Sunday was Queen’s Plate Day at Woodbine, and it was a fabulous day of racing. Irad Ortiz, Jr., put forth one of the best rides I’ve seen in quite some time to get Safe Conduct home in the main event. Silent Poet handed Caravel a stunning defeat in the Grade 1 Highlander, and Dylan Davis took the trip up north to win the Grade 2 Dance Smartly aboard Mutamakina.
The card also, however, featured a first-time starter named Arafat. That name gave me pause, and the name of the sire, War On Gaza, didn’t help. Yasser Arafat, of course, led the Palestine Liberation Organization for many years, and the PLO has been recognized as a terrorist organization since 1987. I asked the Jockey Club for more information on how the name was approved and diversity within the registration process. Through its communications department, the organization declined to comment.
Eric Guillot named a horse Grape Soda as a direct attack on TVG anchor Ken Rudulph, and it wasn’t long ago that there was a controversy over a horse named Noose (renamed Scabbard). This begs an important question: What’s happening with the naming process that’s causing these names to get through without being flagged?
SUNDAY’S RESULTS: Both subjects of win bets ran second, and my fifth-race exactas fizzled. I dropped $32.
WEDNESDAY’S PLAY: I’ll focus on the late Pick Four, which starts in the seventh race. My 50-cent ticket looks like this: 2,5 with 4,5 with 3,4,5,6 with 2,5,10,11. The last two races look pretty wide-open, and I think this could pay pretty well.
TOTAL WAGERED: $32.
Best Bet: Waterville, Race 6
Longshot: Cool Quest, Race 5
#3 RUDY ROD: Tries something I’ve never seen before, in that he’s entered to run in the first race on a Wednesday after racing in the Sunday finale three days prior. He was a good second a few days ago, and a repeat of that race would make him tough; #5 NO BURN: Takes a very big drop in class after showing speed in a pair of turf outings. He does have a few solid works on the dirt, and it’s not like he’d need to be a world-beater or step forward all that much to have a chance; #8 NAPOLEON COMPLEX: Is a big price on the morning line but could clunk up for a piece of it. The race he exits was a fairly tough one for the level. He showed some early zip that day, and the third-place finisher came back to beat my top pick over the weekend.
#3 QUICK RETURN: Cuts back to one turn after a failed two-turn experiment against state-bred allowance foes. He gets Lasix for the first time while returning to what seems like his preferred route of ground, and I’m gambling on a return to form; #1 EXTREME FORCE: Tried turf in his first start off the claim by Mike Maker, and that didn’t go so well. He returns to the dirt and drops in for his lowest claiming tag to date, and he’s got some back races that would make him competitive here; #4 FOREST SPIRIT: Came up a nose short at this level last time out and may go favored, but I have a few reservations. That last race fell apart up front, and they went the last furlong in 14 seconds. There seems to be a bit less pace signed on here, and while he’s talented enough to win, that may work against him.
Singita Dreams (MTO)
#1 POCKET SQUARE: Will be a heavy favorite on a drop in class after chasing Althiqa and Summer Romance in back-to-back Grade 1 events. Any way you look at this race, she towers over this field, and the only thing that could keep her out of the winner’s circle may be a surface switch if the turf course needs to dry out; #4 KEY BISCAYNE: Makes her first start for Mike Maker and showed enough class last summer to run third in the Saratoga Oaks. This is her third start off a long layoff, and she’d also be formidable if this race was moved to the main track; #2 BRAMBLE BAY: Is a very consistent sort that seems to run the same race every time out. Her lone clunker over the past two years came in a dirt sprint at Monmouth, and this is the type of race that plays to her strengths.
#3 INVALUABLE: Has been competitive against far better horses and takes a big drop in class for an aggressive ownership group. She’s hit the board nine times in 12 starts, and anything close to the form she showed downstate would make her a handful; #5 TIMELY TRADITION: Gets one more shot due to her proven affinity for this track. She’s another one dropping in class, and some of her best efforts have come here. If she’s at her best, she could provide some value; #7 SHASTA STAR: Hasn’t won in a while but did show improvement when second for a $50,000 tag in her first start for Robertino Diodoro. She drops back down the ladder here, and she could sit an ideal stalking trip just off the pace.
Kawhi Me a River
#8 COOL QUEST: Tries turf for the first time, and there are plenty of indications that say he’ll love it. He’s turned in several strong workouts over the training track’s turf course, and Brian Lynch is incredibly astute in knowing when to go from dirt to turf with young horses; #1 DIGITAL FUTURE: Will likely be a pretty heavy favorite and makes sense after back-to-back seconds downstate. The blinkers go on, and he’s got enough early speed to where he shouldn’t be shuffled back along the rail; #5 KAWHI ME A RIVER: Comes in off of a long layoff and tries turf for the first time, but he’s bred to like it. He’s a son of Kantharos with several solid turf drills, and the 329 turf Tomlinson figure hints that he’ll have a chance if he’s ready to run off of the freshening.
Oak Loves a Fight
#8 WATERVILLE: Exits one of the best 2-year-old maiden races on turf we’ve seen this summer. The top two runners may well show up in stakes races soon, and this one had a pretty adventurous trip. This seems like a softer spot, and I think she steps forward in a big way; #6 OAK LOVES A FIGHT: Rallied from last to finish third behind Derrynane, a nice horse that took some money in a stakes race last week. Two turns is a bit of an unknown, but if she takes to the route and gets a pace to run at, she wouldn’t be a shock; #5 CUPERE: Fetched $110,000 at auction last fall, and much of that could be because she’s a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Ivar. This barn is very patient, but it’s not like it can’t win with first-time starters, and she’ll have every chance to pick up a check if she runs to her bottom-side pedigree.
#5 BINKSTER: Drops way down in class after finishing third in a classy optional claiming event earlier in the met. He’s hit the board in all five of his local starts, and these shallower waters could make it far easier for him to record his first win over this surface; #2 GANDY DANCING: Didn’t do much running in a turf experiment last time out, but goes back to the dirt and is another getting significant class relief. The recent bullet drill indicates he’s doing well, and he ran well over this main track twice a season ago; #8 DARK MONEY: Was very impressive two starts back, when he beat a similar-level field at this distance at Belmont. He’s since switched barns, but he has a win over this track and could benefit from an outside draw that may give Luis Saez plenty of options early on.
#5 WINTER POOL: Just missed in the mud last time out and has steadily improved on speed figures in each of his outings. He’s shown he can go two turns without a problem, and a repeat of his last-out effort is probably good enough to win this; #4 HOMBRAZO: Had a weird trip last time out when fifth in the race my top pick exits. He was between horses throughout and didn’t have much running room when the field turned for home. He could certainly improve with a smoother trip, and I think it’s telling Irad Ortiz, Jr., got the mount again; #3 HANDY: Returns to the dirt after a failed turf try a few weeks ago and has more speed than he showed that afternoon. Jose Ortiz lands the mount, and I think he’ll be aggressive going into the clubhouse turn.
#3 SHAMROCKET: Has been extremely consistent and has missed the board just twice in 17 lifetime starts. He was most recently third behind Cross Border in the Grade 2 Bowling Green, and he’s run well enough going 12 furlongs that I don’t think an extra panel will be an issue in the John’s Call; #4 AJOURNEYTOFREEDOM: Broke a long drought when he rallied to top a good optional claiming group last month. He did so while rallying into a pretty slow early pace, and he’s kept very good company since being claimed by Mike Maker last summer at Del Mar; #5 CONVICTION TRADE: Is the “other” Mike Maker trainee, and he had enough trouble at the start of his last race to where I’m drawing a line through it. He wants to be much closer to the pace, and his form over the winter was very good. If he’s back to that level, he could outrun his odds in a big way.
Courageous Girl (MTO)
My Candy Girl
#11 MY CANDY GIRL: Draws a terrible post but has the early speed to be able to clear most of the field going into the first turn. She exits a pair of solid starter allowance races at Keeneland and Indiana Grand, and she was a good second at this level three starts ago at Aqueduct; #2 KITTEN’S ROMANCE: Is incredibly consistent and has run the same race pretty much every time since going to the Mark Hennig barn before her 2021 debut. Whether or not her Gulfstream Park form will transfer to Saratoga is anyone’s guess, but if it does, she’s certainly got the ability to win; #5 JAZZY LADY: Was claimed by Mike Maker last time out and was probably way too far back early on last time out. She has a history of finding trouble, and that’s not ideal, but she fits on speed figures and cannot be ignored in a wide-open Wednesday finale.