RACE 5: CHOOSE HAPPINESS (#2)
Dancing Kiki is obviously the horse to beat as she drops in for a tag for the first time since getting claimed for $35k by Michael Dubb and Mike Maker at Saratoga. If she runs back to her victory in the Saratoga Dew last August she will most assuredly find herself in the winner’s circle after this race. However, it seems unlikely that we’ll see that version of this mare. It’s also worth noting that she rode a speed bias on the day she won the Saratoga Dew. That said, she still displayed sudden improvement off the claim for Maker at a time when his barn was his barn sending out nothing but live runners through the first half of the Saratoga meet. She ran poorly in the Empire Distaff when last seen and now has been off for 3 months. She clearly hasn’t panned out recently, and she’s not exactly formidable against this field if she’s turned back into the horse that she was prior to the Maker claim. The other major players exit a common race at this level on Dec. 19. Honey Money achieved the best result checking in second behind dominant winner Vienna Code. She got a somewhat curious ride that day, as she was reserved off the pace despite looking like the controlling speed on paper. She did finish well, but did so in a race that turned into a sprint to the finish after slow early fractions. I’m not convinced that she can get the mile in a truly run race, and the barn has been cold lately. My top pick is Choose Happiness, who finished just behind Honey Money last time. She was most compromised by the slow pace, since she was reserved at the back of the pack early. She also spent the first half of her trip riding the rail on a day when that was not the place to be. She’s displayed steady improvement for Orlando Noda this year and may not have to improve much on her most recent effort if the favorite fails to show up.
RACE 7: GOLDEN PLUME (#1)
My Roxy Girl could go favored here as she steps up in class first off the claim for Linda Rice. Many players will be aware of the fact that she didn’t get the best ride or trip from Raul Mena last time out when she ran here just 7 days ago. She got caught in a pocket early and then found herself in traffic with nowhere to go when trying to split tiring runners in the stretch. It was an awkward trip and she arguably could have won that race with a clean run. However, it’s not as if she’s coming into this race with especially hidden form. She was running well prior to that for Juan Vazquez, and it seems unlikely that Linda Rice will improve a horse who already seemed to be firing on all cylinders. She can obviously win if she merely holds her form, but she’s moving up in class and there are more intriguing options at better prices. Some may be willing to give another shot to More Moonshine, but she’s run out of chances for me. She looked so promising at the start of her career, but she’s failed to recreate that debut performance in three subsequent starts. A couple of runners are switching from turf to dirt for the first time. I’m against Kept Waiting, who could take money due to the fact that she goes out for the hot Rob Falcone barn. She obviously comes off a career-best effort, but I’m not convinced that she’ll handle the main track. I am more optimistic about the dirt prospects of Golden Plume, who also switches surfaces. While her dam Nebraska Tornado was a very good turf horse, she did earn an 86 Beyer on dirt in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She’s primarily produced turf horses, but this filly is by Candy Ride. Furthermore, she’s always trained exceptionally well on the dirt, appearing to relish this surface in the mornings. She doesn’t have an overly turfy running style, lacking a turn of foot, so perhaps she’ll take to dirt. Chad Brown actually has solid stats making this move with older runners.
RACE 8: WILD CARP DIEM (#3)
Gimmedamoney looked like a promising sort in his career debut last summer, but he never really progressed thereafter. He was a disappointing beaten favorite second time out and has failed to make a major impact in any of his subsequent starts. In fairness to him, a couple of those came against stakes company at Finger Lakes, and you can’t fault him for losing to top NY-bred sprinter Senbei two back This horse was purchased by Parx-based connections for $22k out of the Fasig-Tipton December sale, so this $40k tag seems realistic. I’m just not totally convinced that he has a significant advantage over this field if he merely reproduces his last dirt effort. I’m most interested in a couple of alternatives. One of those is Bointheback, who drops in class second off the claim for Greg DiPrima. He put forth a trio of respectable efforts at the outset of his career for Tony Dutrow, but he didn’t really progress with his peers through the latter half of the year. That said, he ran fairly well at this level two back, and now he’s cutting back to the right distance after trying a tough maiden special weight last time. Greg DiPrima once had very good stats second off the claim. My top pick is Wild Carp Diem. He was never seriously involved in the turf debut, but he didn’t put in a bad effort, running along in mid-pack throughout. He switched to dirt out of necessity last time and put in another respectable showing. He was obviously no match for talented runaway winner Impressionist, but he was doing some running late after altering course in upper stretch. He appeared to handle the dirt without issue, and now he’s simply getting needed class relief.