Picks & Plays for Monday, January 20
by David Aragona
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Race 1: 1 - 6 - 2 - 5
Race 2: 5 - 2 - 4 - 1
Race 3: 4 - 2 - 5 - 1
Race 4: 5 - 6 - 3 - 4
Race 5: 8 - 6 - 3 - 1
Race 6: 7 - 4 - 2 - 6
Race 7: 2 - 1 - 6 - 8
Race 8: 5 - 2 - 3 - 7
Race 9: 10 - 3 - 11 - 6
RACE 1: SEED MONEY (#1)
Who’s in Charge figures to be a prohibitive favorite in the opener as he makes his first start for the Danny Gargan barn. He would be very difficult to beat if he is able to run back to his debut performance at Gulfstream, in which he defeated a slew of promising runners, including the accomplished allowance horse Fortune’s Fool. However, it took him nearly four months to get back to the races after that and he was dreadful when he faced the starter again at Churchill Downs. Now he’s returning from an 8-month layoff and dropping in for a tag for the first time, so there are definitely some questions to be answered. Gargan has fantastic statistics with this move, but I’m still wary of this runner at a short price. There is no clear alternative among the other 5 competitors. Mandatory Payout has run multiple speed figures that would put him in the mix, but he’s had his chances and is still 1-for-15 lifetime. I want to go for a slightly better price, so I’m taking a shot with Seed Money second off the layoff. This colt had shown some talent last winter, beating the solid allowance runner Red Zinger when he broke his maiden over this track last March. Things went awry after that, but he had excuses for both of those poor efforts in the spring. He only finished 7th last time, but he actually put in a solid effort within the context of that race, making a premature move on the turn after getting shuffled out of position coming out of the gate. Leah Gyarmati makes the switch to 10-pound bug rider Luis Cardenas, who has ridden well with limited opportunities. Seed Money possesses more speed than he displayed last time and he can be competitive here with even slight progression.
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 2,3,5,6
RACE 2: LADY CAT (#5)
The public is likely to focus on three runners in this weak maiden claiming affair, none of which are particularly enticing from a wagering standpoint. Our Ticket figures to be the favorite after just missing last time, though she was disqualified out of that second-place finish for ducking out into a rival during the stretch drive. While she gets a drop in claiming price, she was meeting another very weak field last time, so it’s unclear if she’s really getting any class relief. It’s also no certainty that she’s going to appreciate added distance. Eighty Seven North and Two Graces are her two main rivals and at least both of them have proven that they can handle route distances. However, both have run slightly better on turf than dirt recently and their recent form leaves a lot to be desired. I think this is a spot where we can get a bit more creative, so I’m taking a shot with the lightly raced Lady Cat. This filly has been beaten by double-digit margins in both starts to date, but she was sprinting 6 furlongs in each of those races. She doesn’t possess any early speed, but she was finishing well in the stretch and galloped out after the wire with significant interest last time. Furthermore, her pedigree suggests that added distance will be to her liking, since her dam was best going longer and she’s a half-sister to the route specialist Ex Ex Ex. She won’t have to improve that much to take down the aforementioned contenders.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 1,2,4
RACE 4: ANCIENT BROWN (#5)
Ice Princess is obviously the horse to beat as she drops out of the Grade 1 Frizette. You can’t blame her connections for taking a shot in that prestigious race, but it was nevertheless a tall order for a filly who had merely beaten an overmatched group of turf horses in her debut. She put forth an honest effort, closing willingly to be fourth in a race that didn’t exactly set up for late runners. Her TimeformUS Speed Figures in the mid90s are clearly the best in this field and she still has room to improve in just her third career start. I’m hardly against her, but her merits are fairly obvious. I’m taking a shot with the second-time starter Ancient Brown. She made a decisive middle move around the far turn in her debut after breaking slowly and proceeded to draw off with ease in the lane. The problem with that race is that it was objectively slow from a speed figure standpoint. However, a longshot got loose on the front end through moderate early fractions that day, which may have negatively impacted the final time. It was also the first race of the day, and we have routinely seen this Aqueduct main track speed up throughout the afternoon. I think it’s also noteworthy that the runner-up from that race returned to win her next start by 10 lengths with an improved speed figure, suggesting that the race may be better than it appears. Ancient Brown figures to show more speed here and I don’t anticipate her having trouble with the added distance.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 3,4,6
Trifecta: 5,6 with 5,6 with 2,3,4
RACE 7: HEAVY ROLLER (#2)
Wicked Trick continues to do his best impersonation of Cigar, as he has completely turned his career around since a switch to dirt. Linda Rice chose to bypass the Grade 3 Toboggan to instead target this starter allowance. The tradeoff in taking the path of least resistance is that he has to stretch out to a mile this time. He’s handled longer trips on turf, but the stretch-out is still a minor concern for a horse who seemed to wake up when turned back to sprint distances. He’s going to take plenty of money and there are plenty of viable alternatives in this field. Rob Atras has a pair of runners, the classier of which is Dynamax Prime. It’s been a little while since he’s won a race, but that is really the only knock against a horse who has otherwise been in fantastic form. His speed figures are among the best in the field and he’s getting significant class relief after meeting Mr. Buff in four of his last six starts. However, cutting back to a one-turn mile may not be ideal for him since he does seem to relish two turns. I prefer Atras’s other runner Heavy Roller. This 6-year-old is coming off a victory in the slop against a high-priced claiming group. These connections took quite a risk when they dipped in to claim him for $62,500 after he had previously been taken away from Atras for just $32,000. He delivered last time and he figures to hold that form since Rob Atras is 3 for 7 (43%, $2.69 ROI) second off the claim with last-out winners. Some may argue that he’s best with moisture in the ground, but he handles a fast track just as well and this one-turn mile distance figures to be right up his alley.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 1,3,6,7,8
Trifecta: 2 with 1,6,8 with 1,3,6,7,8
RACE 8: NEW YEAR’S WISH (#5)
Saguaro Row is the horse to beat in this Interborough as she drops out of a good second-place finish to the classy Spiced Perfection in the Grade 3 Go For Wand last time. While I acknowledge that she’s the class of this field, I’m somewhat concerned about the fact that she loses Joel Rosario for this race. Some riders just have the magic touch with certain horses and this mare is not an easy one to ride. Rosario has a way of getting this typically keen runner to shut off early and finish late, and her record with him aboard is quite telling. She’s 5-3-2-0 when Rosario pilots and 7-1-0-1 when ridden by anyone else. I am in no way intending to marginalize Jose Lezcano’s ample talents as a rider, but it should not be ignored that he’s getting aboard this sometimes difficult mare for the first time. The Pace Projector is predicting that Our Circle of Love will be on the lead in a situation favoring the front-runner, and that may make her difficult to pass. However, I’m a little concerned about her getting the seven-furlong distance and I can’t overlook the fact that she ran considerably worse than New Year’s Wish in the Garland of Roses last time. New Year’s Wish probably should have won that race, but she blew the start, breaking about four lengths behind the field. Her gate antics have now been an issue twice in a row, and that’s a major concern. However, Linda Rice has said that she’s worked on her at the gate since that last race, and while she may not be completely over the problem, the only way that she can break worse than last time is if she utterly refuses to participate. As long as New Year’s Wish makes it out of the gate, she’s going to be pretty tough here based on that last performance. She’s always shown a great affinity for Aqueduct and seven furlongs is the perfect distance for her.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 2,3,7
Trifecta: 5 with 2,3 with 2,3,4,6,7