Horse racing is a pari-mutuel game. We all pool our money against one another and root our lungs out trying to get our individual tickets home. However, there’s an unspoken respect among those who handicap and post picks for every race, on every card, at one of the hardest places to win in the game (side note: If anyone thinks that respect doesn’t exist on my end, with regard to anyone who does this in any publication, go take a long walk off a short pier).
With that in mind, I’ll use this space to plug fellow Pink Sheet handicapper Liam Durbin’s latest book. “Fathers Wait” is available on Amazon in paperback form. Liam didn’t ask me for this space, or for my opinion, but I’ll simply say this: Having worked with him in some form or fashion for the better part of a decade, I can tell you anything he does is going to be good.
THURSDAY’S RESULTS: I was dead right in trying to beat St. Joe Louis, who did indeed falter as a post-time favorite for the ninth time in 10 career outings. However, I only had winner Royal Spirit underneath, not on top, so I found a way to simultaneously be correct and drop $32.
FRIDAY’S PLAY: In a card full of fantastic betting races, I’ll focus on the eighth, the Yaddo Handicap. My top pick is #7 MARVELOUS MAUDE, who I’ll key in $4 exactas above and below #1 ICE PRINCESS, #5 RUNAWAY RUMOUR, and #10 CLASSIC LADY. I’ll also have a $6 win bet on her, and she’s a single in a cold $5 double ending in the eighth that uses #5 ANDIAMO A FIRENZE in the seventh (the Funny Cide).
TOTAL WAGERED: $35.
Best Bet: Maple Leaf Mel, Race 1
Longshot: Slow Decision, Race 11
Maple Leaf Mel
Les Bon Temps
#3 MAPLE LEAF MEL: Drew off with something in reserve earlier this month, and in doing so ran to her lofty $150,000 price tag from a sale earlier this year. Any sort of step forward would make her very tough to beat in this New York-Bred Showcase Day opener; #2 LES BON TEMPS: Comes in to face state-breds for the first time after chasing the talented Wonder Wheel in the Debutante at Churchill Downs. These are shallower waters, at least on paper, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she takes a step forward; #1 SONG PARODY: Made her debut a winning one downstate back in June and has since moved to the barn of Christophe Clement. She may not be alone up front early on, but she may have the early speed to turn the rail draw into an asset.
CLEMENT ENTRY: I prefer #1A VOLEUSE, who cuts back to six furlongs and has an experience edge over much of this group. She’s shown an ability to pass others late, which could come in handy in a race with some early zip; #3 PHOTON: Was second last time out in a race my top pick exits, and this one beat that one home on that occasion. I think there’s a chance she wants more ground, not less, but she also certainly seems to be moving forward; #4 FUNNY HOW: Was third last time out downstate and sports a few flashy local drills ahead of her second lifetime outing. Improvement is logical at second asking, and she doesn’t need to step forward much to be a factor here.
#4 BARESE: Has been running exclusively against stakes company since breaking his maiden as a 2-year-old. He was an impressive winner of the New York Derby at Finger Lakes last time out, and perhaps two turns is the route he’s wanted all along; #1 PRICE DISCIPLINE: Cruised home to top first-level allowance foes last month and takes a logical step up into stakes company in the Albany. It wouldn’t be a shock if he goes off favored given the connections, and we know he relishes this route of ground; #3 MONTEBELLO: Capitalized on a perfect trip last time out and will try two turns here in his first start for new trainer Todd Pletcher. I don’t love betting horses off of perfect-trip scores, though, and in this case, I’m not sure he’ll be able to get comfortable in the early stages.
Quick to Accuse
#4 CHULLIGAN: Is by Justify, out of Grade 1 winner Bar of Gold, and fetched $825,000 at auction last summer. He’s been working like a very promising 2-year-old for Christophe Clement, who’s enlisted first-call rider Joel Rosario to hop aboard; #2 QUICK TO ACCUSE: Fetched $200,000 at the OBS sale this past spring and sports a few solid local drills ahead of his unveiling. If my top pick doesn’t fire, it’s anyone’s race to win, and it wouldn’t be surprising if this one was a runner; #8 MICHAEL LEIS: Earned a bullet for a three-furlong drill a few days ago and makes his debut for Mike Maker and Luis Saez. This trainer/jockey combination is one of the best on the circuit, and both prior foals out of this dam to race have won.
Let Her Inspire U
#2 FINGAL’S CAVE: Improved to 3-for-3 with an easy score in her first two-turn outing last month. She’s shown this distance won’t trip her up, and while the Fleet Indian Stakes does represent a class hike, it certainly seems like she’s read to handle it; #5 VENTI VALENTINE: Earned a spot in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks earlier this year and certainly seems fast enough to go with my top pick early on. I do wonder if she’s better going slightly shorter, but she may be fast enough to clear this bunch from her outside post; #1 LET HER INSPIRE U: Stretches out to a route of ground after two straight wins sprinting. One of them came over this surface late last month, and while the pedigree doesn’t scream “two turns,” she does fit on figures and wouldn’t be a gigantic stunner.
Kiss Me Smile (MTO)
U Should Be Dancing
Tis a Pity
#10 U SHOULD BE DANCING: Seems to have found her form after taking a long time to break her maiden. She’s won twice in her last four starts, where she hasn’t been worse than third and has shown a much-improved closing kick; #9 TIS A PITY: Was second at this level and route last time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s bet down from her 9/2 morning like price. She beat my top pick two back going seven furlongs and has been second at this route twice in as many local outings; #4 AUNT VIRGINIA: Has run well in both starts of her two-race career and tries winners for the first time. She chased a heavy favorite home in her debut at Delaware, won a photo here last time out, and is lightly-raced enough to have plenty of room to improve.
Andiamo a Frienze
#5 ANDIAMO A FIRENZE: Headlines the Funny Cide, which has drawn several promising state-bred 2-year-olds and is one of my favorite races of the day. He splashed home to win his debut in the slop before running third in the Grade 3 Sanford, and he seems like the one to catch; #1 ACOUSTIC AVE: Won his debut like a very good horse, when he was less affected by a very slow, tiring surface than his rivals and won by nearly eight lengths. This is a much tougher group than that one, but he may very well be talented enough to win here, too; #4 DONEGAL SURGES: Rallied from sixth to win his unveiling and is wheeled back pretty quickly by a barn that doesn’t usually do this. No works since that victory is a bit of a red flag, but it takes a mature horse to rate and win at first asking and he’d benefit from a pace meltdown.
#7 MARVELOUS MAUDE: Has never missed the board in eight career starts and won at this route earlier this summer despite a rough trip. She’s one of the higher weights in this Yaddo Handicap (which puzzles me since she’s giving weight to stakes winners despite not being one herself), but it’s tough to go against a consistent horse doing what she wants to do; #5 RUNAWAY RUMOUR: Hasn’t won since June of last year but has spent most of the past year-plus going against much better horses. Her running lines feature the likes of Bleecker Street, Princess Grace, and Plum Ali, among others, and this spot represents significant class relief; #1 ICE PRINCESS: Is an ultra-consistent mare that seems to fire the same shot every time out regardless of surface. She was second last time out in her first start since April, and the inside post on this inner turf course could be an asset given her tactical speed.
Who Hoo Thats Me
#3 KEY POINT: Gets a reluctant nod in an optional claiming event that looks much more like a stakes race. He’s never fired a bad shot, is a nose away from being 3-for-3, and has enough flexibility in his running style to give Manny Franco plenty of options out of the gate; #7 WHO HOO THATS ME: Is a closer in a race that seems full of early speed, which makes him one that’s hard to ignore. His last-out win at Belmont was a career-best race, Flavien Prat sees fit to ride back, and the recent uptick in his morning workouts is hard to ignore; #12 ANEJO: Does his best running over this surface and was a fast-closing second behind a very nice horse in a similar spot a few weeks ago. Toss the turf and synthetic races, and this late-runner’s form looks much, much better.
#3 SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN: Ran off in the Lure earlier this month and comes back against state-bred competition. Assuming he can relax a bit, his best shot will make this multiple graded stakes-winner tough to beat in a fantastic renewal of the West Point; #7 CROSS BORDER: Completes a powerful 1-2 punch for trainer Mike Maker, even though this 8-year-old’s all-time best efforts may be behind him. Even so, he was beaten just four lengths in the Grade 2 Bowling Green, and it’s tough to ignore a local record that features six wins in nine starts over this turf course; #5 CITY MAN: Comes in off a victory in the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple, but doesn’t get much in the way of class relief here. He’d benefit from a hot pace, and there is some speed signed on, but that last-out 104 Beyer Speed Figure came with a picture-perfect trip that may not replicate itself here.
On Palm Sunday
Addicted to You
#2 ON PALM SUNDAY: Gets another shot from me after probably going a bit too fast last time out when he didn’t necessarily have to. He once again seems like the lone speed, which is dangerous on the inner turf, and unlike last time, he doesn’t have to clear most of the field to get to the rail; #11 ADDICTED TO YOU: Is 0-for-12 but has run second in each of his last three starts, including the race my top pick exits. The far outside post is a problem, but Flavien Prat knows this gelding well and he’d benefit from another runner going with my top pick; #10 SLOW DECISION: Comes back to the turf in his first start off the claim by Peter Walder, who has shown over the years that he can win with new acquisitions. He probably moved a bit early in his debut on the lawn down at Belmont, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he moves forward off of the last-out clunker despite the wide post.