Saturday is a big day at both Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park. Aqueduct houses a card with four stakes races, including the Grade 1 Cigar Mile, while Gulfstream Park opens its championship meet with the Claiming Crown program. Both slates are incredibly challenging, and if you hit even one multi-race ticket, chances are you’ll walk away with a profit. Here’s how I’ll attack both cards.
$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1
96 Bets, $48
I generally don’t like going much over $40 with my tickets, but I felt a need to with both of my stabs at Aqueduct. Even with a single in the middle leg of the Pick Five, it’s not a cheap ticket, but hopefully, we can get this home.
I’m four-deep in the opening leg, and for good reason. #5 BLACK SEA will probably be favored, but he probably wants to go longer, and it’s a bit alarming that he’s in for a claiming tag. I’ll use him, but I want other coverage. Of note, #3 WAR BOND is one of only a few in here that wants this specific distance. His win two back was solid, and he’s attracted Jose Ortiz.
I’m using the three logical horses in the second. Many of these horses haven’t won in a while, so I’ll take one horse second off a layoff (#4 LEAH’S DREAM), a second that makes her second start off the claim for a good barn (#5 FAIR REGIS), and a class-dropper that should appreciate the relief (#10 ANNA RAE).
My single comes in the third, and while it’s partially out of necessity, there’s also a benefit to it. I think both parts of the David Jacobson entry (#1 DOCS LEGACY and #1A ANY QUESTIONS) can win, and I need a single somewhere to keep the cost of my ticket down, so here we go.
I thought the fourth race was fascinating. It’s a turf sprint for state-bred maidens, and while some horses that figure to take money make sense, I also had to include a 15-1 shot. That’s #6 LUNE LAKE, who didn’t break well in her debut for a barn whose horses usually need a race or two to get going. In addition, she’s bred to like the turf, as her second dam, Nicole’s Dream, was a freakish turf sprinter who won multiple stakes races going short on grass. I think she’s a must-use, especially at her likely price.
I’ll hope to finish this off with one of the two favorites in the fifth. #1 FOLLOW THE SIGNS was claimed by a good barn (and from a good barn) following a romp last time out, while #3 MINSKY MOMENT showed an affinity for the turf when a sharp second last time out at Belmont.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #7
96 Bets, $48
We open with a wide-open 2-year-old maiden race. I’m four-deep, and I easily could have gone much deeper. My reluctant top pick is #11 SCATBACK, who ran well enough in two turf sprints at Saratoga earlier this year and gets Javier Castellano, but this race could unfold any number of ways. If you can afford to go deeper, you may want to do that.
The second leg is the Grade 2 Demoiselle. It’s sometimes tough to decipher which 2-year-olds want to go nine furlongs, but I think the morning line man got this one right. #1 DAISY and #3 WONDER GADOT have both looked talented and will be bet, but I also had to use #5 INDY UNION, who’s bred up and down to go long and relished the stretchout at Belmont when romping over maidens in October. She’s by Union Rags and out of an A.P. Indy mare, so two turns should be right up her alley.
I’m two-deep in the Grade 2 Remsen. #3 AVERY ISLAND may be favored and has talent, but if #5 CATHOLIC BOY can transfer his turf form to dirt, he’ll be the one to beat. He encountered some trouble when fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, and while he probably wasn’t beating Mendelssohn with a clean trip, he could’ve conceivably been second. This is a good spot to take a shot on dirt, and his races have shown that the distance won’t be his undoing.
The Cigar Mile is the main event, and it doubles as the payoff leg of the sequence. I came into the race thinking the two main contenders were #6 SHARP AZTECA and #8 PRACTICAL JOKE, but upon further review, I had to use two others as well. #2 SEYMOURDINI had a nightmare trip in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler and should improve second off the layoff, and #5 AMERICANIZE has not finished worse than second in eight races he’s finished. That one was an impressive winner of the Damascus Stakes, and when Simon Callaghan gets a horse on the right track, they tend to stay there. At 12-1, I need him on my ticket.
$0.50 Pick Five: Race #1
72 Bets, $36
And there we go with the antics (hi, Pete!). This Pick Five struck me as the hardest sequence to decipher among both cards I looked at, and if there’s any consolation, it’s that Gulfstream has a 4-of-5 payout in this sequence.
The meet opener is a turf race for maidens, and I’m going three-deep. My top pick is #5 REALLY PROUD, who took a step forward at second asking last time out. She showed tactical speed and has worked well since then, so more improvement could be in the cards.
I’m also three-deep in the second leg. #6 MENDED ships east and is going for her 10th consecutive win. Her two recent dirt races were just fine, but 2-1 seems awfully short in such a big field. I’ll also use #7 DELUSIONAL K K, who’s won two of her last three, and #10 AMALUNA, who does her best running here and was impressive at this route two back.
I’ve got a “separator single” in the third leg. I know I’m supposed to like the Todd Pletcher tandem of #3 HYNDFORD and #9 ANIMAL KINGSTON, but if one was the goods, why are two entered in the same spot? I’m taking a swing with a 10-1 first-time starter that’s bred to be talented. #6 THE ROBERT has been working well at Churchill Downs and is a half-brother to four winners. Trainer Eddie Kenneally can win with first-time starters, and I’m not overly impressed with the horses that have run before. If this horse wins, we’ll be alive to a nice, nice score.
I’m four-deep in the fourth, a race with plenty of early speed signed on. While speed is usually good at Gulfstream, I had to throw in 15-1 shot #11 EXPRESS JET just in case the race falls apart. Toss the races contested over a wet track, and this closer looks much, much better.
If we’re alive into the fifth, we’ll be two-deep there. #1 BLUE BAHIA is ultra-consistent and has never been better, while #5 EILA loves Gulfstream and returns to her favorite track. Her recent form hasn’t been great, but Gulfstream is a far different turf course than Aqueduct, and she could relish her familiar stomping grounds.
$0.50 Pick Four: Race #8
60 Bets, $30
The late Pick Four kicks off with the Rapid Transit. #4 SHAFT OF LIGHT won this race by daylight last time out, and he merits respect. However, #7 MANHATTAN MISCHIEF has plenty of early speed and could keep him company early. I’m using both speed horses, and, in the event the race breaks down, I’m also using #12 COXSWAIN, a 20-1 shot that loves this track and should be flying late.
The ninth is a wide-open turf race, and I’m five-deep. #9 STARSHIP JUBILEE has been racing against much better at Woodbine and could win, but Woodbine form sometimes doesn’t translate elsewhere. She won here a few times earlier in the year, but this isn’t an easy field, and if she doesn’t win, I don’t know who does, so I went deep.
I took a completely different approach in the 10th. #4 BLACK TIDE has one way of going. He’ll go to the front, open up, and lead for as long as he can. This race doesn’t have much other quality speed signed on, so he could sit a picture-perfect trip on a track that often plays kindly to early speed. As such, he’s a single for me.
I’ll go four-deep to finish things off. #6 GIGANTIC BREEZE won a Grade 2 at Woodbine last time out, and if his form translates to dirt, he’ll definitely be the one to beat. However, I’m also using a few prices, and if one of them gets home, we’ll get paid off in a big way.