I don’t like using this space to get heavy. It’s supposed to be fun, and very few things on this planet are more fun than betting on horses. As 2020 has reminded us with staggering efficiency, though, life stinks sometimes.
Right after my alarm clock went off Sunday morning, I went on Facebook and saw the same message plastered in multiple places: Robert Spreitzer, one of the first friends I ever had as a kid, had passed away following a lengthy battle with drug addiction. He’s the third elementary school friend I’ve had that has fallen victim to addiction and all that goes with it, and it never gets easier to deal with something like that.
In Robert’s memory, my message today in this space is a simple one: Be kind. There are enough horrible things going on in the world right now. We don’t know all of the battles everyone else is fighting every day. Open your minds, open your hearts, and let’s get more good into the world.
Rest in peace, buddy. Say hi to Jared and Rob for me.
SUNDAY’S RESULTS: The good news is I made some money. The bad news is, a late odds drift ensured my mathematical reasoning was flawed. $18 worth of Grand Slam tickets ending with Moretti returned $34, while an $18 win ticket on the Birdstone winner would have returned $39.60 after a late move from 4/5 to 6/5. Eh, such is life.
WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: I hope we get a bit of a price on #3 PLAYWRIGHT in the sixth. He almost fell flat on his face out of the gate last time, so I’m drawing a line through that poor performance. I’ll put $15 on him to win, and I’ll single him in $5 doubles starting in the fifth with #6 NO MO’ SPENDING and #9 ROSSA VELOCE.
TOTAL WAGERED: $25.
Best Bet: She’s Got You, Race 9
Longshot: Sneads, Race 2
#2 NEW MEMBER: Likely needed his return off of a nearly two-year layoff, so I don’t have much of an issue ignoring that clunker. He was one of the top jump horses on the grounds two summers ago, when he ran second in a Grade 1, and he could be sharper here; NAYLOR ENTRY: #1A ELUCIDATION comes in off of a win over several of these rivals. He was winless in 2019, but perhaps he’s found his best form as a 6-year-old; #3 IRANISTAN: Was favored in both Grade 1 races over fences at the Spa two years ago but hasn’t found that form in four subsequent starts. However, he does drop in class for legendary horseman Jonathan Sheppard.
Mine the Coin
#4 SNEADS: Is worth a look at a price in a race that would not be out of place at a far, far, far lesser circuit. His two-back effort came off the first break of his career, and the last-out effort was a strong race for the level on grass. A return to his late-2019 or early-2020 form gives him a big shot; #6 NAUGHTY PRINCE: Rallied to win his debut on the Beard course at Keeneland last month. He may be favored, but he’s never gone two turns before and I’m not at all sold on the field he beat in his unveiling; #8 MINE THE COIN: Tries two turns third off the bench and was an OK second at this level downstate. His lone win came going a mile, so the distance isn’t a giant concern, and he may be prominent early in a race without much true early speed.
Three Jokers (MTO)
Luna’s in Charge
#7 FREEWHEELER: Went to the sidelines after a flop in a stakes race at Aqueduct in November, but has trained well ahead of his 3-year-old debut. He chased eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Four Wheel Drive last year, and a return to that form would likely thump this group; #4 LUNA’S IN CHARGE: Took to this route well when second in his turf debut earlier in the meet. He was beaten by a good horse that day, and he’d benefit from a speed duel out of the gate; #1 VETERANS BEACH: Returns off a layoff of nearly a year in his first start for the red-hot Christophe Clement barn. He hasn’t won since 2018, but that win was over this turf course and this outfit has been moving horses up of late.
#1 GOLDEN AWARD: Was eased in her first start off the layoff in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont and gets significant class relief. That wasn’t the first time she’d been pulled up prior to the wire, so that’s alarming, but the recent bullet inspires confidence and she’ll be tough if she’s right; #2 BELLERA: Chased Dunbar Road when third in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap and is one of three from the barn of Todd Pletcher entered in this race. Save for her one turf effort, she hasn’t done much wrong, and she’s another that could appreciate the shallower waters; #4 NONNA MADELINE: Hasn’t won since December but has two solid seconds in her last two starts. She was second in her lone two-turn try at Oaklawn, and her pedigree says that wasn’t a fluke.
No Mo’ Spending
#6 NO MO’ SPENDING: Is the only runner in here with any experience, and it came against open company at Churchill. This race is for state-breds, and Ian Wilkes trainees usually step forward with experience; #9 ROSSA VELOCE: Debuts for Ray Handal, whose horses aren’t always fully-cranked on debut. However, she’s been working very well of late, and the outside draw and presence of Jose Ortiz are both positives; #5 SUMMER BREW: Fetched $42,000 at auction last summer despite a modest pedigree and has worked consistently for a strong first-out barn. If she runs to those drills, she’s certainly got a chance.
Drawing Away entry
#3 PLAYWRIGHT: Stumbled horribly last time out against several of these and could only manage a distant fourth. He was claimed out of that race by sharp claiming trainer Linda Rice, however, and his early-2020 form saw him earn a pair of impressive wins over similar-quality foes at Aqueduct; DRAWING AWAY ENTRY: I prefer #1 TWISTED TOM, who does his best work around two turns. That one is 5-for-10 at today’s distance, and one of those victories was a stakes win a few summers ago at this route of ground; #5 CONTROL GROUP: Had things all his own way when left alone on the front end against a weak group of bottom-level claimers earlier in the meet. These are steeper waters, but the Noda barn’s been firing and Irad sees fit to ride him again.
Black Magic Woman
Love On the Run
#1 BLACK MAGIC WOMAN: Has looked supernatural in the mornings for Todd Pletcher ahead of her career debut. The rail and seven-furlong distance mean this may not be smooth, but if she can overcome those obstacles, there won’t be many evil ways to worry about (if you didn’t like the word play, shut up, I’m having fun); #3 LOVE ON THE RUN: Showed plenty of speed in her debut, where she got cooked on the front end going longer at Belmont. I think the cutback to seven furlongs will help her, and Bill Mott horses tend to improve second time out; #5 HARLEM HEIGHTS: Was second in her first start since October last month, and that came at this distance. Her most recent local workout was pretty sharp, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see her take a step forward.
Grumps Little Tots
#2 INTREPID HEART: Was a game winner last time out at Churchill against a stakes-quality group, so it’s a bit surprising seeing him in here for a tag. However, these are aggressive connections, so it’s not necessarily a red flag and I don’t have reason to think this is a dump; #8 HAN SENSE: Was a close-up second against similar last month at Belmont and goes back to a two-turn route of ground. He’s done his best work at tracks with similar configurations, and he could sit a nice trip on or near a moderate pace; #5 GRUMPS LITTLE TOTS: Won here last year for the Jason Servis barn, and is now running for Rob Atras after Mr. Servis was paid a visit by the feds. His return at Delaware wasn’t bad, and that leads me to believe he could have plenty of strong races left in him.
She’s Got You
#4 SHE’S GOT YOU: Looms large after nearly overcoming an unfavorable race shape in her U.S. debut. This doesn’t seem like as strong a race for the level, and she should be flying late once again beneath Javier Castellano; #2 TRAIPSING: Was favored in a minor stakes race last time out at Gulfstream but was up too close to a solid pace. Her two-back effort was strong, and she may be able to work out an easier trip here with a smaller field and less early speed signed on; #6 FOXTAIL: Takes an aggressive jump up the class ladder in her first start off the claim. However, she’s shown gate speed in the past and may be able to lead them a long way at a price if she’s ready.
#5 HERWAZE: Led briefly here earlier in the meet before fading to third behind two strong finishers. I don’t see many runners in here that have shown they can pass others late, and Luis Saez returning to ride inspires some confidence in a tough finale to handicap; #1 CAINUDOTHETWIST: Ran a good second at a price in her debut downstate despite going long at first asking, which isn’t easy to do. She was a bit green, and the inside draw means she could get shuffled back, but I wouldn’t be stunned if she won; #9 BEYOND BROWN: Takes a drop in for a tag after showing speed against state-bred maiden special weight foes in the past. Jose Ortiz should be able to establish forward positioning, and perhaps the drop is what she needs.