pretty conservatively. I think she’ll bounce back here and she’s obviously a threat to win with her good race. Yet I’m going in a different direction with a horse that is looking to recapture past glory. There was a time when Ruvies in Time would have been considered a clear favorite in this race, but her form has really fallen apart as of late. She was obviously never going to make an impact against subsequent Grade 1 winner Bella Sofia two back, but her last race was troublesome, as she showed absolutely nothing coming off the layoff. That said, the field may have been stronger than it seemed at the time, as Glass Ceiling returned to run a big race in the Pumpkin Pie next time out. Ruvies in Time is now back in against NY-breds, and perhaps the move back to Aqueduct will wake her up. She’s a little hard to trust, but there’s a race in her that can win this.
RACE 9: MARCH TO THE ARCH (#4)
I may have been a little dismissive of Rinaldi when making the morning line for this race, as this popular gelding figures to get bet down off my 6-1 projection. Rinaldi is a contender with his top effort, but he’s also been pretty opportunistic when he’s achieved success against stakes company. He was handed an easy lead when he won the West Point at Saratoga last time, and he encountered a similar situation this summer when he wired a good field in the Forbidden Apple. He’s clearly dangerous when allowed to set his own pace, but it’s been proven time and again that he’s vulnerable if rivals decide to apply some pressure. I’m hoping that horses like Tell Your Daddy and Field Pass are ridden aggressively enough to make him earn the lead. Tactics aside, I think there are simply better horses in this race. Flavius and Tell Your Daddy faced off twice this summer, with Flavius getting the better of the latter rival both times. However, Tell Your Daddy arguably ran just as well on each occasion, and he’s arguably moved forward since then. After getting a good setup in the Bernard Baruch, Tell Your Daddy took advantage of a good trip to earn a Grade 1 placing in the Keeneland Turf Mile. A repeat of that effort arguably makes him the horse to beat here. Flavius is a more difficult read, as he’s been dangerous on occasion. Yet more often he’s disappointed at short prices, giving the impression that he has some hang in him. I ultimately wanted to go in a different direction. If the pace does heat up, I think March to the Arch has a big chance to pull of the upset. This gelding had an abbreviated season at Woodbine this year with racing only getting started in the summer up north. Perhaps he’s not quite as sharp as he was during this 4-year-old and 5-year-old seasons, but I thought he ran deceptively well last time in the Woodbine Mile. His rider committed to the rail that day and he got shut off at a critical point of the stretch drive. He probably would have hit the board there with a clean run. Now he’s spotted appropriately in his first U.S. start of the season and I know he’s good enough to win with his best effort.