Picks & Plays for Friday, January 19
by David Aragona
The redrawn La Verdad, which goes as race 8, features another battle between Quezon and Absatootly, who have traded decisions in each of their last two starts. The stretch-out to seven furlongs would seem to favor Quezon, but she doesn’t have much room for error.
In my opinion, the races leading up to the La Verdad (races 6 and 7) are the most enticing from a wagering perspective, so the late Pick-4 is the multi-race sequence that I’ll be looking to target.
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Race 1: 8 - 2 - 5 - 7
Race 2: 9 - 3 - 8 - 1/1A
Race 3: 3 - 1 - 6 - 5
Race 4: 4 - 7 - 3 - 2
Race 5: 12 - 8 - 11 - 6
Race 6: 2 - 6 - 3 - 8
Race 7: 5 - 3 - 6 - 1
Race 8: 2 - 3 - 7 - 5
Race 9: 6 - 10 - 3 - 5
RACE 2: MAZMANIA (#9)
There is a pair of coupled entries among the betting interests in a race that had first been drawn for last Friday’s card. That day, Impazible Creek, the more formidable half of the Whisper Hill Farm entry, was scratched, and that will apparently be the case once again as she is entered back on Sunday. If Impazible Woman is the half to run, I want to look elsewhere. The two runners with the best recent form are Tough Old Bird and Desert Affair. However, both of these horses have had their chances and have squandered opportunities to win their maidens. I want to look elsewhere, so I’m giving a shot to Mazmania. She, too, has made plenty of starts, but it’s notable that only seven of her races have come on dirt. Early in her career, she was running dirt races that would give her a big chance against this group. Since then, she’s raced primarily on turf, with little success. Yet despite her lack of proficiency on grass, her recent performances over that surface are clearly better than her efforts from the summer. I think there’s some evidence that she’s in better form these days. At a square price, she’s the one I want.
Exacta Key Box: 9 with 1,2,3,8
RACE 6: PUFFERY (#2)
Morning-line favorite Scorpion Bowl is undoubtedly one of the key players and one of the more intriguing runners in this race. Linda Rice has fantastic numbers with this move. Over the past five years, she is 24 for 55 (44 percent, $3.49) with second-time-starting maidens in dirt sprints at this track. This filly also performed like a horse who badly needed a race. After showing speed immediately after the start, she appeared to lose focus as Paco Lopez relaxed his hands heading into the far turn. She steadied out of position and briefly appeared poised to finish well back in the pack. However, once into the stretch, she responded to her rider’s mild encouragement and might have even gotten up for third had she not steadied late. She figures to run a much more professional race this time and show much more early initiative. However, too much early aggression could be problematic in a race where a number of contenders appear to have speed. For that reason, I’m trying to beat her with Puffery. This Mark Hennig trainee was soundly defeated at a short price last time, but she got a fairly uncomfortable trip that day. Racing down inside, Puffery had to steady at multiple points while getting shuffled back around the far turn. Already out of contention when the field reached the top of the stretch, she was not hard-ridden through the final furlongs. I’m hoping that she still got something out of the race because she had previously run fast enough in her debut to suggest she can beat this field. I’ll primarily use her with Scorpion Bowl. However, at a much bigger price, I also want to include My Lightnin Strike. This filly showed vastly improved speed in her second start, albeit on turf. She has a decidedly dirt-leaning pedigree, so perhaps she’s getting back on the right surface here.
Exacta Box: 2,3,6
Trifecta: 2 with 3,6,8 with 2,3,4,5,6,8
RACE 9: MOTOWN SOUND (#6)
My pick in this race is very much a “process of elimination” selection, as there are a number of shorter prices in this event that I am inclined to play against. That starts with the morning line favorite American Road. This horse has run speed figures that would beat this field on many occasions. However, there are a multitude of reasons to be concerned about his chances here. He hasn’t raced in over 6 months. His performance prior to the layoff resulted in a 22-length defeat as the 7-10 favorite. Linda Rice is dropping him in for a $10,000 tag after protecting him in all of his prior starts for her barn. It’s not as if American Road has ever been much of a winning type, racking up far more second-place finishes than wins. At a short price, he’s a bet-against for me. I’m similarly concerned about Paid Admission, who also figures to take money. This horse has been facing better competition recently, but his two races for Ray Handal have been disappointing and it seems like he’s simply gone in the wrong direction. Handal’s other horse Pirellone looks too cheap, and I’m concerned about the speedy Bluegrass Singer getting the distance. So who are we left with? I’m taking a shot with Motown Sound. I know that he brings his own set of serious questions to the proceedings, but at least he’s going to be a much larger price than the aforementioned contenders. He’s run speed figures that would make him competitive here many times, and he’s getting some subtle class relief after facing better horses like Are We Not Men and Conquest Big E. I think you can be especially forgiving of his last performance over that deep, muddy track last Saturday. He got an impossible trip that day as he rushed up to make a four-wide move after breaking slowly, and then proceeded to go five-wide into the far turn. He’s better than that effort and I think we’ll see an improved performance this time.