Labor Day weekend rolls on this Saturday with a 12 race card, highlighted by the Red Bank Stakes at a mile on the turf. As I was working ahead this weekend, I thought turf racing might be in jeopardy due to the heavy rains on Wednesday, however, they did run on the turf yesterday, and the course looks like it’s in great shape for the tail end of the meet. I’ll leave the dirt opinions in here, but I’m fully expecting them to be running on the grass.
|DBL, PK3, PK5|
|2||5,7||2||6||DBL, PK3, PK4|
|7||1,2,6||DBL, PK3, PK6|
|DBL, PK3, PK5|
|9||5||1||DBL, PK3, PK4|
Race 1: Top Pick: 6 (Turf) / 2 (Dirt)
The day starts off with a competitive $30K-$25K maiden claimer that is carded for the turf. I’m going to take a price here and try The Don of Squan (6) getting on the grass for the first time. He faced some tough foes in maiden special weight company on the dirt in his first two starts. He dropped to the $20K maiden claiming level last out and closed well to be second that day as the favorite. His pedigree suggests that he could take to the turf as he is sired by Verrazano, out of a Perfect Soul mare. I’d play him at this level on the dirt as well. The Angry Man (2) has had several chances, and now drops into the lowest level yet in his eleven race career. He was dull at nine furlongs two back in the mud at Saratoga in a race that was rained off the turf. He improved with $40K maiden claimers last out, getting back in to better form. He’s now third off a layoff and dual surface threat, as he has some sharp efforts on the main track on dry ground earlier in his career. I’d give him the edge if this race is contested on the dirt, but I still think he’s a major player on the turf. Momza (1) is the morning line favorite off one sharp effort on the turf three starts back. Three of his six career tries have been in races where the weather has forced his race to be run on the main track. I’d prefer to see this $200K give the turf one more chance with maiden special weight company. I still respect him enough to use him in this spot though. Le Coste (7) is one that likes to come on the scene late. He came close last out at this level, while making his second start off a thirteen month layoff. I’m not sure he’s going to get an ideal pace setup in this race though, as there isn’t much early speed signed on. Sea City (8) is another one to consider on deeper tickets. He’s exiting the same race at Saratoga that The Angry Man is coming out of. Sea City was slightly less than two lengths behind that one last time. He has some upside, making only his 5th career start. If the odds disparity between the two widens, he’ll become more enticing.
Race 2: Top Pick: 5
Filly and mare maidens, running with a $12,500-$10,500 tag, go six furlongs here. This might be the softest maiden claiming race of the meet thus far. I’ll try the second time starter, coming in from Laurel for Claudio Gonzalez, Great Fun (5). She debuted in October with $25K maiden claimers where she showed a little interest early, but fell back when ridden hard, finishing 5th, beaten 23 lengths. That performance does not inspire much confidence, but she clearly faced better opponents that day. The drop in class is logical and her works over the course are good enough to take a shot with her here. Gone Dreaming (7) is a twelve time maiden, trying to graduate in start number thirteen. She’s by far the most consistent runner in the bunch finishing second or third in six consecutive races at a similar level. She came within a neck of winning two back and this is the softest field she’s seen yet. Another Saucy Six (2) ran last week when facing males in New Jersey bred maiden special weight company, making her first start on the main track. She backpedaled to finish last of nine, when the winner, Rachel Caroline, put forth a rather strong effort. Carvajal brings her right back a week later, and keeps her on the main track. She may have a forward move in this spot. If speed is playing well on Friday, perhaps Dontlosethatnumber (6) is worth upgrading. She may have gone off form, as her last two have not been good. She ran a credible race three back when she finished second, ahead of Gone Dreaming, when doing all the heavy lifting up front. I do worry about her being softened up by Ellie Be Dancing (4), with the Paco Lopez aboard though, as I think he’s likely to give that one an aggressive ride.
Race 3: Top Pick: 6
This $7,500-$6,500 N2L claiming race has another field where the competition is subpar for the condition. Taino (6) is going to be the logical favorite here, moving into the Wayne Potts barn for the first time, and dropping in class. He was up the track a few weeks ago when facing $16K N2L claimers at Saratoga. He was way wide in that race and eased up late. This is definitely a softer group, and if you draw a line through his last start, his other four sprints on a fast track would make him very competitive with this group. Relator Danny D (4) broke through and finally graduated from the maiden ranks two starts back when facing a soft group of $10K maiden claimers in his 13th career try. He won while going six furlongs, but he has always been better at two turns. That being said, his effort two weeks ago was a little disappointing when facing winners for the first time in a route race. He cuts back to a sprint while staying at the same level. He’s still consistent enough to use with this field, as many of the others have shown little of late.
Race 4: Top Pick: 3
We have another $12,500-$10,500 maiden claiming race for fillies and mares and another soft field for the condition. This race is extremely tough to predict as most of the runners with better form have been better at one turn. Prominent Henny (3) makes the most sense as her debut at six furlongs was better than any other dirt race I can see from any of these. She has been awful in her two starts since, one of the turf, and the other with $10K maiden claimers on the dirt. She’ll likely go off as the favorite, so the value is going to be shaky at best. Tap Solo (5) has not been good at all in her two dirt races. Her first race was on debut where she didn’t break well, and was far behind throughout. She attended the pace last out when Horseshoe Falls went off, beating the field by 23 lengths. She wilted to be 7th, beaten 30 that day. Her pedigree suggests that she should be able to handle the main track, and she definitely finds a softer group here. Dustinthewind (2) is the most consistent runner in this group, but she’s not that impressive. She was second to Horseshoe Falls last out, beating the rest of the group that day in their own race for place. She’s another one that is likely facing the weakest group in her career. Casting Pearls (6) may be another to consider on deeper tickets. She finished midpack against a decent field for the $10K maiden claiming condition last out at six furlongs here. On paper, she is moving up in class, but in reality, she’s getting class relief. My biggest knock on her is that her best efforts have been at one turn.
Race 5: Top Pick: 4 (Turf) / 3 (Dirt)
If this $16K-$14K multi-conditioned claimer goes back on grass as expected, I’m going to play back She Broke My Heart (4), who broke my heart when she came up empty as a single for me last out when facing slightly better foes. Prior to that, she had three sharp efforts in a row sprinting on the grass. There shouldn’t be too much pace pressure early, and she’s proven on a course that is less than firm, which would likely be the case if they are on the turf today. This feels like a logical spot for her to rebound. On deeper tickets, Kandy Ginger (9) would be an interesting saver on the grass. She debuted with some potential at Remington this fall for Steve Asmussen. Her races as three year old filly just haven’t been that good though. Her lone turf race was when facing considerably better at Lone Star, and it wasn’t a bad effort. Maybe she could take a step forward here at this lower level.
If this race goes on the main track, D Dawg (3) and Bastet (10), who is the lone main track only entrant in the field, are the two principals for me here. I’ll give the slight edge to D Dawg who has been facing better company and has a strong effort on this track last year. She needed her first race off the layoff and ran on the turf last out. That turf effort was enough for McBurney to enter her back on grass, however, I’d prefer her on the main track. Bastet ships back here after two tries in allowance company at Finger Lakes. She was a strong second to Alta Velocita when she last raced here back in June. Prior to her last start, she had six straight starts where she finished first or second.
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Race 1: 1, 2, 6, 7 (Turf) / 2, 6 (Dirt)
Race 2: 2, 5, 7
Race 3: 4, 6
Race 4: 2, 3, 5, 6
Race 5: 4 (Turf) / 3, 10 (Dirt)
Race 6: Top Pick: 2
This is a maiden special weight race for two year olds that were either sold or RNA for $45K or less. Saratoga started running these races a few years ago in order to give trainers a spot to debut some more modestly priced horses without running the risk of being claimed. These races have been largely successful there, most notably, with 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, British Idiom, debuting in one of these races that season. Smokey White (2) was hammered at the windows in his debut in this type of race on the grass at Saratoga last month. He was wide on the turn and never really was involved in the outcome that day, His pedigree suggests that he’ll be better on the dirt, and he’s been based here all summer, which is a plus. I’m expecting a better effort from him today. Sailor Speed (5) ran in the same race two starts ago, and finished a dull 5th that day. He came back two weeks later to be 4th while beaten 7 lengths in the slop in a similar race at the Spa. His best effort, speed figure wise, was when he caught a fast track in his debut. He should get those conditions again today and Paco Lopez taking the mount is never a bad thing on this oval. Bust’em Kurt (7) is one of two first time starters going out for Claudio Gonzalez. His two year old first timers have struggled locally so far, however, I still think this son of Divining Rod could be live here. He was the most expensive purchase in the field, selling for $40K in October 2020. His works are respectable and Jeremy Laprida has been improving over the last few weeks, getting some more opportunities locally. Strong Eagle (9) is another firster that could be live here. Alison Escobar popped with a big two year old longshot on debut a few weeks ago at Colonial (High Arabian, 84-1). His works are a shade slower than the others, but that was also the case for High Arabian, who also was posted to the outside that day.
Race 7: Top Pick: 2
This $30K-$25K multi-conditioned claiming race is one of the more evenly matched races on the card. I think from a race shape standpoint, Briella (4) and Nora Radd (7) are going to try to go for the lead. Fan Fan (2) and Greatest Love (6) should be in the second flight pressing the pace. I figure that the back markers in the early going will be Despeight All Odds (1), Overdressed (3), and Speed Salsa (5) . From a class standpoint, I think Fan Fan has been facing the best horses on the dirt, running in allowance company in her last two main track tries. She was beaten by Ray Arewethereyet three back, who went on to beat N2X allowance foes in her next start. She tried the turf two back, which was a toss effort. Last out, she was 5+ lengths behind Liam’s Light in a decent allowance race at this 6 Furlong distance. She’s been competitive with better, but could step forward while dropping to the claiming ranks on the main track for the first time since breaking her maiden. I think she might offer the best value in the field. Despeight All Odds does her best work when she’s allowed to sit off the pace and make one big run. She did that very well in her two recent starts at Pimlico, winning both of those. She was a lot closer to the early pace in her only race on this course. I’m expecting a better effort from her in here. Greatest Love could be sitting in the garden spot, with the ability to roll up on the pacesetters while three wide on the turn. She was claimed by Wayne Potts from Tom Amoss in her only local start. Her best races were in two turn sprints at Delta in the beginning of her career. She gets Paco Lopez who seems to have his horses in the best spots in every race he rides in.
Race 8: Top Pick: 1 (Turf) / 4 (Dirt)
This maiden special weight race for fillies and mares on the turf has attracted a pair of Todd Pletcher fillies and a pair of Chad Brown fillies. However, I’m looking to beat them with a few horses from some smaller outfits. Dream About Me (1) was really good in her one turf race back in the spring at Gulfstream. She bobbled at the break, but was moving well late to rally in to 5th place, beaten 3 and ½ lengths against a sold bunch. She went on the shelf for a bit and resurfaced with a dull effort in an off the turf race last out at Pimlico. I think the added distance should only help her in her second start off the layoff for Jimmy Toner. Bramble Bush (2) is another filly in her second race off the layoff. She’s sprinted twice in two career starts, showing considerable improvement in her most recent effort, She’s bred to get two turns on the turf, and Dini’s horses run well in second off the break. She could be a sneaky longshot in this race. Candy Lua (4) tried to get on the grass last out for Pletcher, but the weather had other plans. She ran a solid second place that day, behind a runaway winner in the slop. She’s bred to take to the turf as well, so I think she’s got a shot on either surface. On deeper tickets, Endless Front (3) is the other Pletcher horse. She’s run three respectable races at Gulfstream, here, and Saratoga, all at the maiden special weight level. Paco Lopez takes the call, which is a plus, but she’s the morning line favorite, and she hasn’t shown a ton of growth in her first three starts. She feels like a saver on deeper tickets to me. The same could be said for Autostrada (8), who was a distant third in the slop last out when her race was taken off the turf. Her one turf start at Ellis wasn’t bad, but she’s another one that will need to take a step forward to be competitive here, and I’m not certain the value will be what it should be on her.
On the main track, Candy Lua is the one to beat. Except Temptation (10) could also be a factor. Her debut on the main track was better than it looks on paper. She hasn’t seen the main track in the afternoon since, so there’s no guarantee she’ll go here. However, her pedigree says that she could be a runner on the main track. Red Hot and Blue (11) is on the AE list, and is on the outside looking in for turf racing. However, she could be a factor on the main track, coming here off the layoff. She’s been in some salty maiden special weight contests on the dirt in previous starts. She might need a race, but she’s not the worst stab on the main track here.
Race 9: Top Pick: 5
The late Pick-4 starts here and I think that Miraculousblessing (5) is a worthy single in this $7,500-$6,500 multi-conditioned claiming race. She was a dominant winner with multi-conditioned claimers at this tag last out. It’s worth noting that this is rise in class for her, as she entered that race under the N2L condition. In today’s race, she’s eligible for this race under the N3L condition. When you read many of the PPs, it will look like the condition is the same, as this race and her previous race are both designated Clm 7,500 (7.5-6.5)B in the form. Regardless of the rise in class, I think she’s one of the more consistent runners in the field and she was claimed off a lower percentage trainer (Carl Jones) by a higher percentage one (Jeffery Englehart). Her Parx form this spring was very good, and I’m expecting that she’ll take a step forward and beat this group today. Tenderness (1) is the logical horse to cover with, shipping in from Saratoga after a pair of dull efforts with better. She takes a big drop, which is a little concerning to me, especially since she was claimed for $20K just three starts ago. Paco and Potts continue to dominate the standings, so it’s hard to try to beat them. I’ll use this one on deeper multi-race tickets and take a swing against her in the vertical wagers.
Race 10: Top Pick: 2 (Both surfaces)
Depending on who would scratch and who would stay, there’s a chance that this open $12,500-$10,500 claiming turf sprint might be more interesting on the main track. On the turf, I think the shorter prices are very logical. Strong Breeze (2) is the top pick after winning at this level last out while getting a perfectly timed ride by Mychal Sanchez. He was claimed that day by Darien Rodriguez, a trainer who is excellent first off the claim. He continues to employ Sanchez to ride this versatile gelding that can win from anywhere on the track. Duncastle (4) is the main danger coming in for Wayne Potts. He was a winner with $22K-$18K open claimers last out, so the drop in class here isn’t my favorite move. We are getting near the end of the meet, so options in the condition book could be limited. His victory last out allowed the owner got the majority of his money back from his initial $25K investment in May at Belmont. He’ll have company on the front end though with Monte Ne (1) to his inside and Johnny Obvious (9) to the outside. With a potential speed duel, the added half furlong might not be ideal for him. He’s in sharp form, so it’s hard to toss him, so I’d proceed with caution and look for some prices in the vertical wagers.
On the main track, I still like Strong Breeze, as he was very good two back in an off the turf race at this level. He just missed that day and should be right there again. Mr. Who (5) could be worth playing at longer odds. He had a miserable trip where he was hung out five wide against a sharp group of optional claiming/starter allowance foes at two turns. Hs sprint effort with $8K-$7K N4L claimers two back was sharp though. Raofthesun (7) might be a little better on the grass, but he’s capable on the dirt. He took a significant stumble two back in the same off the turf sprint that Strong Breeze was second in. He has a respectable record on dirt and some nice races last year in Colorado at Arapahoe Park. He’s not a bad longshot to take a swing with here.
Race 11: Top Pick: 1
The late double starts with a very good optional $12K/$6,250 starter allowance race at one mile on the main track. Parx shipper Moon Gate Warrior (1) is the top pick in this spot after two strong efforts in starter allowance and starter handicap company. He finished behind Sheer Flattery in both races, who has been running his eyeballs out lately over at Parx. He gets class relief by not having to face that one today, plus he should benefit from the rail draw in the one mile contest. He has shipped here before and has two wins and a second in four career tries on this oval. Friendly Fella (5) has two big races in his last three starts, handily beating a similar field here last out. He reverted back to his closing style after trying to win going gate to wire, which he had been doing in his previous attempts. He came up empty two back when he got sucked in to a speed duel on the front end as the favorite. Mychal Sanchez connected well with him last out and he gets the return call today. Aequor (9) has been running some solid races with similar company here this meet. He crossed the finish line behind three different horses that he’s facing here again today. He was put up first via DQ two back though when Professional (6) was anything but that in the stretch. I don’t love the wide draw in this race, but I think he’s been running well enough to be a factor in here again. Relishment (2) is another one that has had a solid meet. He has a pair of wins and a pair of second place finishes in four starts here this summer. He just missed with $5K starter allowance foes last out. Paco Lopez gets the mount as he moves up in class again today. I think there’s a good chance that he’ll offer less value in this race than he did in his most recent try when he went off at 9-1. If he’s anywhere close to that number, I’d like him more, but at 5-1 or lower, I’ll try to beat him, while still covering him on some deep multi-race tickets.
Race 12: The $150,000 Red Bank Stakes: Top Pick: 6 (Turf) /7 (Dirt)
There’s a few talented four year olds that are entered in this race, however, none of them seem to be on the level of Chad Brown’s Value Proposition (6), at the moment. He is the heavy favorite on the morning line, and will likely be an even shorter price when they go into the gate. He was second two starts back in the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple at the beginning of the Saratoga meet. He ran a solid third in the Lure Stakes a few weeks later when racing for purse money only, due to an equipment issue. He’s very good at the one mile distance and he simply looks better than his five rivals.
On the main track, there will be a very short field, and South Bend (7) would likely be the class of that group. He’s been close in stakes company before, most notably finishing a close second to Dean Martini last year in the Ohio Derby. He’s been battling better fields since, losing to horses like Tiz The Law, Authentic, and Maxfield. This would be a good spot to build some confidence moving forward after finishing off the board in his last three stakes tries.
Meet Stats: 113/404 (Top Pick Winners) – $756.50 / $1.87 ROI per $2 win bet