Picks & Plays for Sunday, January 29
by David Aragona
Visit TimeformUS to view this card’s Highlight Horse and get PPs.
Race 1: 4 - 5 - 3 - 6
Race 2: 3 - 5 - 2 - 6
Race 3: 2 - 7 - 1 - 5
Race 4: 1 - 5 - 7 - 8
Race 5: 4 - 3 - 2 - 6
Race 6: 6 - 7 - 3 - 5
Race 7: 5 - 7 - 3 - 4
Race 8: 3 - 1 - 6 - 5
Race 9: 10 - 1 - 3 - 11
(Guide - WIN: recommended win/key horse at fair odds; UPGRADE: value horses I picked underneath to consider upgrading in vertical/horizontal wagers; USE: runners to include in vertical exotic wagers with Win horse)
RACE 4: PAPI ON ICE (#1)
I suppose Super Quality (#7) is the horse to beat as he makes his third attempt at this $20k maiden claiming level. He ran better than it might appear in his first two dirt starts for Atras as he was on a dead rail in September and then was pressing an extremely fast pace in that November race at this level. He’s drawn well outside of his main pace rivals, but there is still plenty of speed signed on and he may not be at his best if unable to make the lead. I don’t want to settle for a short price on him. I have similar feelings about Naked and Famous (#5). This speedy 5-year-old was facing a much tougher field in his career debut last June when he displayed high speed for a half-mile before stopping. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to build on that performance even as he’s descended the class ladder in recent starts. He has had some excuses recently and may be set for better second off the layoff. Yet I’m still skeptical of his chances with other speed signed on. I think there’s a real chance this race could fall apart late. Some may favor Growth Mindset (#8) in that scenario, but I’m a little skeptical that he can be an effective dirt sprinter, having never gone this short. My top pick is Papi On Ice (#1). This gelding has had more chances than everyone else in here, but he fits this race flow very well. He’s been most effective when he gets into spots that feature fast paces, as was the case when he nearly won off a layoff in November. He hasn’t been quite as effective since then, but Randi Persaud has tried to stretch him out in recent starts and I think he’s a bit better going shorter. Randi Persaud has sent out some live runners at this meet and this one figures to fly under the radar.
WIN: #1 Papi On Ice, at 6-1 or greater
RACE 7: EASY PLAY (#5)
I won’t argue with anyone who asserts that Villareggia (#3) is the most likely winner of this bottom-level conditioned claimer, but she’s just not the kind of horse that I want to endorse at a short price. She’s been fairly consistent through her recent starts, which is more than the others in this field can claim. Yet she’s a bit of a plodder and now lands in a race that doesn’t feature much early pace. She’s also making her first start off the claim for Amira Chichackly. That barn has had some recent success, but I’m still not sure I’d want to be claiming horses off Lynn Cash, who tends to get the best out of his runners. The TimeformUS Pace Projector points out that there isn’t much speed in this race, predicting a scenario favoring the early leaders. That figures to benefit Easy Play (#5) most of all. No one in this field is a confirmed front-runner, but this Orlando Noda trainee seems most likely to go forward in the early stages, as she tried to do last time. Yet she was coming off a layoff and facing a tougher field of $25k claimers. She’s now dropping in class after getting a pretty tentative ride from Eric Cancel that day. She seems like one who could benefit from that run and I think the slight stretch-out to 7 furlongs will help her cause, especially if the pace is slow. I would also use London Gold (#7), who can be forwardly placed and has been in decent form for Randi Persaud lately. She’s met some slightly tougher fields at this level in recent starts and usually goes off at a square price.
WIN: #5 Easy Play, at 4-1 or greater
RACE 8: LUNI SIMA (#3)
Tonal Impact (#1) feels like a deserving favorite as he tries to break through this N1X allowance condition. He had his 4-race winning streak broken when he just missed at this level last time, but he still ran well in defeat. Gasoline, who looked beaten at the top of the lane, battled back gamely inside of him, but this horse never stopped fighting to the wire. He obviously handles the distance and has been in strong form since the Linda Rice claim. He's the one to beat, though a short price is all but guaranteed. I’m not a big fan of his main rival Six Percent (#6). This horse did win going the distance at Saratoga last summer, but he did so against a weaker field of conditioned claimers. He’s maintained solid form since then, but I’m not sure that he’s really at his best going this distance. He got a nice speed figure for winning a New York-bred allowance race last time, but the competition is getting much stronger now. I prefer Luni Sima (#3) at a similar price. I’ve always wanted to see this horse stretched back out in distance, but they’ve generally kept him at one turn for most of his career. His lone prior attempt going this 9-furlong distance around two turns came during his 2-year-old season when he finished a decent third in a stamina-testing maiden special weight event at Saratoga. He’s generally been in solid form for Peter Walder, usually running well in his races going a mile and beyond. I thought he had valid excuses in each of his last two starts, and he rebounded nicely last time when more aggressively ridden to press the pace. I’m hoping that Jose Gomez uses similar tactics here, as he’s good enough to compete with the favorite on his best day.
WIN: #3 Luni Sima, at 5-2 or greater
RACE 9: CAPTAINSDAUGHTER (#10)
This N1X allowance affair is easily the most wide open race on the card. The Pace Projector is unsurprisingly predicting a fast pace, as there is plenty of early speed signed on. The best of the speed types may be Ruvies in Time (#1). This 7-time winner has more victories at Aqueduct (5) than most horses in this field have won in their entire careers. She’s had some ups and downs over the past few seasons, but she does appear to be in one of her good runs right now. She did well to hold on for second at a big price last time in what was surely a tougher race for this level. The biggest drawback today is the inside post position, since all the other speed is drawn outside of her. One of the primary enigmas in this field is Hot Fudge (#11), who returns from a lengthy layoff for Linda Rice. There’s obviously talent here, but this filly has many questions to answer. She did handle dirt pretty well when she broke her maiden in her second start as a 2-year-old, though she benefited from a rail-skimming trip on a day when the inside path was beneficial. Rice is 4 for 22 (18%, $1.74 ROI) off 300+ day layoffs over 5 years. This filly’s style fits this race, though I do have some questions about whether she’s really a dirt horse, as I’ve been more impressed with her turf races. A filly with a similar profile is Champagne Poetry (#3). There was some buzz about her when she launched her career as a 2-year-old in late 2021, and she did run the two best races of her career on dirt during that campaign last winter. The connections seemingly made a mistake when experimenting on synth and turf in her last couple of starts, but she’s back in the right kind of spot and seems to be working well for her return. Yet I think this race looks ripe to fall apart, so I want a late runner. My top pick is Captainsdaughter (#10). She may not be the most naturally talented runner in this field, but her running style appears to fit this race perfectly. She looked like she might be making the winning move using those tactics last time, but she stalled at the eighth pole going 7 furlongs. She has generally done better at this shorter 6-furlong distance, especially when there is ample speed signed on. She’s a filly who once struggled to win races, but she’s been in career form lately, and usually goes off at a fair price.
WIN: #10 Captainsdaughter, at 4-1 or greater