RACE 5: STAGE LEFT (#3)
My primary opinion in this race is that I want no part of Outlaw Kid (#8). He’s perhaps the best horse in this race, but he’s a turf horse. It would seem that his connections are just taking a shot on dirt since there are no more turf options in New York this year, in light of the announcement that only stakes will be carded on turf through this weekend, which marks the end of turf season. His pedigree is turf-oriented, and he’ll beat me at a short price. Looking beyond him, the other wild card in this field is In Dreams (#4) as he returns from a lengthy layoff in his first start off a trainer switch to Horacio De Paz. This barn sent out another runner for this owner off the same switch last week, and that horse ran decently to be fourth as the favorite. In Dreams showed ability last winter, but he’s a speed type in a race that appears to feature some other pace players, so he could be in for a taxing trip. Among the speeds, I actually prefer Coppola (#2) at what figures to be a better price. He got a strange ride last time at Indiana, as he was surprisingly rated after breaking well, and just lost position from there. He had shown ability at the start of his career, and ran into a very tough field at Keeneland two back. He now goes out for Carlos Martin after being purchase for $105k at Keeneland recently. My top pick is Stage Left (#3). I’m giving this horse one more chance, with the idea that he can work out a better trip this time. He put in a better effort than it appears two back when he was glued to a dead rail on the main track. Then last time he was just beaten by some better rivals in a tougher race at this level. He also got bumped very hard at the half-mile pole before racing wide on the turn. I’m hoping Eric Cancel can work out a smoother trip from off the pace this time.
RACE 7: SKRATCH KAT (#3)
Two fillies who competed in the Kentucky Oaks this year figure to vie for favoritism in this Comely at the end of each of their 3-year-old seasons. Kathleen O. (#4) went off as one of the favorites in the Oaks, and was slightly disappointing, checking in fifth. She just couldn’t produce the same late kick we had seen in her Florida preps. That said, she only finished 2 lengths behind runner-up Nest and would be dangerous here if she can build upon that performance. The major drawback is her running style, as she wants to drop back early and make one run, which hasn’t been the ideal trip over this Aqueduct track. Nostalgic (#5) didn’t run nearly as well in the Oaks, and put forth a series of lackluster efforts through the summer. However, she seemed to wake up in her return to Aqueduct last time, nearly pulling off an upset against older foes in the Turnback the Alarm. A repeat of that performance makes her dangerous here, but this is arguably a tougher field. There isn’t that much pace signed on, but I wasn’t thrilled with either potential pacesetter, and wanted to avoid Tizzy in the Sky (#8), who could take money off wins against weaker competition. A few contenders in this race exit the Seneca Overnight from September at Churchill. Sixtythreecaliber (#2) pulled off the upset that day and appears to be an improving filly for Tom Amoss. However, I’m most interested in that race’s third-place finisher Skratch Kat (#3). I would make the argument that she was best in the Seneca Overnight, as the pace failed to develop and she was finishing best of all late. I thought she put in a deceptively strong performance in the Alabama, closing into a moderate pace to be fourth behind Nest. And most recently she raced a bit greenly through the short stretch at Keeneland. I think she’s going to love stretching out to 9 furlongs and Manny Franco strikes me as a good fit for a filly who needs some encouragement to finish off her races.
RACE 8: NOTHING BETTER (#5)
I suppose Dancing Buck (#12) is the one to beat in this Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship off his victory last time in the Belmont Turf Sprint. However, he had everything go his way that day. Speed scratched out prior to the race, his primary remaining pace rival blew the start, and he was able to get away with a moderate pace over his preferred rain-softened turf course. The scenario looks different this time with more speed signed on and less rain in the forecast. He’s also stuck in the far outside post position. I actually think Gear Jockey (#9) is more likely to win. It might appear that he’s off form, going winless so far this season. However, he’s run well with some excuses on a few occasions. He had no chance after a wide trip in the Jaipur two back, but he rebounded well last time when chasing Golden Pal before fading in the Woodford. Six furlongs is a better distance for him. I could also give another chance to Yes and Yes (#10), who was compromised by a stumbling start behind Dancing Buck last time. It’s been a few starts since he’s been able to use his preferred aggressive tactics, but he’s in better form than it appears and could be dangerous here if he breaks cleanly. My top pick is another rival with speed. Nothing Better (#5) is in the best form of his career right now. Like last year, when he came to hand in the latter half of last season, he appears ready to deliver another top effort returning to the NYRA circuit. He’s developed into a consistent performer as a 5-year-old, running well under a variety of circumstances. He held his own in the Red Bank two back after chasing a quick pace going two turns, and last time he always looked like a winner wiring a field at Laurel. There is some other speed in here, but he may be the quickest of them all early. He figures to fly under the radar, but has the credentials to compete at this level.