Unfortunately, this section has a somber tone today. Hall of Fame jockey Randy Romero, who had been experiencing a variety of health issues, passed away Thursday, and a moment of silence was held in his honor during the racing program.
Romero was best known as the regular rider of undefeated mare Personal Ensign, but his career contained far more accomplishments than that. He won 4,285 races, including several big ones aboard fellow Hall of Famer Go For Wand, and he took down four riding titles at Fair Grounds, located in his native Louisiana.
Given everything he dealt with during his career, and the health problems he experienced after it, a case could be made that he was one of the toughest jockeys in recent racing history. Regardless of your stance on that, though, the sport of racing was certainly far better with him in it, and he’ll be missed.
THURSDAY’S RESULTS: Jokes about a handicapper named Champagne picking Crystalle as a hunch bet proved unfounded, as she rallied to win the P.G. Johnson. Between the win/place bet and the late daily double, we made a profit of $37.50.
FRIDAY’S PLAY: This card hit me as chalky, so rather than get too cute, I’ll try to extract some value out of my best bet of the day. In the fifth, I’ll key #1 DREAM PASSAGE on top of $20 exactas that use #2 CALL ME KAYLA and #6 WISH UPON underneath.
TOTAL WAGERED: $40
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BEST BET: Dream Passage, Race 5
LONGSHOT: Share Your Spirit, Race 7
Luna’s in Charge
#8 FREAKY STYLEY: Rallied to finish second in his debut despite a rough start. He gets a cushy outside draw in this spot, and improvement is logical now that he has a start under his belt; #5 LUNA’S IN CHARGE: Was a close-up second against similar a few weeks ago and gets a big rider switch to Javier Castellano. This barn hasn’t run many horses at the meet, but it’s hit at an impressive 23% clip as of this writing; #7 FINANCIALSTABILITY: Debuted in the same race as my top pick and ran third after stalking the pace. This barn must be respected, and he’s worked well since his unveiling.
#4 COWBOY RHYTHM: Hasn’t won in a while but takes a big drop in class for an aggressive outfit. This field is far weaker than the ones he’s tackled recently, and his usual race would likely beat these; #8 KAHRAMANI: Has plenty of back class and stretches back out to two turns, where he’s done his best running. He was competitive against starter allowance foes going long earlier this year; #6 DAZZLING OKIE: Was third at this level when sent away at 42-1 odds early in the meet. He’s won going long in the past and should be going well late.
#2 WICKED GRIN: Drops in for a tag and should relish the class relief. He ran well two and three starts back, and also put forth a strong race at this route last summer; #4 WILD WILLIAM: Drops back to this level after a misfire earlier in the meet. This barn has had a strong year to date, and it’s encouraging to see Saez riding back; #6 EXCHANGE FEVER: Hasn’t run since December, but drops in class to face state-breds here. He was an OK fourth against open company when last seen at Gulfstream, and he’s put forth some OK works ahead of his return.
#1 WONDERFUL LIGHT: Toss the race he ran last year (which came before an 11-month layoff), and you have a horse that’s never run a poor race. He’s tackled some tough foes in the past and attracts John Velazquez; #5 VICI: Hasn’t run in a while, but looks like a major player given his Beyer Speed Figures. He’s got a lot of early speed and should be prominent early; #2 EARNED SUCCESS: Hasn’t run since October but showed talent last season as a 3-year-old. He’s worked well for Chad Brown and could be ready to run off the bench.
Daria’s Angel (MTO)
#1 DREAM PASSAGE: Sure seems to like running in New York, as she’s shown an uptick in form since coming north. She’s got a lot of early zip and may prove tough to run down; #6 WISH UPON: Has won three of seven starts since coming back from a long layoff. She comes in off a victory at this route and does her best running going two turns; #2 CALL ME KAYLA: Won two and three back and was probably taken too far off the pace last time out. She could step forward if Saez (who piloted her to her most recent score) can get her into her preferred spot.
#8 FIRST DEPUTY: Just missed in his debut earlier this month and goes out for a barn whose horses tend to improve at second asking. A step forward would make him the one to beat; #11 PORTFOLIO HEDGE: Fetched $100,000 at auction last summer and will debut for Chad Brown if he draws in off the AE list. He’s bred to like the turf, and several half-mile works on his tab indicate he may be a runner; #3 SHANDIAN: Got on turf for the first time and ran a decent third in the same race my top pick exits. Castellano rides back, and improvement isn’t out of the question.
Drop a Hint
Share Your Spirit
#8 DROP A HINT: Was second in her second career start last month and comes in off of a bullet drill. She’s one of just two runners in here with experience, which could be an asset in a wide-open event; #9 SHARE YOUR SPIRIT: Is bred up and down for turf, but has a very strong five-furlong gate work on dirt. If she runs to that drill, she could have a big shot; HENNIG ENTRY: This barn’s horses often need a race to get going, but #1 SIXTH STREET hammered for $525,000 at Keeneland last September and is bred to be a runner. She’s by Tapit and comes in off a flashy four-furlong move last week.
Nasty Affair (MTO)
#9 CHICLET’S DREAM: May have needed her last race, when she was third in her first start since May. She rated behind a pretty slow pace that day and could get a better setup second off the bench; #7 NIKO’S DREAM: Was second in a pair of restricted stakes races and hasn’t run a poor race this year. This is probably a softer spot, and she’s another that should be moving in the right direction late; #2 A LITTLE FAITH: Was second in the race my top pick exits. Velazquez did a great job getting her into a stalking position from a far outside post, and she gets a far better draw here.
#2 LEITONE: Comes back to dirt after running pretty well in a classy optional claimer on grass at Belmont. He has the speed to use the rail as an asset, and anything this barn sends out must be respected; #6 ZULU: Got sent out to about Corinth turning for home earlier in the meet, but he still ran third beaten just two lengths. A cleaner trip would absolutely make him a major player; #1A CANDY PROMISES: Was beaten a nose last time out in what doubled as a stretchout to two turns. He set a moderate pace that day and may have to work harder here, but his best race could put him right there in what hit me as a tough race to handicap.
#3 DISCO PARTNER: Gets a lot of class relief after running up against some of the top turf sprinters in the country. He was second in the swiftly-run Grade 3 Troy earlier this month, and he seems like a logical, short-priced favorite; #5 FINAL FRONTIER: Was impressive here earlier this meet, when he stopped the timer in just shy of 1:01 for this distance. That was a career-best effort, and he may be starting to figure things out as a 4-year-old; #2 FIXED POINT: Set a very fast pace in his most recent start and had to settle for third. However, he loves Saratoga and could hang on for a piece of it at a price.
Star of the East
#6 FLUSH: Has run well in two recent turf starts and doesn’t come up against the toughest group for the level. She was third behind a pretty good horse last time out and could sit a perfect stalking trip; #8 STAR OF THE EAST: Was left with too much to do last time out in what doubled as her first start against winners. However, there’s more speed signed on here, and if that race’s second and third-place finishers run well in the eighth, she merits even more respect; #10 SHORT POUR: Stretches out in distance, but won going seven furlongs last year and was third going a mile on dirt at Aqueduct. The faster they go early, the better her chances figure to be.