Just because the Breeders’ Cup is over doesn’t mean that quality racing has taken a holiday. In fact, Aqueduct, Laurel, and Del Mar all have compelling Saturday cards with plenty of wagering opportunities, and I’ve got multi-race tickets at all three tracks. One caveat: It’s supposed to be very cold on the east coast, and it’s not impossible that turf races get moved to the main track. If that happens, my analysis for the turf races at Aqueduct and Laurel becomes irrelevant.
$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1
60 Bets, $30
Aqueduct’s bookends, for my money, are two of the three toughest races of the entire day across the three tracks I looked at. If you’ve got deeper pockets and want to punch the “ALL” button to start the Pick Five (or, for that matter, skip the Pick Five and play the early Pick Four), I absolutely get it. I narrowed it down to five horses, and I hope that’s enough coverage.
The second race is a fun turf affair, and your likely favorite is #10 RAPPEL, who breaks from the far outside and drops down in class. The drop is substantial, and he could win, but I need to use #3 JO’S BOLD CAT, who is 8-1 on the morning line despite a few solid tries at this level. That one’s lone win came over this turf course, and I think he could get an ideal setup with plenty of early speed signed on.
I’m also two-deep in the third. #3 GIANTINTHEMOONLITE may go favored off of a few strong recent efforts, and I’m using him, but he’s 2-for-22 lifetime and has not won since October of 2015. My top pick is actually #9 HEAVY MEDDLE, who showed a new dimension last time out when rating at Belmont. The outside draw should help that one, and I love the recent fast works, which aren’t necessarily typical of Bill Mott trainees.
The key to the fourth race, for me, is if #13 WORK OF ART draws in off the AE list. If he does, I think he’s the horse to beat off of an impressive debut where he was a late-running third at big odds. That day’s runner-up has since come back to win, and this barn does well with second-time starters. If he does not draw in, I think it’s a two-horse race between #7 IRON JOHNNY and #12 COLLECTIVE EFFORT, and if my top pick doesn’t run, those will probably be the two wagering favorites.
My best bet on the card is my lone single on this ticket. That’s #7 TROPHY ASSET, the likely favorite in the fifth race. His debut at Belmont was very sharp, and Chad Brown’s barn is white-hot. Further improvement is logical at second asking, and if he doesn’t win, I lose (and chances are, many other tickets lose as well).
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6
84 Bets, $42
I thought this sequence was incredibly tough, and I do not have a single on my ticket. It starts with a 2-year-old maiden race going seven furlongs, and because that’s a tough distance to debut at, all three betting interests have races under their belts. #4 ALLURED and #5 VARIANT PERCEPTION both go out for Chad Brown, while #1 BLINDED VISION did everything but win in his debut. By using Blinded Vision, we also get #1A VINO ROSSO, and of the first-time starters, he’s the one I like most. He fetched $410,000 at auction, and his dam is a half to Belmont Stakes runner-up Commissioner, so he may want this distance right away.
I’m two-deep in the seventh. #10 CLASSIC COVEY may be favored off of two strong wins at Belmont. He’s undefeated since coming back from a long layoff, but I also need to use #5 SLIM SHADEY, who has returned to form for Jason Servis. Both of his two-turn races this past summer were strong, and he returns to such a route in this spot, which boasts a race shape that should favor a closer like him.
The eighth is the Grade 3 Red Smith, and I’m two-deep here as well. #2 MONEY MULTIPLIER could be a popular single, as his effort in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic was too bad to be true. Anything close to his races two or three back would make him tough. Additionally, I’m using #5 OSCAR NOMINATED, who’s quietly had a very strong season despite only winning once. He was last seen running second in the Grade 1 Canadian International, and 8-1 seems like too big a price given his consistency.
If you’ve got deeper pockets and want to buy the ninth, go right ahead. As it stands, I’m using half of this 14-horse field, including several big prices. The price I’m most intrigued by is #14 ST. PATRICK FROST, who finally drops to the appropriate level after struggling against straight maidens most of his career. If you go back to his debut in April here at Aqueduct, though, you see a race that was not horrible. If he can repeat that race, I wouldn’t be stunned to see him in the winner’s circle at a gigantic number.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8
48 Bets, $24
Of the multi-race sequences at Laurel Park, I most prefer the late Pick Four. I think there are some live prices in here, and my single likely won’t be favored.
We start with the James F. Lewis for 2-year-olds, and while some may see this as a two-horse race between #4 BARRY LEE and #6 KOWBOY KARMA. I’m using them both, but I also need to include #3 WHERESHETOLDMETOGO. I’m drawing a line through his effort in the Sapling, which was longer than he wants to go. He’s a sprinter with tactical speed who does not need the lead, and at his likely price, I need to have him on my ticket.
My single comes in the ninth, the Richard W. Small. I respect #4 PAGE MCKENNEY, who will likely be favored, and he’s probably the standard-bearer for war horses that have been around forever and always seem to run well. However, my single is #5 WATERSHED, who spent most of the spring running against some of the best older horses on the east coast. He comes off a layoff to run here, but his workouts are consistent, and his recent bullet workout at Belmont inspires confidence. He’s 9/2 on the morning line, and I’ll be very happy if we get that price.
I’m four-deep in each of the last two races. The tenth is a turf sprint, and while #11 QUALITY TIME could certainly win, that post position is a red flag, and her 0-for-3 record in the U.S. doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. The horse I’m most intrigued by is #4 ISABEL’S ON IT, who flopped in her North American debut after a horrible break. However, she adds blinkers here for one of the top local barns, and if you liked her at 3-1 in her debut (where she had an excuse), how can you not take another shot here when she’ll probably be three or four times that price?
The Saturday finale is a maiden claiming event, and I hope I’m going deep enough. This is another race where, if you’ve got deep pockets or a light ticket elsewhere, it may be wise to punch the “ALL” button. My top pick is a bit of a price. That’s #12 NANNY ROCKS, who showed a bit of speed in her debut against much better at Belmont. Ollie Figgins’s trainees tend to improve with experience, and the outside post position should help her.
$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1
81 Bets, $40.50
This Pick Five is a pretty fun sequence. The fields are short enough to where one can play an affordable ticket, but not so short that there’s no value, plus the favorites (with one possible exception) don’t figure to be very short prices.
The opener is a turf race for state-bred fillies and mares. My top pick is #4 WEATHER MARKET, who’s bred to love the turf and goes out for a barn whose horses tend to improve with experience and surface switches. The two betting favorites, #7 GEE STREET and #8 ROLLING SHADOW, are both logical, although the former is 0-for-9 and has had several prime chances.
My single will be a pretty popular one. #5 DANGEROUSLY CLOSE takes a big drop in class for a barn that’s enjoyed a good start to the meet. She’s shown ample early zip and adds blinkers, and these waters are much shallower than the ones she’s been swimming in to this point in her career.
The third is a maiden race for state-bred 2-year-olds. I went three-deep, and I used the three likely betting choices. #2 VIOLENT RIDGE should improve at second asking, while #6 ISHI goes to the red-hot Peter Miller barn and #7 MAVERICKS gets top gate rider Edwin Maldonado.
The fourth, though, represents a chance to take a swing. While I’m using logical horses #3 RED KING and #8 RUN LIKE RHETT, my top pick is 15-1 on the morning line. That’s #4 CURLY’S WATERFRONT, who I liked a lot last time out. He ran up against a speed-biased turf course that day, and he’s since been gelded by new trainer Reed Saldana. I’m more than willing to take another shot with him, as his best race would make him competitive in this spot.
The fifth race is the Saturday feature, the Grade 3 Bob Hope. If I’m alive, I’ll be alive to the three horses that figure to take money. #2 MOURINHO may have bounced off of a very strong debut and should like the added distance, while #3 RUN AWAY is a three-time stakes winner and #5 BEAUTIFUL SHOT is 2-for-2 and should improve with more experience.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #6
96 Bets, $48
And here we have what I felt was the toughest sequence of the day. I usually don’t like giving out tickets that exceed $40 in value, but I had to break that soft cap here.
The first leg is the type of race I HATE handicapping. It’s for older horses who have not won a race this year, and I have absolutely no confidence in any of these entrants. Thankfully, this is only a field of eight, not 12 or 14, so hitting the “ALL” button isn’t crippling.
The second leg is a 2-year-old maiden race, and #8 COOL BOBBY will be tough to beat. He missed by a neck in his debut, and this barn does not always have first-time starters fully cranked. I’ll also, though, be using the unfortunately-named #3 PITINO, who fetched $950,000 at auction and has been working lights-out ahead of his debut.
The third leg is a turf sprint, and this figures to be a race where most horses want the lead. #8 TIZANILLUSION makes her local debut and should sit an ideal trip beneath top local turf rider Drayden Van Dyke. On the off chance speed carries, I’ll also use #3 PAINTING CORNERS, who was dueled into submission last time out coming down the hill at Santa Anita.
If we get to the final leg, we’ll be alive to three horses. There’s not much speed in the race, and #10 JONNY’S CHOICE loves Del Mar, so he’s my top pick. I don’t love the post for #1 FREDDIES DREAM, and #6 ROMAN TIZZY gets a negative rider switch, but each horse is talented enough to win with their respective best effort.