Picks & Plays for Sunday, April 24
by David Aragona
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Race 1: 6 - 2 - 7 - 1
Race 2: 2 - 1 - 5 - 6
Race 3: 1 - 5 - 6 - 2
Race 4: 4 - 1 - 5 - 3
Race 5: 8 - 4 - 9 - 1
Race 6: 5 - 1 - 3 - 6
Race 7: 8 - 3 - 4 - 2
Race 8: 6 - 1 - 7 - 5
Race 9: 12 - 1 - 10 - 9
(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 2: MISS INVINCIBLE (#2)
Likely favorites #1 Kemba and #5 Summer At the Spa loom large in this conditioned claimer. Their merits are fairly obvious, especially given the lack of turf credentials among their rivals, but it’s not as if either one is terribly trustworthy as a win candidate. Kemba has the advantage of possessing more early speed, but it’s unclear how much pace we’ll see in this race. Horses drawn outside such as Love’s Misery, Thefabulous Moolah, or Easy Play could be forwardly placed with aggressive rides, so it’s not as if Kemba projects to have some massive advantage. I slightly prefer Kemba’s form to that of Summer At the Spa, but at least the latter mare has run well off layoffs in the past. Her best performances during each of the last two seasons came in her first start back from a layoff. They both make sense, but I want to look for a viable alternative at a better price. #2 Miss Invincible clearly needs to get faster to win this race. However, she does have upside as a 3-year-old facing elders. She ran better than it might appear in both turf starts last season, which came against tougher maiden special weight company. She set a fast pace on Nov. 19 before getting hung wide all the way on Dec. 4 against a much stronger field. Since then she’s improved racing on synthetic at Turfway. I think she deserves another chance on grass, and she’s drawn well on the inside for this one-mile test. Some may shy away from taking Mike Luzzi, but he can still guide home a longshot every now and then.
WIN: #2 Miss Invincible, at 9-1 or greater
RACE 5: WAR IN PARADISE (#8)
This maiden claimer loses some wagering appeal with the scratch of dropdown Tingling Mint, who was sure to attract plenty of support. #4 Supersnake could now take plenty of money as a first time starter for Mike Maker. Given her excellent turf pedigree out of the productive mare Derrianne, dam of stakes winner Tapitation, it’s alarming that she only sold for $6,500 as a yearling. Maker is just 3 for 34 (9%, $1.04 ROI) with first time starters in maiden claiming turf routes over 5 years. I’m instead interested in some of the bigger prices, and there are a few possible alternatives. The one that I find most intriguing is #8 War in Paradise. This filly didn’t show much in her lone turf start late last year but she completely blew the break that day. She fared much better in her return to grass off the layoff two weeks ago. Competing at the maiden special weight level, she showed good early speed from post 11, contesting an honest pace before fading late. The 90 TimeformUS Speed Figure that she earned for that effort is higher than any number the favorite has received. The drop in class makes sense, and she’s going to be a square price due to the low-profile connections. I would also use #9 Dancing Bella, who returns from a layoff while switching barns. She wasn't seriously involved in the debut last summer at Saratoga, but she had an eventful trip that day and deserves another chance.
WIN: #8 War in Paradise, at 7-2 or greater
RACE 6: EUCHARIST (#5)
Low-level claimers don’t get much more consistent than #3 Mr. Pete. This horse has finished in the money in his last 8 starts, and even more remarkably has earned a set of speed figures that are all within about a 5-point range. He’s making his first start off the claim for John Toscano here, but he hasn’t been phased by switching stables recently. I’m just concerned that there are horses in here with a higher ceiling than him, even if they may be less trustworthy. #1 Musical America is a wild card as he drops in class again and switches into the Rob Atras barn. This clearly wasn’t a good claim by Michael Dubb, as this 8-year-old’s form has completely fallen apart since getting picked up for $32k. However, his last race wasn’t as bad as it might seem, since he found himself chasing a runoff leader through unreasonable early fractions. The slight cutback shouldn’t bother him and he may be the speed from the rail. I’d use him, but I prefer #5 Eucharist. This horse made his first start off the claim for Ray Handal last time and showed subtle improvement despite finishing fourth, beaten by double-digit lengths. He was contesting an honest pace that day and was simply no match for three superior runners who crossed the wire ahead of him. Winner Crypto Cash and third-place finisher American Rule both came back to win out of that spot with strong efforts. I like the slight turnback for Eucharist and this is certainly a drop in class.
WIN: #5 Eucharist, at 5-2 or greater
RACE 7: TACO BEAN (#8)
The connections did not shy away from trying #3 Who Hoo That’s Me in some tough spots last year. After breaking his maiden going today’s distance, he gave a very nice account of himself in the Sleepy Hollow, checking in third behind the talented Shipsational. I won’t be too hard on him for the Remsen regression, given the step up in company and trip. Jorge Abreu does not have strong numbers off layoffs, and is just 2 for 20 (10%, $1.10 ROI) off 90-180 day layoffs on dirt over 5 years. Yet this horse is coming back in a logical spot and obviously will be a handful if he merely holds his form from last year. Some of his main rivals are also 3-year-olds. However, I’m not quite as enamored with #1 Hot Rod Rumble or #2 Bourbon’s Hope. The former took many tries to break his maiden and finally did so with a lucky headbob last time. He may be the speed from the inside, and will be dangerous if the track is favoring the rail again. Bourbon’s Hope was beaten by a pretty good rival last time, but this is a deeper field from top to bottom. A couple of runners exit the April 1 race at this level won by Masked Marauder. That heat came up unusually fast, I think this is a softer spot. #4 Lookin for Trouble set the pace before fading, but he was glued to the rail, which might not have been the place to be. He can bounce back, though isn’t the most appealing win candidate. My top pick at a bigger price is #8 Taco Bean, who finished just ahead of Lookin for Trouble in that April 1 affair with a similar forwardly placed trip. I’m not sure what changed for this gelding towards the end of last year, but he’s grown up into a decent racehorse after a dismal start to his career. He’s now put forth three straight respectable efforts at this level. He also showed a new dimension when closing from off the pace to get up for third two back. He rarely gets much respect due to the low-profile connections, but he’s far from impossible here if the favorite isn’t quite ready off the layoff.
WIN: #8 Taco Bean, at 7-1 or greater
RACE 9: BARREL OF QUESTS (#12)
I’m not wildly against either favorite in this state-bred maiden special weight event that closes out the card, but I also don’t want to default to either at a short price. #10 Highgate Road is probably the horse to beat as he drops out of a solid try against open company in his career debut at Tampa Bay Downs. He faced a solid field that day and earned a respectable 93 TimeformUS Speed Figure for the performance. The problem is that he’s going to be a short price getting a rider upgrade to Jose Ortiz, and these runners don’t always translate their form coming to New York. Catherine Day-Phillips is also 0 for 13 with maiden second time starters on turf over the past 5 years, with just one hitting the board. #1 Mr. Connecticut appears to be his main rival as the other short price in this affair. He ran well in all of his starts last year. He looked like he needed a race when fourth in a solid maiden event on debut, and then just missed second time out. He finished off the board as the favorite in his 2021 finale, but he was essentially blocked for the entire stretch drive. He’s better than that, but Christophe Clement doesn’t have particularly strong statistics off layoffs. I don’t see that much speed in this race, so I want to lean in another direction towards a runner who should be forwardly placed. #12 Barrel Quests is a horse that I’ve been waiting to see back on turf. This colt made just one start on turf last year in his career debut, and he didn’t run nearly as poorly as it may seem. He got a little rank heading into the first turn and then raced 3-wide without cover before fading late. He got some time off after that and has returned with some improved efforts on dirt. He actually made a nice middle move going a mile in his return, and then last time showed improved early speed in the slop before settling for second. I think he’s getting back on the right surface as a son of turf winner Barrel of Joy, who has already produced 2 multiple turf winners. He also could play out as the controlling speed if ridden as aggressively as last time.
WIN: #12 Barrel of Quests, at 7-1 or greater