Daily Racing Form reporter David Grening caught up with NYRA representatives regarding the Marcus
Vitali situation. The trainer possesses a long rap sheet, but entered a race on Thursday’s program to the
dismay of many around the horse racing world.
The explanation is, predictably, disappointing. Vitali has a valid license to train in New York, and per
Grening’s report, NYRA says it is “establishing a due process mechanism that will allow it to take action
against individuals whose conduct is contrary to the best interests of thoroughbred racing.”
Shady characters have been around racing for as long as there’s been racing. It’s easy to play “Monday
morning quarterback,” but it’s not like the existence of this stuff shocks anyone. With that in mind,
here’s a very simple follow-up question: Why doesn’t that mechanism already exist?
THURSDAY’S RESULTS: For the second day in the row, it was a fantastic afternoon in the pick box but a
lousy day here. Late doubles fizzled, and while Sassy Belle outran her odds, she didn’t hit the board. We
FRIDAY’S PLAY: I’ll go after the late Pick Four, which is headlined by the Grade 3 Lake George. My main
50-cent ticket is as follows: 4,10 with 6,7 with 2,3,5,6,8 with 1,6. I’ll also play another 50-cent ticket that
doubles down on a few of my stronger opinions. That one goes like this: 10 with 6 with 2,3,6 with 1,6.
TOTAL WAGERED: $23.
Best Bet: Air Show, Race 7
Longshot: Closertotheheart, Race 10
#8 BUCKINGHAM PRINCE: Did everything but win in the slop last time out at Ellis Park and looms large in the opener. He chased several next-out winners in his debut two back, and this seems like the softest group he’s faced yet; #7 STOLEN BASE: Sold for $45,000 at auction, which just barely qualifies him for this event. Mike Maker’s horses sometimes need a race to get going, but he’s worked well at Keeneland and looks like he has some potential; #9 BIG SCULLY: Turned in a series of solid four-furlong drills at Churchill Downs prior to shipping to upstate New York. The Louisiana-bred draws a cushy outside post, which could help him get comfortable in his career debut.
#10 TIME LIMIT: Has an abundance of early speed and will almost certainly be the one to catch going into the turn. This is her third start off a very long layoff, and she’s run well against some very solid groups in the past; #1 FETCHING: Hasn’t won in quite a while but could move forward off the claim by George Weaver, who doesn’t claim many horses but is excellent with the ones he acquires. Luis Saez sees fit to ride back, and she has a win and a second in three starts over this turf course; #5 AWSUM ROAR: Is an ultra-consistent mare from Florida who arrives here having hit the board in eight straight races. She’s won here before, and that’s a plus, but is here enough speed signed on to set things up for the way she wants to run?
Realm of Law
#9 REALM OF LAW: Was third in a race many of these exit and didn’t have a great trip that day. He got shuffled back most of the way before making up plenty of ground, and I think he’s a candidate to improve with a luckier journey here; PLETCHER ENTRY: #2 MUBTADAA nearly capitalized on a perfect trip last time when second at odds of 14-1. He’ll certainly be on or near the lead, but I don’t think he’ll be alone this time around; REEVES ENTRY: #1 BIG EVEREST was rank last time and had every right to need that race off of a long layoff. His debut race last October was very good, and if he steps forward in this spot, he’ll have every chance to get the job done in his third career start.
#8 DARK MONEY: Has won three of his last five starts, including a last-out score at this level downstate. He was claimed out of that event by George Weaver, who retains the riding services of Irad Ortiz, Jr.; #2 JUST RIGHT: Comes back to what’s probably the correct level after several failed tries against optional claiming competition. His last several wins have come against similar foes, and his two victories at this seven-furlong distance can’t be ignored; #7 BIG MOUNTAIN: Suffered due to not making the lead last time out, but is dangerous when he gets his preferred trip. If he’s sent to the front by Dylan Davis, he could lead them a long way at a square price.
#2 DAME TIME: Took to the lawn well when second last time out at Belmont, and it’s interesting that she showed a bit more early interest in that start. That zip could come in handy here given the inside draw, and she hasn’t done much wrong to this point; #5 TUSCAN QUEEN: Led briefly in her unveiling last month for a barn whose first-time starters usually aren’t fully-cranked. She’s worked well since coming upstate, and it wouldn’t be a shock if she stepped forward enough to win here; #3 GAILHORSEWIND: Has shown a solid closing kick to this point and would benefit from a pace meltdown. Linda Rice’s barn has won plenty of these turf sprints over the years, and Jose Lezcano nearly piloted this one to a win two back.
Math Wizard (MTO)
He’s No Lemon
#11 HE’S NO LEMON: Almost certainly needed his last-out effort, where he was way too far back to have any chance late. He stretches back out to a marathon distance here, and he’s won going long over this turf course two seasons in a row; #7 AJOURNEYTOFREEDOM: Hasn’t won since March of 2020 but has spent much of that time going up against legitimate stakes horses. He was most recently third in the Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup going two miles, and these waters are significantly more shallow; #4 KENTUCKY GHOST: Was a solid fifth in the Grade 2 Wise Dan after two wins and a second to kick off his 2021 campaign. If he can stretch his form out to this marathon distance, he certainly has a chance, and he did run second in a longer race at Kentucky Downs last fall.
U. S. Steel
#10 AIR SHOW: Drops in for a tag for aggressive connections after running well in three starts following an April claim. The races in Indiana have gotten far stronger of late, and if he can bring that form east with him, the race may be for second money; #4 U. S. STEEL: Takes a colossal drop in his first start as a gelding, and he has back form that would make him competitive here. He won first time out in a dirt sprint at Delaware, and perhaps the ultimate equipment change will help him find that form; #5 BRUNATE: Comes in off an effort that’s too poor to be true. Drawing a line through that race makes this one’s form look considerably better, and he hit the board three times here a season ago.
Judge N Jury
#6 BIG BOBBY: Moved forward to break his maiden at second asking after running into an impressive next-out winner in his debut. Bill Mott’s horses have been firing early in the Saratoga meet, and this one’s strictly the horse to beat; #7 JUDGE N JURY: Has been working well ahead of his return to the races, one that will come in both his first start as a gelding and his first outing with Lasix. Danny Gargan’s numbers with similar stock are excellent, and it sure looks like he’ll be the one dictating terms early; #3 QUICKFLASH: Hasn’t won since February of 2020 but came close last time out, when he was a good second in the slop earlier this month. Irad sees fit to ride back, and he could sit an ideal stalking trip just off the speed.
#6 AMY C: Is one of several Chad Brown trainees with big chances in the Grade 3 Lake George. She’s my top pick due to her impressive U.S. debut, where she rated behind a slow pace and still hit the line first. This is where Irad lands, and that matters; #3 FLUFFY SOCKS: Got stuck rating behind a slow pace in the Grade 3 Wonder Again and is better than she showed in that outing. She’s won two stakes races, has placed in two others, and gets the services of Joel Rosario here; #2 RUNAWAY RUMOUR: Has won each of her first three starts and passed a big test by winning the Wild Applause last month. That was her first start against horses other than state-breds, and her pedigree says two turns shouldn’t be an issue.
#6 CLOSERTOTHEHEART: Sure looks like she’s always wanted to sprint, and she gets a chance to do so here against a suspect group. She was fourth in a $100,000 race at Laurel Park last fall, and while her lone turf sprint doesn’t look inspiring, that race was her first start in four months and she probably needed it; WEAVER ENTRY: #1 THRILL and #1A MISS DOMINA will almost certainly go favored, and I understand why. Having said that, the former hasn’t run since last August, and the latter was second against a weaker bunch last month at Gulfstream; #3 EPICUREAN: Looks like the main speed in here and figures to be prominent out of the gate. She tired to third going slightly longer last time out, and perhaps the slight cutback will agree with her.