Picks & Plays for Thursday, November 14
by David Aragona
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Race 1: 4 - 7 - 6 - 3
Race 2: 10 - 6 - 5 - 8
Race 3: 7 - 3 - 1
Race 4: 12 - 8 - 10 - 4
Race 5: 6 - 1 - 9 - 4
Race 6: 10 - 4 - 3 - 7
Race 7: 6 - 10 - 4 - 9
Race 8: 5 - 9 - 6 - 1
Race 9: 6 - 8 - 3 - 2
RACE 2: STONEFACTOR (#10)
The two main players in this conditioned claiming race are dropping out of the same New York-bred optional claiming event on Oct. 25. Merlins Muse finished well ahead of Stonefactor that day, but they worked out very different trips. Merlins Muse was rated well off the pace in the early going, though perhaps not far back enough, considering how the pace completely fell apart in the late stages. Merlins Muse obviously has the credentials to win this race despite her seemingly poor effort last time. She’s certainly worth using here based on her prior form, but I prefer Stonefactor at what figures to be a better price. Stonefactor got involved in a ridiculous early duel last time through unreasonably fast fractions for the distance over a demanding Belmont turf course that had taken some rain. It’s not a major surprise that she faded so readily following such a duel, especially going a distance that is probably too far for her anyway. She, too, should appreciate the cutback in trip and she had previously run some triple-digit TimeformUS Speed Figures that would give her a chance here. The rider switch to Joel Rosario is a positive one, and there isn’t much pace to go after her early this time. The TimeformUS Pace Projector is actually predicting that she will be clearly in front in a situation favoring the early leader.
Exacta Key Box: 10 with 5,6,8
RACE 4: BACK CHARGE (#12)
The two runners likely to attract the most support in this race are Danzing Dunhill and Justintimeforwine, who finished third and second, respectively, in another auction price restricted maiden special weight last month. Danzing Dunhill, the beaten 4-5 favorite that day, may go off as the public choice once again given his pair of third place finishes in his first two starts. However, there’s no denying that Justintimeforwine ran the stronger race last time, as he carved out fast fractions and gamely battled back when passed by the eventual winner in the lane. He earned an impressive 101 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that effort, which would typically be a respectable number of a winner of an open maiden special weight. Some may hold it against him that he’s going out for a low-percentage barn and is ridden by Mike Luzzi, who doesn’t get many live mounts, but those are all constants from his last race into this one. I think he’s the horse to beat and that Danzing Dunhill has to improve to beat him. Yet, there’s a third major player in this race who may get somewhat overlooked. Back Charge ships in from Laurel and makes his first start on turf after one start sprinting on dirt in his debut. As a Maryland-bred, he took advantage of the option for the waived claiming tag last time and he actually made up some ground in the lane after getting outrun early. However, the switch to turf is supposed to move him up. His sire Jack Milton was a Grade 1 winner on turf who also won graded turf stakes as a 2-year-old, and there’s a ton of turf pedigree on the dam’s side. Five of her 7 foals to try the turf won over it, accounting for 26 wins among them. The best of those half-siblings were multiple turf stakes winner Phlash Phelps and turf stakes winner Action Andy. Phil Schoenthal does a good job out of town and he showed that he can send out a winner at NYRA by winning the first race here on Monday.
Exacta Key Box: 12 with 4,8,10
RACE 6: HIGH JINGO (#10)
Possible favorite First Appeal moves back up in class after she disappointed as the 4-5 favorite going 7 furlongs at Belmont last time. That distance may be a bit far for her, so turning back one furlong should suit her. She would also benefit from getting a bit more pace to close into after last time, when Vip Nation won in gate-to-wire fashion. First Appeal did get caught in traffic when attempting to rally two back, a race in which she otherwise would have been second with a clear run. There is speed drawn to the outside today, but it remains to be seen if she gets enough pace to set up her late run. The other runner likely to attract significant support has a similar running style. A Little Faith has sprinted on the turf twice and won both times. She was briefly caught in traffic coming to the quarter pole last time, but exploded through an opening when she found daylight in the stretch. She’s stepping up in class here, but she should get some pace to close into once again and she has more upside than many others. I’m using both of these favorites prominently, but my top pick is one of the Jason Servis trainees. High Jingo looks like a runner who can rebound in this spot. After the scratch of Forgotten Hero, the Pace Projector is predicting that she will be on the lead in a situation favoring the front-runner. Her last outing is obviously a major concern, since she was dead on the board at 7-2 and never had anything, backing up to last after failing to get the lead. Though, there is no alarming drop in class off that effort. That’s noteworthy considering that she’s trained by Servis, a trainer who is known for placing runners where they can win, even when aggressive drops in class are necessary. Over the past five years, Servis is 12 for 36 (33%, $2.32 ROI) with runners who finished out of the money last time, yet are not coming off a layoff and are competing for a claiming price of at least $35,000 (i.e. not taking a precipitous drop) on turf. I also think it’s worth pointing out that Irad Ortiz hops off his regular mount Hollywood Cat to get back on this mare instead.
Exacta Key Box: 10 with 3,4,6,7
Trifecta: 10 with 3,4,7 with 3,4,6,7,8
RACE 8: BLOCKADE (#5)
Spirit Animal may go favored in a race that was brought back after getting taken off the turf at Belmont. His Saratoga effort was fine, as he stayed on evenly while no match for his stablemate Value Proposition, the trouble noted there being merely incidental. He showed promise as a juvenile, running deceptively well in the Pilgrim after a disastrous start, and still has upside. However, this is a tall order off the layoff and he doesn’t figure to offer much value. Speed has been dangerous on Aqueduct turf course, especially in recent days, and that makes Everyonelovesjames and Chantry Flats somewhat intriguing. Of those two, I prefer Chantry Flats. It took him nine starts to break his maiden, but he’s been earning TimeformUS Speed Figures that would make him competitive at this level for a while now. He should sit a good trip stalking Everyonelovesjames and he showed that he can get the mile last time. He’s a major player, but I’m going in a different direction and taking a shot with the returning Blockade. This 4-year-old is coming off a lengthy layoff, but showed real promise during his 2-year-old season, finishing second in the key race won by multiple stakes winner Analyze It. He only made one start after that, breaking his maiden at Gulfstream about 21 months ago. Layoffs of this length are a pretty big deal, but Shug McGaughey does well in these situations. Over the past 5 years, he is 6 for 17 (35%, $2.93 ROI) off layoffs of 180 days or more in turf routes at NYRA. Blockade appears to be training well for this return and he doesn’t have to improve that much on his form as an in experienced young horse to be a player here.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 1,6,8,9
Trifecta: 5 with 6,9 with 1,2,6,8,9