The second to last week of the meet starts with a Friday card featuring a state bred maiden special weight and followed by seven claiming races. One of those races is for maidens and the other six have some type of restriction. It looks like most of the rain that was forecasted yesterday, held off, so I’m expecting the three races carded for the turf to go forward as scheduled.
|1||1,5||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||2,3||1,7||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|3||2||1,5||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|4||6||4||DBL, PK3, PK5|
|5||8||2||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Race 1: Top Pick: 5
New Jersey bred two year old fillies go 5 and ½ Furlongs in the first race of the week. The second through fifth place finishers in a five horse race three weeks ago at this condition are back to face three first time starters. I’m not seeing anything on paper that gets me excited about the fillies making their debut, so I’ll side with a pair with experience. I’ll give the edge to Get Groovy (5) to get the job in her second career try. She dueled on the front end before being put away by Mia’s Crusade in her debut. Miss Yum Yum (1), who was the 3-5 favorite that day, did end up a little more than two lengths in front of her at the wire. However, I’m thinking that after having a race under her belt, she’ll be capable of improving here. Her trainer, Rory Huston, has decent numbers with second time starters. Miss Yum Yum has three second place finishes, but has never really been close to winning those races. She draws the rail for the fourth consecutive time, and Paco Lopez keeps the mount. She may be better than these, but she’s been a beaten favorite in her last two starts, and she’s even money on the morning line today, so I’m looking to the top pick for a little bit of value here.
Race 2: Top Pick: 3
This $25K-$20K N2L claiming race feels like a race where you’ll want some coverage. Four of the seven are coming off career top speed figures in their last start, and at this level, you have to wonder about consistency and whether or not some of these horses can duplicate that effort. Street Prayer (3) is moving up in class, but has been gradually improving and running consistent efforts for Mike Trombetta. He was roughed up at the break that out, but still made a bold move to grab the lead on the turn, only to be caught in the final strides when facing multi-conditioned $12,500-$10,500 claimers last out. He’s had some stops and starts in his career, but he appears to be headed back to the better form that he showed in his first two career races as a three year old. Wayne Potts has a pair of Saratoga shippers that are two of the four horses that are exiting races where they ran a new personal best Beyer figure. U.S. Steel (1) is the one that will almost certainly attract more dollars at the windows, coming off a strong second place finish at this level at Saratoga. He remains at the same level, but gets definite class relief moving to this circuit. He’ll be on my tickets, but he’ll have to prove that he can run another big race on the main track. I actually prefer his other horse, Far Away Look (2) who beat New York bred maiden claimers last out. He went to the shelf after a dull effort with maiden special weight foes back in December at Gulfstream. He was claimed by Potts last out for $25K, and he brings him here for the same tag while facing winners for the first time. He rallied from off the pace to get the victory that day and could sit a similar trip this afternoon. Will too Shy (7) ran a monster effort to beat $10K maiden claimers in the slop last out by over five lengths. Barring any pop up storms, he’ll go on a fast track today for the first time while facing a tough group of winners for his new connections. He’s been popular at the claim box in his two career starts, being plucked out of both of those races. There’s reason to believe he can be a useful horse, but I’ll need better value on him to use him more prominently here.
Race 3: Top Pick: 2
The first turf race of the day is a $40-$30K maiden claiming contest where a relatively mediocre field for the condition will try to defeat a heavy Chad Brown favorite, Gabby Squared (2). I feel like they’re going to be up against it here, as this filly has been close against better competition on the NYRA circuit and at Gulfstream. She has enough tactical speed to sit close to Vicious Velma (1), who should be the pacesetter, unless the first time starter, Spring Into Action (4), who does have a 4F bullet work a few weeks ago, comes out running. She’s come up short against stronger competition, but she just seems faster than this group. Vicious Velma has come up short in the stretch after leading in each of her three turf starts. She finds a field where there spears to be little to no competition for the early lead. She did tire over the good going two weeks ago, so she might be one to downgrade if there is some give in the course. I’ll include in her on some tickets as she definitely does have a pace advantage, whether or not she can take advantage of that is another story. Varsity Kickline (5) is an interesting filly making her third career start in less than a month’s time. She debuted on 8/27 with $16K maiden claiming fillies when running for Todd Pletcher. She was outrun every step of the way, and was claimed by Allison Escobar. She brought her back six days later in a $30K maiden claimer, where she showed a lot of improvement. She rallied to be second that day when going off at 65-1, finishing in front of Vicious Velma. I’m still not sure what to expect from her two weeks later, but if the pace is a little lively, she could be one to pick up the pieces.
Race 4: Top Pick: 6
This $5K is restricted to horses that either never won four races or horses that have not won two races in six months. Even though the races look the same in the Racing Form, this is a stiffer condition than the $5K claiming race that Chase Runner (6) dominated last month. That race was for non-winners of three races or horses that have not won a race in six months. That being said, I still think Chase Runner is the one to beat here. He is the most consistent runner in the field and he boats that highest winning percentage in the group, winning 6 of 25 career starts. He’s in his third race off the layoff and has two very good efforts on this track in his first two starts of the year. Albin Jimenez worked out a good trip from a wide draw last out and with some other speed drawn to his inside, I think he can navigate a similar trip today. Grimgrinnin’ Ghost (4) may be the best late speed in the race and the one that stands to pick up the pieces if the pace gets too hot. He was claimed by Jose Camejo last out when overcoming a bad stumble at the start to almost get up in time to score at this level last out. Camejo gave him a little extra time off that race, bringing him back six weeks later. Isaac Castillo, who is second in the rider standings here, picks up the mount, which is a positive sign.
Race 5: Top Pick: 8
The Win-Early Pick-5 and the Early Pick-4 both end with this $16K-$14K N2L claiming race at 5 Furlongs on the turf. Third Time Around (8) is a dangerous three year old filly when she is right and things go her way. She has struggled when facing better and has faltered when she’s been passed, so there are risks associated with her. I’ll draw a line through her last effort on the dirt with cheaper when she didn’t pick up her feet. She’s clearly better on the grass, and she’s facing a pretty soft field on the turf, probably the softest she’s ever been against. She has good speed and the outside draw should be advantageous. I like her chances to get things right in her third start off the layoff. Cinque Amore (2) is the main danger, who is also dropping in class. She looked very comfortable in her turf debut when beating maiden special weight company at Penn National. Since coming here, she hasn’t had the same level of success. She drops from restricted $30K-$25K claiming company, so she’s facing easier rivals today. While this field lacks depth, I’m a bit concerned that she’s never really passed a horse in her career.
Win-Early Pick 5 Play – $48 Ticket:
Race 1: 1, 5
Race 2: 1, 2, 3, 7
Race 3: 1, 2, 5
Race 4: 4, 6
Race 5: 2, 8
Race 6: Top Pick: 3
This is another restricted claiming race, this one for horses that have never twice, running with a $7,500-$6,500 tag. Jo Jo Katz (6) is probably the one to beat despite a dull effort last out. He was wide most of the way and came up empty in the stretch in a race where he was claimed for $12,500. He adds blinkers and hopes to relive his effort from two back where he dominated a field of $10K maiden claimers in his first career try at two turns. I don’t love the claim and drop gambit here though, so I’ll make Exxtop (3) my top pick. He’s getting back on the dirt after trying the turf in his first race off the Jesus Cruz claim. That effort on the turf with better was a significant improvement from his only other career try on the turf back at Gulfstream in the spring. He returns to this level where he was most recently a troubled trip 6th two starts ago. He’s run better races of late after some dull efforts earlier this season. This may prove to be a good spot for him. Lend America (9) has also looked better of late, gaining some confidence in some off the turf races here two and three starts ago. He faced a better field of winners for the first time in a race that was carded for the dirt. He had a wide trip and finished 5th that day. I don’t love post nine for him, especially after his trip last out, but he’s been improving and still could make an impact on the drop in class.
Race 7: Top Pick: 8
I expect the favorites to be prominent in the final turf race of the afternoon, which is a $30K-$25K claiming contest for three year olds and up that have never won twice. I’ll give the slight edge to the lightly raced, Fatima’s Blessing (8). He was a game third behind a very nice older gelding, Projected, two weeks ago when facing a much tougher group of open $22K-$18K claimers. He runs with a higher tag here, but gets class relief while dropping into restricted company. He has three sharp efforts in three career starts on the grass. Of those races, his worst effort was two back, but he was hampered that day when avoiding a spill. I think this New York bred gelding has some quality and should be dangerous in this spot. Shore Magic (7) is the main danger, as he remains at this level after a solid second place finish here on 8/20. The winner of that race, US Constitution, came back to win in his subsequent start. He makes his second start of 2021 for Christophe Clement, and Paco Lopez keeping the mount is a plus. I’m not sure he’s the same horse that was posting big figures back in the fall on 2019 and early on in 2020, however, he should be able to take another step forward today.
Race 8: Top Pick: 6
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Restoring Hope (2) when he was entered in a similar $20K-$18K N3L claiming race. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because in 2018 when he was trained by Bob Baffert, he ran in the Belmont Stakes, along with his stablemate Justify. A few strides out of the gate, he seemed to take a right hand turn, carrying out some of the pace factors from the outside gates, creating an easy lead for Justify, en route to his Triple Crown win. Restoring Hope scratched on 8/8 when there was heavy rains and a very sloppy course. He has only raced six times since the Belmont, now running for his 4th different trainer in that time span. He last showed up here in 2019, and ran a monster race to be a close second, running a career top 99 Beyer. His three starts since have been nowhere near that. He drops in for a tag for the first time in his twelve race career, and this looks like a level where he can have some success. He was trounced when facing significantly better last out at Churchill, in a very fast race, where the winner stopped the clock in 1:08:1. I definitely respect him, but there’s enough uncertainty to try another horse on top, especially in a race that feels wide open, despite his short odds. I think R Rajun Bull (6) could be very tough in here, making his first start since a subpar turf effort here back in June when facing allowance company. He was game two back on dirt in N1X allowance company at Penn National two back and was a sharp winner three back when facing N2L claimers there. He ran a nice race here on the dirt in an off the turf spot last October. Promo Code (5) ships in from New York for Wayne Potts and drops in class. Toss his last in the slop and his fast track efforts in the spring and early summer would likely play well here. Paco Lopez, who has been riding many of Potts’ better horses, opts to ride Restoring Hope, but I’m okay with Christian Navarro getting the call. All six of his wins at the meet have come when riding for Potts. Nice of Me (4) outran his long odds when finishing 4th in an optional claiming/starter allowance spot last month. He is in good form and has some solid runs over this track at this meet. This is a salty group for the condition, and he might be better at the mile, but there’s enough question marks with the horses that are coming off a layoff in here, so he could be a valuable addition to the multi-race sequences. The same could be said for Groovy Tale (3) who is making his first start since November. He ran a big race last year for Rory Huston off a similar layoff. His most recent work was sharp, and while I prefer some of the others more, I think he makes sense to use on deeper tickets.
Meet Stats: 126/448 (Top Pick Winners) – $829.60 / $1.85 ROI per $2 win bet