Aqueduct December 31

Last analysis for the year. It’s been a good year and I’m hoping 2015 will be even better. I had a lot of time given this was a dark day at the track, and it was below zero in Denver, so you’re getting a lot of bonus analysis today.

Race 1

This doesn’t look like a great betting race. If Bert Stone runs and wins, the payoff will not be very attractive. The two first time starters are not awe inspiring, but I don’t think you can eliminate Norman’s Hero the Levine horse. You’ve got four horses dropping in price. I’m sticking with my selections, but I’ll think before I spend a lot of money on this race.

  • 4 Bert Stone – in this $30K MCL Bert Stone is the stick out of the horses that have started. He is far speedier and either of his first two races is better than anything else in this field. It’s a little concerning that he couldn’t put away his last field, but this one is weaker.
  • 6 Norman’s Hero – in this race you can look a long time at the horses that have started and not come up with a logical exacta horse behind the 4. This first time starter is trained by Bruce Levine who wins at 19% with firsters. I like the workout pattern where the horse has some fast works early in the pattern, and some strength building works after. He’s bred decently for the distance and the dirt. Dylan Davis is not inspiring but not alot to beat in this field. And no, he wasn’t gelded four days ago. The connections reported it when he was entered.
  • 7 It’s Perfect Too – has a decent race on 10/17 at BEL, and perhaps  you can excuse him for being in over his head the last two.

Race 2

This was another uninspiring race. I sometimes think trip information can be overvalued. Rhody Rendezvous has had 6 starts, and has had trouble at the start in 5 of them. This is either a horse with incredible bad luck or a bad actor, and in either case it diminishes whatever figures he’s earned. It is always a tough call when you have a horse with a competitive figure and excuses every race, but regardless of the trouble, this horse has never made up a length in the stretch. And if he has a troubled start again he’s dead from the one post. Still, given the field, he’s not totally outless. You’ve also got the winter mix of price droppers – all but one are dropping with three dropping out of MSW – equipment changes, and excuses. I thought long and hard about Little Nell. She drops slightly in price and had a double excuse last time – steadied start and a sloppy track. But she was 32-1 (which means she was not well thought of), she’s not really bred for a short sprint, she didn’t run a step in the race, and Contessa is only average with second time starters. She could improve enough to win and I won’t say I’m shocked if she does, but you have to make some leaps to put her on top of the 2. The point – this is another race where unless you believe you have some insight and you get good odds it may be worth sitting on your hands.

  • 2 Dulce de Leche – showed a lot of speed at FL but came to AQU and ran a clunker on the turf. Dropping way down in price today and has a couple of works since his last. Should be the pacesetter.
  • 8 Gethot Stayhot – David Duggan trainee wound up running wide in her muddy debut but showed some interest, closing a few lengths in the stretch. Next out she ran into an inspired nine length winner. She drops in price and barring another inspired performance from one of the other runners, looks very competitive in here.
  • 1 Rhody Rendezvous – making her 7th start for James Ferraro. Troubled start and ran wide last out, so the poor finish can be excused. Has shown enough talent to be a factor.

Race 3

The races don’t get any easier as the card gets deeper. I’ll admit in cheaper maiden races – and state breds are cheaper – I tend to look for horses with experience that haven’t shown themselves to be chronic losers. Fenwick Hall fits the bill, but there are some obvious negatives – no heart in the stretch seems to have been an issue in her first three starts. But she looks like good speed even if the first timers run to the front. I didn’t use Beating Heart Baby, but she is another excuse horse. Squeezed at the start and very wide in the stretch. She actually did make up lengths and if the first timers are duds and Fenwick Hall is really heartless, she’s got a good chance at a medium price. Again, this may not be a great betting race unless you have a strong opinion and get some good odds.

  • 4 Fenwick Hall – looks best of the horses that have started. Although this is her fourth start, Bruce Brown keeps her in the MSW ranks and that is a positive. Workout two weeks ago was a good one, workout 4 days ago more of a leisurely gallop.
  • 7 Paradise Peak – Eddie Kenneally has been doing well with limited starters at AQU. Congrats is decent with debut runners and is decent with sprinters. Nice workout pattern, especially the last blowout. Having Jose Ortiz aboard should help.
  • 2 Ginned Up – first time starter for Gary Contessa who is only 7%. Still, I like Indian Charlie debut runners, especially at the sprint distances. Eye catching workout four days ago.

Race 4

This one was a bit maddening. You can’t ignore the Pletcher horse and you’ll be lucky to get 2-1 on him. Same with the McLaughlin horse. They are basically saying these horses have no place in their barns. At least I believe in this race I’ve got the right runners, but the prices might be thin. Update: Pletcher scratched the 1 so I’ll just stay with the 4 and 5

  • 1 Lawmaker – Frankly, this looks like Pletcher doing some late winter cleaning. He drops the horse way down today, and I’m reading it as looking to pick up a purse on a horse he doesn’t see as being part of his 2015 plans. He’s got the figures to beat this field. Would be no surprise to see him win and get claimed by Jacobson.
  • 4 Empower – looks to be the best front runner and can be excused for not beating a stakes field on the synthetic. Actually broke his maiden on the AQU inner last January. McLaughlin is 28% with the long layoff sorts, and although the drop to $25K is drastic, it may be the same strategy Pletcher is using – snag a purse, lose the horse, and move on. Clearly they think less of him than they did last year since he was gelded between March and this race. Perhaps a bit ambiguous, but has enough positives to be interesting.
  • 5 Speeding Comet – Another Kenneally runner. This one was claimed last out at CD from the well-regarded Mark Casse. His maiden win was impressive, battling the whole way down the stretch. Improvement is certainly possible. Another with some ambiguity but plenty of positives.

Race 5      The Bay Ridge      1a-5-8

This is a really nice field. 12 horses and you could make a credible case for half of them. The two not in my top three that may be interesting are Macha and Storied Lady. Macha is a horse that looked talented but never really blossomed. If she wins I wouldn’t be shocked, but I’m not betting that way. Same with Storied Lady. I went back and forth between her and Miss Da Point, but in the end I went with the 8. I expect this will be a good race.

  • 2 Jcs American Dream – won his last on a muddy track. Of course there were only four starters in that allowance affair. Her figures are not quite as good as a few others in here.
  • 1 Dreaming of Cara – the weaker half of the Mitchell Friedman entry. Hasn’t won this year and it doesn’t look like today is the day.
  • 3 Little Rocket – Puts the blinkers on today. Has been running well at FL, but definitely would have to move forward today to be a factor. Looks more like a sprinter so might be part of the early pace.
  • 1a Carameaway – good figures and has been running well most of 2014. Good at the distance and likes to do her running on the front end. Gets the nod in a competitive affair.
  • 4 Macha – hard to get an accurate read on the horse. Was in the G1 Santa Margarita in March but was obviously overmatched. Shipped to BEL and did nothing in a mile state-bred race. Then went back to Fresno and finished third in a stakes sprint. Now trained by RuRod who has given her a steady series of December works. Interesting horse, but I’m going to take a stand against her today.
  • 5 Flipcup – a little bit of seconditis this year, but until last race was 7 for 7 in the money in 2014. Her out of the money finish was the G3 Comely and it looks like she was just overmatched. She looks like she is at her best distance and definitely has win potential. Solid second choice.
  • 6 Miss Narcissist – 0 for 6 with one second this year. Looks up against it in this field.
  • 7 Get Gorgeous – Pulled up last race, but in any case doesn’t look fast enough.
  • 8 Miss Da Point – Nice second in an allowance race on the inner last out in an excellent time. Very nice work five days ago. Perhaps a little beneath some in this field, but has the talent and has the running style to win here.
  • 9 Hot Rendezvous – She has 3 wins in 4 starts at the AQU inner, and her loss was a state-bred stake. She did finish second in the Broadway but has been on the shelf since May. Contessa is 17% with the long layoff, and he’s been giving her longer workouts, likely to give her some condition. Probably not the winner, but it is not beyond her capability to finish in the money.
  • 10 Storied Lady – won an OC $40K last out but before that was struggling against horses similar to this field. Is 3 of 5 on the inner and looks like another that may not have high win potential but has chances to finish on the board.
  • 11 Royal Suspicion – 6 for 46 mare looks over her head against this field.

Race 6

Cheap race but another full field. There are some question marks – Benny’s Bullet could certainly win the race, but I’m fairly solid with my picks.

  • 2 Jubilant Vision – Kenneally is certainly prominent today. This horse broke her maiden as a two year old for Steve Asmussen at Churchill, and raced pretty well in her allowance start this June. Has a somewhat spotty workout pattern and that is of concern. Two in July, one in September, one in November and two in December. Has good figures and if she is in shape she will be tough.
  • 9 Kleptocrat – broke her maiden  at BEL but has been off two and a half months. Has a good workout pattern for her return. Competitive last race figure.
  • 6 Missy Bay – Spent all of 2014 on the turf until her last race where she ran a good second at this class on the inner. If she duplicates that effort she is in the mix.

Race 7

I struggled a little bit after I got by the 1 and 3. Just Catty is one of those horses that always gets my attention, especially at the odds. I think when you are doing public selections you have to be pretty solid when you put a 12-1 shot on top, and I couldn’t put her ahead of Sherifa, but I’m expecting I’ll get a run out of the horse. I also had a difficult time with the third slot, and I vascillated between Graceful Gal and Moves Your Soul, finally settling on the latter. I just liked that the horse finally got a break after being a competitor all year. Still, Graceful Gal is one of the horses that has had some good two turn success, albeit on the turf. She apparently didn’t take to the dirt last out and if she beats me she beats me.

  • 1 Sherifa – dominant figures, should be the pacesetter, and a good effort last out on the dirt. ML favorite and looks best here.
  • 3 Just Catty – Had been running well at FL and came to AQU where she was overmatched in the Stallion Series. Two wins at a mile, and some good maintenance works getting ready for this. At 12-1 ML she could be the value play of the day.
  • 5 Moves Your Soul – lots of seconds and thirds at FL this year. This is her 19th start of 2014 but her first in five weeks. She may have been tired in her last start when she looked ready to roll to the lead at the top of the stretch but hung.  She should be pressing the leading group and if she is back in condition she could be the danger.

Race 8      Alex M Robb       4-3-1

This is another really competitive race. I think you could make a case for at least 5 of the 8. Big Business is a horse that has run well all year, but has a touch of seconditis, so I discounted his chances at the top spot. Awesome Vision just doesn’t seem to be as good as he was in 2013, but he’s still a decent animal. Beautyinthepulpit is one of those horses that drives me crazy – a plodder early in the race but makes a furious move in the stretch. I think the 4 has a distinct pace advantage, and I like the other horse with a trainer switch, Effinex.

  • 1 Big Business – Was not going to beat Private Zone or Secret Circle in the Cigar Mile. Lots of seconds this year, including one in the G1 Forego. Has consistently run good figures and should be in a good position turning for home. One of the contenders.
  • 2 Awesome Vision – only win this year came last out in a non-conditioned allowance. Despite the 4-1 ML looks too slow to finish in front.
  • 3 Effinex – ambitiously placed in the Hawthorne Gold Cup last out but ran a decent fourth despite a troubled break. The switch to Jimmy Jerkens seems to have helped him – his last two races have been his best in terms of figures. Major player in here.
  • 4 Read the Byline – switch to Nevin got the gelding to run his best lifetime figure last out. Has the best early speed of this group and will take some catching. Very dangerous today.
  • 5 West Hills Giant – Another one that is very consistent but has not been able to win at this distance. A contender but lower on the win probability list.
  • 6 Gridley Here – Looks up against it in this field.
  • 7 Sinistra – Perhaps better than 20-1 but still doesn’t look like top 3 here.
  • 9 Beautyinthepulpit – Beaten by Effinex two back. Irad gets the reins here and that may help the horse a bit. A minor contender in my opinion

Race 9

The last race is another unsettled affair. I couldn’t make a case for the 1, 3, 4, 6 or 7. That left the 2, 5, 8 and 9. Given the record of the 9, I went with 2, 5, 8 in the top slots. But again, I don’t think this is a race to bet the farm.

  • 8 Rockjaz – First time starter for RuRod and he is a decent 13% with debut runners. Has been steadily prepping on the inner for his debut. Rockport Harbor’s have not been world beaters, but given the strength of this field I’m inclined to look for a horse that hasn’t developed a down side on the track yet.
  • 5 False Positive – didn’t break well last out but finished with a rush. Has been competitive in his last four starts and has the right to improve, but at the odds I’m looking for better value.
  • 2 Black Friday Rush – had been very disappointing on turf but showed some life when switched to a MCL on a sloppy inner track. Could improve today although at the odds is not likely to stimulate a win bet.