As those who follow me already know, I lost my grandmother to COVID-19 earlier this year. It was brutal and made worse by the fact I couldn’t travel east from California to attend anything resembling a conventional funeral.
When she passed away, I made the decision to name a horse in her honor on Off And Pacing, a harness racing game you can play on your phone (my stable name is 128 Racing, named for my winning total back in 2017 when I won the all-media handicapping title). This past Tuesday, the mare I named Nana Carolyn won one of the richest races the game offers.
When I saw the video of this race, I teared up. Judge me for it if you want to, but that was an out-of-body experience I’ve never had before and will likely never have again. As an aside/cheap plug, if you play the game, make sure you send plenty of mares each season to flagship sire King Elliot, a three-time trophy winner named after my cat (and Gulfstream Park track announcer Pete Aiello’s favorite horse).
WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS: Tobys Heart did indeed win the Bolton Landing, but my underneath horses ran third and fourth. I dropped $30.
THURSDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the late double beginning in the eighth, as #7 LEAD GUITAR hits me as a vulnerable favorite. I’m playing $5 doubles starting with #2 FETCHING and #5 SPEIGHTSTOWN GAL and ending with #1 DARK MONEY, #2 WE SHOULD TALK, and #7 JUST RIGHT in the nightcap.
TOTAL WAGERED: $30.
Best Bet: Leaveuwithasmile, Race 5
Longshot: No More Miracles, Race 6
#5 MOSCATO: Won the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick earlier in the meet and has emerged as one of the top steeplechasers in the country. He’ll look to move to 3-for-3 on the year in this spot, and he should be rolling late; #6 OPTIMUS PRIME: Chased Moscato home in the Smithwick, which doubled as his first run in a year. He has every reason to step forward here, and he won this race at this route two years ago; #2 PRAVALAGUNA: Was eased in the Smithwick but was sent off at single-digit odds that day. Her two-back romp at Fair Hill was quite good, and I think she has every chance to grab a piece of it here at a big price.
#6 THANKFUL: Stepped forward a bit when second in her dirt debut last time out. She comes in off of a recent bullet workout and is bred to want every bit of this two-turn route of ground; #1 SIMPLY SWEET: Was a distant fourth in her unveiling downstate but should improve at second asking for trainer Bill Mott. She’s another with a solid local work tab, and two turns may be up her street, too; #4 HEAVENLY SIS: Has run second three times since coming off the bench a few months ago. The faster they go early, the better her chances figure to be, and she does possess the highest Beyer Speed Figure in this entire field.
Out of Trouble
#5 AWESOME ALANA: Goes back to the turf in her first start for Linda Rice. She’s been off since March but seems to have found a very soft landing spot for this level, and her lone prior start on the grass was a solid third against a better group at this route a season ago; #1 OUT OF TROUBLE: Has won just once since the start of last year but takes a significant drop in class. It’s possible she’s past her peak, but anything close to her 2019 form would give her a big shot; #6 GOODBYE BROCKLEY: Has some back races that would make her competitive here, although you have to dig a bit to find them. She may have needed her last-out effort off a brief freshening, and Luis Saez sees fit to ride.
Boom Boom Kaboom
#8 THREEPOINTNINENINE: Is one of many exiting a common race on July 30, which came at this level and route. He was fifth that day, but I think he’ll get a better setup here. He hits me as the lone early speed, and Saez rides back second off the bench for Tom Morley; #7 DISCIPLINARIAN: Has run third against similar goes in both starts since a brief layoff. He’s the leading finisher from the July 30 event running here, and the David Donk barn caught fire over the weekend; #6 BOOM BOOM KABOOM: Was favored in that common race and may have bounced a bit off of a decent effort two back against special weight foes. Maybe he’s better at Belmont, but a return to the two-back form isn’t inconceivable for an outfit due to get rolling at this stand.
#6 LEAVEUWITHASMILE: Made her local debut a winning one when wiring similar company during the first week of the meet. She was claimed out of that race by Danny Gargan, whose win percentage with new acquisitions is an insane 50% (and no, that’s not a misprint); #5 SIRENIC: Has the “stranger danger” factor in her favor as she ships in following a win over older foes at Ellis Park. She’s got some versatility and has been working well at Churchill Downs ahead of this trip; #1 CUSTOMEREXPERIENCE: Was probably left with too much to do last time when third behind my top pick after sitting well off the pace. Rudy Rodriguez claimed her after the last-out performance, and she would stand to benefit from some action up front early on.
Jack of Clubs
No More Miracles
#3 RED MULE: Makes his second start off the bench and comes back to his preferred surface after being protected last time out at Laurel. He ran well in New York last year before breaking his maiden at Gulfstream, and I like that he’s seemed to learn how to rate in his last several outings; #8 JACK OF CLUBS: Was protected late last time out after fading badly in his first start against winners. This is a softer spot, to be sure, and the class relief comes in his first start for the Mike Miceli barn, which hits at a high rate with both new acquisitions and turf sprinters; #7 NO MORE MIRACLES: Runs second off the layoff for David Donk and comes back to the grass. He’ll be a price after fading for lower tags on dirt a few times, but his turf races from last year match up pretty well with this bunch.
Stan the Man
T Loves a Fight
My Boy Tate
#2 STAN THE MAN: Drops in after running a strong second in the Grade 2 True North at Belmont behind Firenze Fire. He’s probably better going a bit longer than this six-furlong distance, but he sure seems like the main speed and should appreciate the class relief in the ungraded Tale of the Cat; #1 T LOVES A FIGHT: Hasn’t won since October but loves Saratoga and was recently second in the John Morrissey. I’m not crazy about the rail draw, but this barn has been sending out well-meant horses all summer; #4 MY BOY TATE: Was third in the Morrissey and may need a wet track for his best form to come out. However, he’s got four top-two finishes in five starts at this distance and was just a half-length behind my second selection last time out.
#5 SPEIGHTSTOWN GAL: Found herself on the lead last time out, and that may not be her desired trip. Her win two back at Belmont was very good, and I think she’ll sit an ideal stalking trip beneath Javier Castellano here; #2 FETCHING: Ran into a few strong horses in the Mount Vernon last time out after a nice win two back. This barn has been ice-cold at the meet, but this filly has won over this turf course before and seems well-meant on the cutback; #7 LEAD GUITAR: Comes back to New York for an astute barn and may be favored. However, I’m going to try to beat her. She seems considerably slower this year than she was as a 3-year-old, and I can’t endorse her at or near her 6/5 morning line price.
We Should Talk
#1 DARK MONEY: Was inexplicably rated off the pace last time out, and that’s not this horse’s game. He wants to be on or near the lead, and given the rider switch, the rail draw, and a recent bullet work, I think his desired trip is likely in the Thursday finale; #2 WE SHOULD TALK: Has won three in a row and has changed hands via the claim box after each victory. This is a bit of a step up, but it’s tough to argue he doesn’t deserve a shot against these and Englehart did step him up effectively two back at Aqueduct; #7 JUST RIGHT: Was beaten a half-length in his first start since August last time out. I think he needed that race off the long break, so the last-out hang in the stretch doesn’t bother me much. A step forward would put him right there.