RACE 5: CUPIDS GIRL (#3)
Everyoneloveslinda nearly got the job done in her second start at Saratoga, leading all the way until the final jump before the wire. She was sent favored in her next start, but was unable to contend with a trio of first time starters who completed the trifecta. Those speed figures that she earned last year make her very competitive against this field if she can return in the same form. Yet she’s been off, and returns in the barn of original trainer Ed Barker. He is 4 for 18 (22%, $2.06 ROI) off 90-180 day layoffs in dirt sprints over 5 years. She has the speed to make the lead, but may have to duel with Charlottesometimes early. I prefer the two fillies with recency. Sweet Solare figures to vie for favoritism in her second start. There was some buzz about her on debut, as she took some money to go off at 3-1. She was away to an awkward start and found herself in mid-pack early, having to be ridden to maintain that position on the turn. She stayed on gamely through the stretch, but did lose second late. Horacio De Paz does well with runners like this, but I prefer the horse that ran by her in the closing stages last time. Cupids Girl’s speed figures are consistently a cut below what’s needed to win at this level. Yet she’s actually run deceptively well on a few occasions. She showed promise to pass half the field in her debut after a very slow start. She justifiably took money second time out, but was trying to make up ground against a rail bias through the lane. Then last time she got held up behind a moderate pace before closing with a flourish through the stretch. I think she’s still a bit underrated, and is likely to be a square price here given the perceived upside among her rivals.
RACE 7: BIG AL’S GAL (#2)
Witch Hunter could go favored here despite getting eased at this level last time out. Clearly something went amiss that day, and it’s somewhat encouraging that she’s returning with no alarming drop in class. That said, I wasn’t a fan of hers last time, since she appeared to be dressed up off races against weaker company at Finger Lakes and Gulfstream. She fits from a speed figure standpoint, but she’s hardly a standout and the turnback to 6 1/2 furlongs is a bit of an unknown. I’m even more squarely against Fancy Feline, who could also attract support. She rode a strong rail bias when she won last time, improving her speed figure substantially over her prior best. I would be surprised if she were able to run back to that effort. I prefer the two runners drawn towards the inside. Cinderella’s Cause has picked up a minor award at this level in the past, and now she’s making her first start off the claim for Chris Englehart. Yet perhaps more notably, she’s claimed away from Chad Summers, whose runners went 9 for 23 (39%, $2.56 ROI) first off a claim away from him over the past 5 years. My top pick is Big Al’s Gal, who also goes first off the claim for a new barn. Antonio Arriaga has better stats with routers than sprinters off the claim, but I still think this mare could improve off the trainer change. She had little chance to make up ground last time in a merry-go-round race which featured a slow pace. And two back, she was planted down inside on a day when the rail was dead. Her recent form isn’t as poor as it looks, and she should appreciate any moisture in the track with rain likely to fall on Friday.
RACE 8: SILIPO (#9)
It will be interesting to see how the public bets this race. I pegged Red Revolution as the lukewarm favorite on the morning line, and I’m unsure about how to handle this gelding. He ran a competitive speed figure in his maiden-breaking score last time, but he was beating a terrible field on a weird day that produced some wildly slow times. I want to see it again, but he’s obviously a win candidate off that recent effort. Good Skate also exits a maiden win, but he actually beat a field of reasonable quality last time out. The third-place finisher came back to hit the board against a tough maiden special weight field on Thursday, and the fourth-place finisher won next time out with an improved speed figure. Good Skate has to get a mile here, but he’s drawn well outside of his main pace rival. Printrack could also take money as the likely pacesetter. However, the Linda Rice barn has been extremely cold, going 1 for 23 (4%, $0.17 ROI) first off the claim at the current Aqueduct meet. A few horses exit a race at this level on Feb. 3. The one that I want from that affair is Hot Stepper, who was guided down to the worst part of the track along the rail to make his move before flattening out. Otherwise he’s been improving lately and goes out for a hot barn. My top pick is Silipo. This gelding lost his way a bit after winning his debut at Saratoga last summer. Yet he showed some gameness to win at Parx on Dec. 29, and took a big step forward in his subsequent two starts. He ran well against a bias two back at Aqueduct, and followed that up with a visually impressive win at Parx last time. Added ground is not supposed to be a problem for this half-brother to route stakes winner Not That Brady.