The final Sunday of the meet is headlined by the Grade 3 Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes for fillies and mares going 12 furlongs on the turf. After a beautiful day on Saturday, Sunday’s weather will be a little cooler, but most importantly, dry. First post this afternoon is 1:00 (ET).
I’ll be covering this exciting meet on the ITM Blog, along with posting some updates and thoughts from time to time on Twitter @EricSolomon718. Feel free to reach out!
|Race||Top Pick||A||B||C||Exotics Menu|
|1||7||7||6||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||1||1,4,5||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|4||4||4,5||1,7||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|5||8||1,8||9||DBL, PK3, PK5, All-Turf PK3|
|6||7||7||4||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Patriots or Buccaneers fans might have a hunch bet with T B Twelve Always (#7) here. I’m a fan of neither but I think the horse is a player in this $150K maiden claiming race at 1 mile and 1/16 on the main track. He debuted at Gulfstream in the slop with maiden special weight company last month. He finished 3rd of 6 that day, about 6 lengths behind the winner. He’s sired by Tale of Verve, who carries a small $2K stud fee. His runners have only won twice in 57 starts, however, he’s not booking top quality mares. This runner sold for $75K at the OBS Sale in March of 2023, 37.5 times his stud fee, so there’s reason to believe that this horse has shown ability. I like the drop in class and the fact that he’s run better in the afternoon on dirt than any of his competition in this race is also encouraging. Town Hall (#6) definitely faced some good runners when he debuted at Ellis in a one mile maiden special weight. The race winner, West Saratoga, came back to win the Grade 3 Iroquois. The runner up that day, Generous Tipper, dominated in his next race, and then finished 3rd in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity earlier in the meet. Town Hall has some traffic issues coming out of the mile chute and on to the first turn. He made a nice middle move before leveling off and finishing 5th, beaten over 16 lengths. He’s trained by Brad Cox, so don’t expect much value on this Constitution homebred making his second career start.
The back end of the Early Double is another 1 mile and 1/16 maiden race, this one an allowance for fillies and mares. All seven runners that entered this race are three year old fillies. Medaglia Forever (#2) has the pedigree in this field and she’s run the fastest races. She was foaled by the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner, Forever Unbridled. She was really good when narrowly missing in a 10 furlong race at Churchill in April. She tired late at Ellis in her most recent start at the beginning of June. She needed a race off the layoff last time before she hit her best stride, so I feel this race might set her up nicely for a 9 or 10 furlong maiden allowance race next month at Churchill. For today, I’m trying to beat her. I’ll use Sassy Walker (#1) on top. She ran well when sprinting on the dirt here in her debut in the spring, She ran four times after that, with three of them coming in turf sprints. She finished in the money in two of those races before a dull effort when wide last out. Her dam was good at one mile and her first foal ran three times in sprint races before breaking his maiden impressively in his first route race. The dirt is a bit of a question mark, but I liked her effort here in April and I think she’ll get a favorable trip from her rail draw. Colette’s Joy (#5) is also going from turf to dirt in this race. She ran well at one mile on the dirt at Del Mar two back, but the turf experiment in her Churchill debut at the beginning of the month was forgettable. Phil D’Amato has done well with the few horses he’s run at this meet. I could see her improving in her return to dirt today. Flashy Lass (#4) is the morning line favorite, and while she has the best last race Beyer figure, I didn’t love what I saw. She was headstrong on the front end early and then never switched leads throughout the length of the stretch. Cox gave her a little extra time after that race and he now takes blinkers off. Perhaps the extra practice and the equipment change will help to correct that issue. I respect her enough to use her on the A line, but vertically, she might be worth trying to beat at short odds.
$50K open claimers are going nine furlongs on the main track here. I landed on The Reds (#6) here for Joe Sharp, thinking that he’ll rebound after a dull effort when trying the turf for the first time last out. He was claimed out of an exceptional optional claiming/N2X allowance race at Spa in July. The winner of that race, Bright Future, came back to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Labor Day Weekend. Sharp took a swing with him at that level, on grass last out in Louisville, and he finished in the middle of the pack, never having an impact on the outcome of that race. He likes this distance on the dirt, and I’ll forgive his poor effort here in the spring when We the People was an easy winner. I like his chances at this level today. The main threat figures to be Ethical Judgement (#3), for Brendan Walsh and Tyler Gaffalione. Both trainer and rider are in the thick of their respective meet title races. He was 5th, beaten less than two lengths in an optional claiming/N2X allowance race at Churchill in his last start. He has never finished off the board in three trips here and I see him as another one that is dangerous on the drop in class. Allege (#5) may try to take them every step of the way like he did last out at this level at Churchill. He’s been claimed for $50K in each of his last two starts. He’ll go for Steve Margolis for the first time this afternoon. He could be tailing off a bit from his best form as he is a six year old gelding. However, on his best day, he can win this race.
A field of ten has been assembled in this $20K maiden claiming race for fillies and mares at six furlongs. There’s not much separating top from bottom in this race, so taking a short price feels counterproductive. I’ll try Insightful Miss (#4) on top for Troy Newton, cutting back to a sprint after faltering at one mile last out. Her debut at Ellis wasn’t terrible, but she dropped in class and was entered in a race taken on the turf. She was forwardly placed but backed up to be 4th. The winner and third place finisher of that race came back to win in their next starts. This feels like a logical spot for her third career try and her first for her connections. Soulful Tara (#5) has made forward progress with her speed figures in her three dirt races. There is a dull turf effort sandwiched in between two starts ago. She’s run okay with $30K maiden claimers at Ellis and Churchill and if she can take a small step forward on the drop in class to the $20K maiden claiming level, she’ll be tough to deal with. I’ll use the morning line favorite, Belle of the Ball (#7) as a backup in this spot, because she could wind up being a loose leader off the layoff. I’m okay with the deep drop in class as she was purchased at the Keeneland November Sale in 2022 after three dull efforts. The price tag that day was $22K. She ran once for her new connections at Turfway in January and has been sidelined since. There’s a definite question as to whether or not she can be as good as she was at the start of 2022. My Best Day Ever (#1) is the alternative pacesetter if Belle of the Ball doesn’t break out front. She showed some zip before fading with restricted maiden special weight company last out. I don’t love the immediate drop into lower level maiden claiming, however, this field is not very deep and horses near the lead have had an advantage for the majority of the meet in dirt sprints.
The Late Pick-5 and the All-Turf Pick-3 gets started with a conditioned allowance race for fillies and mares, sprinting 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf. There is a ton of speed signed on in this race with as many as nine runners trying to set the tempo. Querobin Dourada (#8) is going to need to work out a trip, but she would be the one that I think is most likely to run by them all in the stretch. She nearly did that back in the spring, when she finished a fast closing 2nd in the Giant’s Causeway Stakes on this course. She’s run well in her last three starts, all coming at one mile. She cuts back to this distance where she’s only competed at twice. Her last effort was better than her first and Paulo Lobo has her in good form. Top Gun Girl (#1) is likely the speed of the speed of the speed in this race. While she’s going to be under fire from the time the gate springs open. The nightcap yesterday was a race with far less early speed on paper, but it was won by a longshot that went gate to wire. She’s got the shortest path to the wire in this race, which may be advantageous. Goin’ Good (#9) may be the mare that will get first run on the early leaders in this race. She’s finished in the money in her last three starts, two of which came in stakes company. Her half brother debuted in a race taken off the turf the other day here, finishing 7th after flashing some early zip. She might be the most consistent runner in the field, but she’s probably also better suited for the bottom of the vertical exotics.
This N1X allowance race drew a field of seven, but like so many other races on these top circuits, it’s a battle between a Chad Brown and a Todd Pletcher horse. The Brown horse is the morning line favorite, Leading Contender (#4). He’s made three starts, breaking his maiden two back in a salty maiden special weight race at two turns on the Haskell Undercard at Monmouth. The second, third, and sixth place finishers from that race all came back to break their maidens in their next starts. He shipped to the Spa to run second to Film Star, who crushed a N2X field two weeks later and then finished a game second behind Zandon in the Woodward in his most recent start. Saqeel, who finished behind him, easily cleared this N1X level at Churchill in his next start. He’s coming out of a pair of live races and he figures to be very tough to contend with. However, there’s not too much speed in this race, and the Pletcher runner in the outside stall, Black Rain (#7), should benefit from that. He finished 4th in a competitive maiden race at Saratoga when he made his debut. He came back to score a hard fought maiden win when going the one turn mile at Aqueduct in his last start. Much like the favorite, horses from his last two races have also come back winners in their next starts. Three horses from each race came back to find the Winner’s Circle in their subsequent outings. His dam, Sustained, was a nice runner, but she’s produced two stakes winners. Turned Aside was a talented turf sprinter, with his best win coming in the Grade 3 Quick Call. Ethereal Road won the Sir Barton last year and narrowly missed in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes on the road to the Kentucky Derby. He showed a new dimension at two turns, coming from off the pace. Black Rain was purchased before either runner had their signature moment, making the $32K they paid for him in 2021 look like great value. I think he sets the pace and I think Leading Contender is going to be coming, but will come up just short.
Race 7, The Grade 3 Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes:
The featured race on the afternoon is a 12 furlong marathon for fillies and mares. I made a case for Lovely Princess (#8) yesterday in allowance company, but Ken McPeek opted to defect from that race and point to this graded stakes race instead. She ran well in the Keertana at this distance at Churchill back in May. She has been second in her last three stakes races, the last two coming at shorter distances. She loves this course and the confidence that her connections have shown in her is encouraging. Vergara (#3), Transient (#9), and Personal Best (#5), were 1st, 2nd, and 4th, respectively, in the Grade 3 Ladies Marathon at Kentucky Downs, going a full circuit there, which is 1 mile and 5/16. Vergara couldn’t keep up with McCulick and War Like Goddess in the Glen Falls at this distance two starts ago, but there’s no one of that caliber in this field. Transient also had trouble keeping pace in the late stages of the Orchid at this distance at Gulfstream earlier in the year. Personal Best won the La Prevoyante at this distance at the beginning of the year, but her form has tailed off in her last three starts. Vergara is the one from this trip that I have the most confidence in. I will back up with Personal Best, because she is a graded stakes winner at this distance. However, I don’t love taking 4-1 on her after her last few starts. 6-1 or higher would be the jumping off point for me.
An overflow field of 16 two year old maidens will go 6 and ½ furlongs in maiden special weight company. 10 of 12 in the body of the field are going to be making their first career starts. 3 of the 4 runners on the AE list have race day experience. Agoo (#11) and No Judgment (#14) are coming out of a strong maiden allowance at Churchill. The winner of that race came back to dominate an allowance race here last week. Two horses that finished behind this duo have run since. Nyquist’s Frequency was second to a dominant winner who put up a big figure and Andy’s Candy was a winner with $75K maiden claimers. Both runners come from smaller barns, but both look like they can run a bit. Agoo has been working well and showed a little more tactical speed than No Judgment. I like both of these runners, giving the slight nod to Agoo. I do want coverage in this race as there are some sweet pedigrees and some well-meant horses that are set to be unveiled by some heavy-hitting barns. Perhaps the most notable runner to debut would be Ethan Energy (#7) who is a half to the multiple graded stakes winning sprinter Royal Charlotte. That one was a debut winner, as was the dam, and Uncle Mo is a good first out sire. This Stonestreet firster running for Cox is bred to be a good one. Legalize (#2) has been working well for Cherie DeVaux in the mornings. This barn is coming off a win in the Lexus Raven Run yesterday with Vahva and they’re looking to keep rolling. The dam has produced some runners that were good early in their career. She was a good 4th in her debut on the turf and then she dominated in her next two starts on the dirt suring her brief career overseas. His connections paid $500K for him at the OBS Sale in April of this year. A longer priced runner that feels interesting to me in this race is Droptop Candy (#3), who debuts for George Arnold. The AM drills are solid and he’s sired by Uncle Mo, who has hot with 16% of his first timers in dirt sprints over the last five years. The dam is Jumby Bay, who was foaled by Rote. She foaled the winner of the 7th race yesterday, Single Dot Yaht. He’s flying under the radar in this loaded field, and at 20-1 or better, he feels like a live longshot.
The get out race for the week is a N1X allowance race for fillies and mares, sprinting 5 and ½ furlongs on the turf. That was some run from Get Twisted (#10) in her debut. She settled in midpack, waited to get a lane, and then once she switched leads, she accelerated to draw off to win going away, blowing up the toteboard at 91-1. Trainer Anna Navarrette has done a gone job with a small stable, winning 9 of 28 races this year. This filly looks like she has some ability and will be one to watch in the late stages once again/ Proud Mary (#1) is better than what she showed in her last race at Kentucky Downs. She was hung out wide and struggled in the final furlong when racing uphill. She was a confident winner two back at Laurel for Jonathon Thomas, and I think she’ll be able rebound today. All I Want Is You (#6) faced the boys at this level last out. The winner of that race, B D Valeski, was a competitive 4th in yesterday’s nightcap, when facing N2X foes on this course. She paired her Beyers in her last two starts and she wasn’t terrible on this course in her debut. She’s another live longshot in this competitive race. Queen of the Mud (#3) preferred the grass last out, breaking her maiden at Aqueduct in impressive fashion. She’ll have competition for the lead in this race and the cutback might not be the best thing for her. She’s a player, but I have a few doubts.
How to Read the Picks-Grid:
This grid has become my favorite tool for helping to handicap a race card in advance. Keep in mind that these designations for me are flexible and may change depending on how the value in the betting market shifts leading up to post time.
The “Top Pick” Column is fairly self-explanatory, meaning that it’s the horse that I think will win the race.
The “A” Column is reserved for the horses that I feel have the best chances of winning. The more horses that are in this column per race, the more wide open I think the race might be. For multi-race wagers, these horses will be on the bulk of my tickets. If I’m betting on the vertical wagers (exactas, trifectas, superfectas), these horses would likely be candidates to be keyed on top.
The “B” Column are horses that I think have a chance of winning, but I don’t like them as much as the runners on the A line. If I put a morning line favorite in this column, I’m trying to find ways to beat them. For me, favorites on the B line typically will either be used underneath in the vertical exotics, or perhaps not at all. They’ll typically be used on some back up tickets in the multi-race wagers, especially in races where the other options aren’t as strong. I might also relegate a horse to the B line if I don’t think there’s good value on that horse with their morning line odds or how I think the race will be bet. For example, If I think a horse should be closer to 5-1, and their morning line odds are 3-1, he might start on the B line for me. If the betting public moves the line closer to the odds that I feel are fair, and I like the horse’s chances, I could move them up when I’m playing the race.
The “C” Column is reserved as a deep backup for me. Again, if a favorite is on the C line, that’s me telling you that I don’t like them that much in this race. I definitely won’t be using them on top in any vertical wager, as I’ll be trying to beat them with most of my tickets. Sometimes this spot will be reserved for a crazy longshot that checks one of the boxes I might be looking for when playing horses at long odds.