RACE 3: BIG AL’S GAL (#2)
Saratoga Beauty has been popular at the claim box lately. She would obviously be formidable if she were able to repeat that 100 TimeformUS Speed Figure that she earned two back when winning by 7 lengths. However, that number is a real outlier in her past performances, and it was earned first off the claim for the dangerous Rob Atras barn. She didn’t fare nearly as well for Tom Morley and now she goes out for George Weaver. Weaver is 6 for 33 (18%, $1.56 ROI) first off the claim over the past 5 years. However, the barn is going through a real rough patch, as Weaver is just 1 for 56 (2%, $0.06 ROI) at NYRA over the past 3 months. Between the two short prices, I strongly prefer Big Al’s Gal. This mare drops back in against NY-breds after trying open company claimers in her last few starts. She ran well against a solid field for the level two back, a race that was flattered when runner-up Sweet Mia came back to win a $25k claimer. She couldn’t match that result last time, but she ran into a superior foe in Customerexperience, who just won again on Sunday with a massive speed figure improvement. She was also racing in the inside path on Dec. 19, a day that featured a dead rail. Now she goes out for Kelly Breen, who is a solid 12 for 51 (24%, $1.77 ROI) first off the claim in dirt sprints over 5 years. Her recent form is stronger than it appears and she handles the distance. If the track again appears to be playing to inside paths on Thursday, it might even be worth upgraded Wait a Minute, who has the speed to make the lead and was against a track bias when she last competed on Jan. 13. However, she really needs to turn around her form to upset both favorites.
RACE 6: ACTUARY (#6)
Jerusalem Gates is obviously the horse to beat as he drops in class. However, I’m reluctant to accept a short price on this horse for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the Linda Rice barn has been very cold as of late. Furthermore, this horse has had consistent issues at the gate. He routinely breaks slowly, and he’s now done it in both starts since returning from a layoff recently. The stretch-out may help, but I’m skeptical we’ll see him produce a top effort at what figures to be a pretty short price. The problem is that the other logical contenders aren’t all that appealing. Breaking Stones is probably the main rival, and he does seem like the second most likely winner if Jerusalem Gates stubs his toe. However, he got a good trip last time and just had no punch through the stretch. Furthermore, he usually takes more money than is really merited so I’m anticipating an underlay on him as well. My top pick is Actuary. This British-bred gelding has actually transferred his turf form to dirt in recent starts. The problem is that he was never particularly effective on turf, having failed to make an impact in any of his U.S. starts. He couldn’t even produce results for top claiming trainer Rob Atras, who let him go for $16k last time. That said, Antonio Arriaga is an underrated trainer, who is 6 for 21 (29%, $4.23 ROI) first off the claim in dirt routes over 5 years. This guy’s recent speed figures put him in the mix, and he didn’t get the best trip last time when Kendrick Carmouche overcommitted to an inside path.
RACE 8: GOLANI BRIGADE (#3)
There’s plenty of speed in this $25k claimer, but Steam Engine could be the so-called “speed of the speed” as he makes his first start off the claim for Rob Atras. This gelding is always sharply away from the gate, and rarely isn’t in front at the first call. His last couple of starts have been on the dull side for him, but he got involved in a very fast pace that fell apart last time. It’s not a great sign that he’s dropping in for $25k after getting claimed for $45k, but Rob Atras places horses where they can win, and this is probably just the right spot. I view him as the horse to beat, and he could make things tough on the other speed types. Dark Money could sit a good trip from just off the pace under apprentice Jose Gomez, who has been riding very well as of late. However, he was beaten for a cheaper tag last time and really just has that one effort from November at Belmont among his recent starts that makes him a serious player here. I prefer Golani Brigade. This runner’s recent form at Finger Lakes is solid. He ran particularly well last time when he survived a very fast early pace to hold off a couple of closers. That form was flattered when third-place finisher Fitzpatrick returned to run well at Aqueduct in a tougher spot. Golani Brigade has plenty of prior speed figures that make him competitive at this level and Jeffrey Englehart’s horses have run reasonably well at this meet despite the fact that he has just one win coming into this week. I’m hoping Dylan Davis can work out a stalking trip from the inside.