RACE 2: SMOKIN T (#9)
Al’s Rocket is clearly the horse to beat on the basis of his turf debut here just two weeks ago. He looked on his way to victory after working out a good trip, but he got run down by the favorite late. This grey colt has shown a tendency to hang on his left lead for the entire stretch drive, which may have cost him the win last time. He’s still a bit green, but he has talent and deserves to be favored. A few second time starters were intended to get on turf in their debuts but got rained off in a Nov. 12 race at this level. The one that interests me most from that affair is Order of Magnitude. He raced greenly towards the back of the pack early, and spent the majority of his trip right down on the rail on a day when you wanted to be in the outside paths. Now he gets on the surface for which he was originally intended, though he doesn’t have a ton of pedigree for grass. His best being Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Drefong, so it’s noteworthy that Chad seems committed to running him on grass. I want to go in a different direction with a horse who already has turf experience. Smokin’ T has obviously improved on turf in his last couple of starts, though he didn’t make a significant impact on either occasion. That said, he ran into a pretty good rival two back, as winner Slipstream came back to win the Grade 3 Futurity, and some others also returned from that race to improve. Then last time he found himself in an oddly run race in which the field was incredibly bunched the whole way. He was stymied in traffic for much of the stretch drive, with Manny Franco never able to fully set him down, and he appeared to finish the race with more left in the tank. I’m hoping he gets a more aggressive ride from this outside draw because I suspect he has more grass ability than he’s shown thus far.
RACE 5: BYHUBBYHELLOMONEY (#7)
The Important One figures to go off as the clear favorite here as she seeks her fourth consecutive victory since switching back to dirt this summer. She’s achieved all of those victories in gate-to-wire fashion, most recently controlling the early pace of the Iroquois before running away from that stakes field. However, she got away with a slow opening quarter that day, and this is arguably a tougher spot than that. She also has to deal with main rival Trinni Luck, who is very fast and should be sent up to contest the pace by Manny Franco. She’s coming off a disappointing effort in the Empire Distaff, but I don’t think she really wants to go that far. Even though she won a route race two back, she rode a track bias that day, and is probably better suited to sprinting. She has earned her best speed figures with the aid of biases, so I’m somewhat skeptical that she can reproduce that form here. Bank Sting also makes sense exiting the Empire Distaff. That was her first race off a layoff and she put in a solid effort to split the field. She also may be better going slightly shorter. Yet the horse that I want from that Empire Distaff is Byhubbyhellomoney. While she did win going 9 furlongs up at Saratoga, I think she’s more of a sprinter. She put in a strong late run while rallying through traffic to be second to The Important One two back. Last time in the Empire Distaff she was wide every step of the way, just not appearing to handle the track. I like the turnback for her, and I think she could come running late if the two favorites hook up on the front end. She also rarely gets the tote support that she deserves, so she figures to be an enticing price in a race with limited options.
RACE 10: OUR LAST BUCK (#9)
Michelle Nevin appears to hold a strong hand in this New York Stallion Series event that closes out the day. My Boy Tate figures to go favored as he seeks his fifth win of the year and third in a row. He put in a couple of good efforts at Saratoga this summer, losing to the speedy rivals Foolish Ghost and Wondrwherecraigis, the latter of which has since gone on to graded stakes success. Nevin placed My Boy Tate in a couple of softer spots after that, as he won a couple of races at Parx and Finger Lakes within the span of a week, taking both with ease as the odds-on favorite. He seems ready to step back up in class now and he usually shows up with some of his best performances over this Aqueduct strip. I’m not against him, but I do think he’s going to be the clear-cut favorite off that series of wins. I prefer Nevin’s other runner Our Last Buck at a slightly better price. I’m willing to give this gelding a pass for his poor effort in the Hudson last time. He just never appeared to get comfortable over that sloppy track, as he was outrun early and then steadied between horses in upper stretch when trying to mount a rally. Prior to that he had run one of the best races of his career at Saratoga when finishing second to eventual Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Aloha West. He’s only tried this 7-furlong distance twice in his career, but those have arguably been his two best performances ever. While he’s had some success on wet tracks in the past, he seems to require fast going to produce his best form these days and he should get that on Sunday. I’d lean most heavily on them, as I want the proven sprinters rather than those cutting back in distance. Captain Bombastic will appreciate the cutback after trying the Empire Classic last time, but I still want to see him bring his best races to New York after he woke up at Laurel two back. Rinaldi is the wild card in this field as he makes his first start on dirt after a solid career on turf. He has always trained well on the dirt, but he’s not the kind of runner I’d want to support at any kind of short price, so I’m taking a stand against him here.