Heads up, everyone: Due to the 12-race program, post time today has been inched up to 12:30 p.m. Eastern time. The early start and long card both make for a pretty long day, but on the plus side, today’s program is excellent, with a really fun feature (the Grade 2 Prioress) that anchors the late Pick Four.
Out of respect for my editor’s deadline, and given that I like two horses that figure to offer value earlier in the day, I won’t give out a late Pick Four ticket as an official play (the last race goes off at almost 7 p.m., and that’s pushing it). Having said that, if you want a 50-cent ticket to play starting in the ninth race, the one I’d propose (assuming, of course, that races carded for turf stay there) would cost $20. That ticket is as follows: 8 with 4,5 with 2,4,5,6,7 with 1,4,7,10.
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: I got bounced out of the early Pick Four right away, when Dowse’s Beach found his old form at a short price and turned my $36 ticket into confetti.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’ll have a pair of $20 win bets on the card, and they both come in turf races. #3 BEACH FRONT looks like an overlay at 7/2 in the second race given his turf pedigree and recent workouts, while #4 BELLA’S GAME doesn’t catch the strongest group in the fifth following a strong maiden win downstate and could provide some value given the presence of likely favorite Sweet Connie Girl. If one of them wins, it’s a profitable day. If both win, we’ll have a lot more to play with on closing day.
TOTAL WAGERED: $40
Best Bet: It’s a Lovely Day, Race 6
Longshot: Miko, Race 11
Take It to Scale
Merger of Banks
Ruler of the Nile
#8 TAKE IT TO SCALE: Drops considerably in class, but does so for aggressive connections, and the drop isn’t quite as alarming as that of this race’s other likely favorite. He sports a recent bullet work and got a cushy outside draw; #2 MERGER OF BANKS: Took a step forward in his first start for Rudy Rodriguez, which was a win against a much weaker field. There’s a chance these waters are a bit deep, but there’s also a chance he’s finally starting to figure things out following a positive trainer switch; #4 RULER OF THE NILE: Was a million-dollar baby last year but hasn’t panned out, hence the sharp drop in class. If he channels the form he showed in his debut, he’ll be tough, but that was nearly six months ago.
#3 BEACH FRONT: Is bred up and down for turf and has been working well for a barn that’s had success with debuting runners. His 319 turf Tomlinson is the second-highest number in the field; #12 PIPES: Was a close-up third less than two weeks ago and will be tough if he draws in off the AE list. He’ll need to work out a trip from an outside post, but a repeat of the most recent race may be good enough to win; #5 QUICK CHARGE: May not necessarily be bred for turf, but he’s worked very well ahead of his unveiling and is a half-brother to seven winners. It wouldn’t be a shock if he’s ready to run right away.
#5 ALMITHMAAR: Was up close to a very fast pace earlier in the meet going slightly longer. The cutback to six furlongs should help him, and he may prove tough to catch with a clean break; #2 FULLY VESTED: Led all the way last time out and makes his first start against winners. He may have been moved up by the muddy track, but that situation could present itself again here; #1 MAC JAGGER: Won first time out for a barn that isn’t necessarily known for success with those runners. He hasn’t been seen since April, and the rail draw isn’t ideal, but he’s worked well ahead of his first start in more than four months.
#7 OFF TOPIC: Boasts a series of very strong workouts ahead of her unveiling. She’s not exactly bred in the purple, but she is a half to two winners, and these connections merit respect even in what could be considered a “down meet” for them; #1 DANCE CLUB: Had every reason to quit first time out following a lousy break, but rallied a bit and salvaged third. This barn’s horses tend to improve with experience, and the most recent work indicates that she’s taken a step forward; #4 GRACEFUL PRINCESS: Is by Tapit and out of Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, which alone ensures that she’ll take money. Her recent five-furlong drills are sharp, and this barn unveiled eventual champion Caledonia Road around this time last year.
Solitary Gem (MTO)
Sweet Connie Girl
#4 BELLA’S GAME: May not have beaten a ton last time out, but did so in visually impressive fashion and seems to have come up against a very light group. The pedigree says she may get this trip, and she could still be improving given her relative inexperience; #12 SWEET CONNIE GIRL: Drops in for a tag after running third here earlier in the meet. Her closing kick may have been dulled by the yielding surface, and her best race may win this, but she’ll need to work out a trip from an undesirable post; #8 SHE DOESN’T MIND: Merits respect given her recent form, but while she’s collected plenty of minor awards, she hasn’t won in nearly three years. Her most recent race at this level was OK, but I can’t endorse her on top. DIRT SELECTIONS: SOLITARY GEM, TIZ PRICELESS, HAVANA AFFAIR.
It’s a Lovely Day
Take Me to Hardoon
Girl of Tosconova
#9 IT’S A LOVELY DAY: Brought $185,000 at auction here last year and has every right to be a runner. Her dam was a stakes winner, and also a full sister to two other stakes winners; #6 TAKE ME TO HARDOON: Has been working well ahead of her unveiling, and the two most recent works really stand out. The full field will likely ensure a square price; #7 GIRL OF TOSCONOVA: May have hinted at some ability with her August 23rd workout, which was the second-fastest of 63 at the distance. She’s kin to five winners, and a full sister of stakes-placed runner Our Super Nova.
Stand for the Flag
#9 STAND FOR THE FLAG: Has been putting forth big efforts in the mornings ahead of her debut, and she’s bred to be a nice one. Her second dam is My Flag, making her dam a half to champion Storm Flag Flying; #6 UTIKI: Hammered for $175,000 earlier this year despite a very modest pedigree, which hints that she worked extremely well. Her recent gate drills have gotten stronger, which is always encouraging; #4 TAKECHARGE MIRELLA: Was second behind the very impressive Feedback in her debut and finished five lengths clear of the third-place finisher. She could improve at second asking, but given the well-meant firsters in this event, she may have to.
Year of the Kitten
Phone Funky Munky
#7 KILLEEN: Drops in class for this event after finishing third against higher-level runners here last month. Javier Castellano hops aboard, and he could sit a perfect stalking trip behind several that figure to battle for the lead; #8 YEAR OF THE KITTEN: Hasn’t won since a successful debut in November, but has had bad luck by rating in paceless races. He could get a much more favorable race shape here at a square price; #5 PHONE FUNKY MUNKY: Is another that’s been compromised by slow paces of late. He’s won over this surface before and could benefit from a switch back to the turf.
Indy Union (MTO)
Too Cool to Dance
#8 MIGHTY SCARLETT: Drops down in class after chasing graded stakes foes in her last two starts. She’s shown she can get this distance, and her usual race would make her very tough to beat; #3 TOO COOL TO DANCE: Is the other half of a strong 1-2 punch for trainer Chad Brown. She’ll likely go early, and her two-back win downstate shows that she can get this distance; #7 FAST TRACK KATHERN: Is a “feast or famine” type that throws in clunkers sometimes, but when she runs well, she runs really well. This is a class test for her, but she’d benefit from an early speed duel, which could happen given the fair amount of zip some of these runners have shown. DIRT SELECTIONS: INDY UNION, GOODBYE BROCKLEY, FAST TRACK KATHERN.
#4 MIA MISCHIEF: Did everything but win in the Grade 1 Test, when she helped set a fast pace and was beaten a neck by a multiple Grade 1 winner. She cuts back to six furlongs, and it helps that she doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well; #5 DREAM PAULINE: Came off the bench running with a win in a swift allowance race earlier in the meet. Javier Castellano rides back, and she figures to be running well late; #8 DREAM TREE: Went 4 for 4 over the fall and winter before an injury sidelined her. This barn must obviously be respected, but it’s worth noting her two most recent wins came over suspect fields.
Out of Trouble
#2 OUT OF TROUBLE: Hasn’t run a bad race since going to the Brad Cox barn last fall. She’s got three wins and three seconds in six starts since then, and her tactical speed is a big plus on the inner turf; #5 TRANSACTION TAX: Was third in a similar spot early in the meet after setting a very fast pace, but she’s won going two turns in the past. If my top pick doesn’t fire, this is the one that could benefit from an easy early lead; #7 MIKO: Prevailed over a weaker group a few weeks ago and has won twice in three local outings. She’s shown improved tactical speed of late, and this barn’s beginning to heat up as the meet draws to a close.
Turco Bravo (MTO)
#10 MASTER PLAN: Ended a long drought with a win at this route last month, when he prevailed by a nose over soft going. He’s probably better over firmer ground, and this may actually be a lesser group than what he beat in that aforementioned race; #1 SYCAMORE LANE: Takes a gigantic class drop after chasing a pair of Grade 1 winners in each of his last two outings. These waters are much shallower, and the recent bullet workout is a big plus; #4 NEOCLASSIC: Has won two of his last three races and makes his first start for Patrick Reynolds, who doesn’t claim many runners but reached in for this one back in June. He’ll do his best running late, most likely, beneath solid turf rider Luis Saez. DIRT SELECTIONS: TURCO BRAVO, MASTER PLAN, EXTINCT CHARM.