Relay for Life Contest Selections/Analysis: 4/15/17

Handicapping contests can be a fun way to put your skills to the test, and there’s one recurring contest that I really enjoy playing. A student from St. John’s University runs it, and the skinny is that you get a $2 across-the-board bet on each of eight or so contest races, with the winners getting some cool stuff. The cost is a $5 donation to Relay for Life, a worthy cause if ever there was one.

As such, today’s post summarizes my selections in these races. If you’re interested in my Pick Fours, I’ll have two on my Twitter page for your consumption (one at Keeneland, one at Oaklawn). If you’d like to play the contest, the appropriate links are up at the top of the page. In the meantime, here are my picks (and alternates, in the event of scratches) and why I like them!

Keeneland, R4: #9 Connected Fitness (6-1)

This is a maiden special weight event with a big field, so it’s the perfect contest race. This is great for me, because I think 6-1 is a sizable overlay on Connected Fitness, a first-time starter with a huge worktab for trainer Horacio DePaz. DePaz has connected at a 32% rate with debuting runners, go-to rider Jose Ortiz climbs aboard, and the pedigree suggests this filly can run. She’s a half to Race Day, a multiple Grade 2 winner, and her dam (Rebalite) is a half-sister to Lite Light, a brilliant filly who ran in the early-1990’s and was owned by MC Hammer (yes, THAT MC Hammer). I think she means business, and I hope we get a bit of a price on her. ALTERNATE SELECTION: #4 Malibu Bonnie (8-1).

Aqueduct, R7: #7 My Impression (2-1)

I don’t like betting favorites in contests unless I’m convinced they’re extremely well-meant. That’s the case here with My Impression, a five-time winner in 10 career starts. She’s been running against much better horses; a glance at her PP’s reveals tries against the likes of Time and Motion and Dickinson, who merit respect in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland. She’s got a bit more early zip than she showed last time out, and I think she’s the most likely winner. ALTERNATE SELECTION: #4 My Sweet Girl (6-1).

Keeneland, R8: #7 Lady Aurelia (6/5)

Here’s the second of two favorites that I think will be very tough to beat. At her best, Lady Aurelia may be the best turf sprinter on the planet. She was very impressive in two wins overseas against top-notch competition last year, and this will serve as a prep for a return trip to Royal Ascot. Anything remotely close to her victories last year will make her very difficult to beat, and despite the big field that lines up here, anything over even-money Saturday would probably be an overlay. ALTERNATE SELECTION: #10 Pretty Perfection (5-1).

Keeneland, R9: #4 No Dozing (4-1)

Given the losses by McCraken and Tapwrit in the Blue Grass, the 3-year-old races at Tampa Bay Downs may not be as imposing as they look on paper. However, this spot represents significant class relief for No Dozing, who’s worked well ahead of his try on Saturday and could sit a perfect trip just off the speed. He chased fast fractions last time out, and he could be in an ideal position to have first run on the early leaders in a race featuring a short stretch run to the first wire. ALTERNATE SELECTION: #2 Souper Tapit (10-1).

Oaklawn, R9: #2 Domain’s Rap (8-1)

Midnight Storm is an imposing favorite, and he’s my alternate choice in the event of a scratch. However, the presence of Madefromlucky should ensure that Midnight Storm doesn’t sit a perfect trip as the lone early speed. Domain’s Rap has been worse than third just once in nine starts at Oaklawn, and his last effort was a solid second behind Mor Spirit. Before that, he was third to eventual Dubai World Cup runner-up Gun Runner in the Razorback. Midnight Storm may not be on the same level as those horses, and if Madefromlucky puts pressure on our likely favorite, I expect Domain’s Rap to be picking up the pieces late at a nice price. ALTERNATE SELECTION: #3 Midnight Storm (1/2).

Keeneland, R10: #4 Dickinson (8-1)

I have all the respect in the world for Lady Eli, who’s won seven of nine starts and whose best race probably wins this. However, the rail draw is a concern for her, and she may need the race off a long layoff. As such, for contest purposes, I’ve opted for the in-form Dickinson, who’s won four of five starts (including two graded stakes races) since being switched to the turf. I like that her form didn’t suffer when going away from Gulfstream Park last time out in the Grade 2 Hillsborough, and her workouts since that effort have been very sharp. I’ll gladly take a swing, and if Lady Eli beats me, I’ll live with it (unless Dickinson scratches, in which case, she’s my alternate!). ALTERNATE SELECTION: #1 Lady Eli (even).

Oaklawn, R11: #9 Untrapped (6-1)

I wanted to get away from the two likely favorites. Classic Empire makes his first start since the Holy Bull and may need a race, while Malagacy will break from the far outside in this 12-horse field. Among the rest of the field, the one with the most potential to improve may be Untrapped. Mike Smith comes on, trainer Steve Asmussen adds blinkers, and he’s yet to run a bad race to this point in his career. He may have moved a hair too soon when third in the Rebel, and if the work on April 2nd is any indication, he could be ready to fire a big shot. ALTERNATE SELECTION: #11 Conquest Mo Money (15-1).

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