Last year, I made an appeal to NYRA management to reschedule the Curlin Stakes. The argument I made was that it steals contenders from the Jim Dandy, at a time where that race is already competing with Monmouth Park’s Haskell Invitational. Unfortunately, that scenario has come to pass this year, as Hofburg (who would’ve likely been favored in the Jim Dandy) headlines a field of five in the Curlin before a thoroughly unexciting group of five 3-year-olds goes postward in the traditional Travers prep.
I’ll reiterate my idea, just in case anyone in power is listening: Reschedule the Curlin for the Travers undercard, so that it serves a similar purpose to the Easy Goer on Belmont Stakes Day. I’d rather lose a few 30-1 shots from the Travers than legitimate contenders from the Jim Dandy, which will go with six or fewer starters for the fifth consecutive year.
THURSDAY’S RESULTS: The Thursday finale was rained off the turf, which meant the Pick Four play I posted was washed out. As a reminder, all wagers in this sequence assume that races carded for turf stay there.
FRIDAY’S PLAY: We’ll get involved right away with tickets starting in the opener. #6 BANKIT is my best bet of the day, and in an attempt to extract some value from what appears to be a pretty chalky card, I’ll play $5 Pick Threes that use #1 NIGHT OWL and #6 BEACH WALTZ in the second and #1 ENGINEERS REPORT/#1A WEGOTTOLDYOUGOTSOLD and #6 CHANGE OF VENUE in the third.
TOTAL WAGERED: $20
Thursday’s Results: 2 for 9
Meet Results (to date): 16 for 59
Best Bet: Bankit, Race 1
Longshot: Freud’s Affair, Race 5
#6 BANKIT: May be the shortest price on the card, and for good reason. He chased a solid 2-year-old home in his debut, and this spot seems to have come up uncharacteristically light for a Saratoga 2-year-old race; #8 LUMBERER: Someone has to be second, and while I don’t think this one can win, I think improvement is logical at a big price. He chased the talented La Fuerza early before tiring badly, and the two recent works hint that he’s progressed since then for a sharp trainer; CASH ENTRY: Second-time starters #1 ANALYZETHISANDTHAT and #1A CENTER CITY could both step forward. I prefer the former, who ran an OK third in his debut on turf at Monmouth Park.
Oldfashioned Style (MTO)
#1 NIGHT OWL: Has won two in a row and comes back to turf. The drop in for a tag is a bit alarming, but it’s not like this is a cheap claiming event, so it doesn’t strike me like they’re trying to dump the horse; #6 BEACH WALTZ: Has been running against stakes foes in her last three starts and gets much-needed class relief. This barn’s off to a slow start at the meet as of this writing, but there’s plenty of back form here; #7 HERA: Won at this level two back before faltering in an allowance race at Monmouth. She has tactical speed, and Luis Saez (who rode her to that win) comes back aboard. DIRT SELECTIONS: OLDFASHIONED STYLE, NIGHT OWL, BEACH WALTZ.
Change of Venue
#6 CHANGE OF VENUE: Was eased last time out and takes a huge class drop for aggressive connections. A repeat of either race before that effort would make this one tough, and it never hurts to have Castellano aboard; DUBB ENTRY: I prefer #1A WEGOTTOLDYOUGOTSOLD, who comes off a long layoff. He’s been gelded since his last effort, and the recent workouts say he’s ready to run; #8 SOUTHEAST: Was claimed by Bruce Brown last time out and draws a favorable outside post. Joel Rosario has the mount for an outfit that’s quietly had success with new acquisitions.
#6 BELGIAN: Is stepped up in class in this spot after being claimed for $35,000 last time out at Churchill. He hasn’t won a lot, but he always seems to fire and he’s shown some flexibility in his running style; #2 SHANGROYAL: Is absolutely the horse to beat based on his back form. He’s very fast out of the gate, and on form, he’s the horse to beat, but why the class drop, and why is Ward also running #3 THE QUEENS JULES?; #1 CANADIAN FLYER: Was a stakes-level turf sprinter before going on the shelf last summer. At his best, he can fly early, and while he may need a race, chances are he’ll at least be a primary pace factor. DIRT SELECTIONS: SHANGROYAL, MINI MILES, BELGIAN.
#1 CHARLIE MCCOY: Ran a colossal race in defeat last time out, losing by just a head at this level and distance. The possibility of a bounce is there, but I love his most recent work, and new rider John Velazquez has had lots of success with Michelle Nevin runners in the past; #10 FREUD’S AFFAIR: Merits a long look if the track dodges rain leading up to this race. He’s hit the board in his last 10 starts, and this barn has quietly posted a high win percentage with a limited amount of starters this year; #9 WRONG BEN: Has won two of his last three and steps back up in class. He’s got plenty of early speed and could be sent early by top rider Jose Ortiz.
Out of Trouble
#3 OUT OF TROUBLE: Has improved significantly since going to the Brad Cox barn late last year. She’s finished second or better in five consecutive outings, and her last two wins came going two turns; #7 VORTEX ROAD: Has hit the board in her last eight starts dating back to October of last year and stretches back out to a two-turn route of ground. Like my top pick, she’s done some of her best work going two turns, and Castellano rides back; #4 BAREEQA: Makes her first start for Steve Asmussen over a turf course she absolutely loves. Perhaps she’s tailing off at age five, but if she channels her form from last summer (when she won twice here), she’s got a shot at a square price.
Paula’s Pistol (MTO)
Glory to Kitten
#4 GLORY TO KITTEN: Found stakes company a bit too tough in her last two starts and takes a steep drop in class. This owner is an aggressive one, so said drop doesn’t concern me too much; #9 BLASTED BOSS: Got sharp at Fair Grounds over the winter, when she won three races in a row. She drops back down the ladder here and should be running well late; #10 MISS AJA BROWN: Won by more than seven last time out at this level after sitting a dream trip on an uncontested lead. It’s unlikely she’ll get that sort of trip here, but there’s also a chance Rudy Rodriguez has her going in the right direction, so I can’t completely ignore her. DIRT SELECTIONS: PAULA’S PISTOL, SILVER MAGNOLIA, LAKOTA.
#4 UNCLE MOJO: Drops way down in class after setting the early pace in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster. His win two back in the slop at Pimlico was smashing, and anything close to the morning line seems like an overlay to me; #2 CASSES STORY: Ran second in his first start since January last time out, when he earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure. A bounce is possible, but he’s won here before and could be going the right way; #5 PAPA SHOT: Hasn’t won in a while, but was a close second last time out against similar company. Perhaps his best days are behind him, but he could also be ready to run third off the layoff.
#1 HOFBURG: May have been favored in Saturday’s Jim Dandy had his connections opted to run him there. Instead, he’s starting in this restricted stakes race, and I think he’ll be a bit closer to the pace than usual in this spot; #2 MADISON’S LUNA: Seems like the lone pace presence in this event and could dictate terms down the backstretch. This seems like further than he wants to go, but if the track’s playing kindly to early speed, he could get brave; #3 ZING ZANG: Came running late to be third last time out against older horses. They likely won’t go nearly as fast in this spot, but there’s a chance he’s getting better with experience.
Third Card Down
#15 LIGHTWORKER: Merits a long look in this wide-open finale if she draws in off the AE list. She was second at this level and route twice downstate, and she beat several of her potential foes here in her most recent outing; #6 THIRD CARD DOWN: Was bet to less than 6-1 in her debut against maiden special weight foes, but ran evenly and finished fifth. She drops in class and adds both blinkers and Lasix for a barn that can win with dropdowns; #4 TEQUILA SUNDAY: Was disqualified from a runaway win two back and then broke slowly last time out. She’s had lots of chances, but if she can channel the two-back form, she’s got a shot to break through.