Picks & Plays for Friday, October 22
by David Aragona
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Race 1: 5 - 2 - 6 - 7
Race 2: 7 - 9 - 5 - 12
Race 3: 2 - 4 - 5 - 3
Race 4: 6 - 5 - 2 - 1
Race 5: 9 - 5 - 6 - 10
Race 6: 6 - 2 - 5 - 4
Race 7: 5 - 8 - 2 - 1
Race 8: 9 - 6 - 7 - 2
Race 9: 12 - 5 - 6 - 3
Race 10: 11 - 3 - 8 - 10
RACE 2: ROGUE LEADER (#7)
Athenry is the class of this New York-bred maiden event as he drops in for a tag for the first time. This is simply where this 3-year-old gelding belongs, as he’s displayed that he’s just not quite good enough to win at the special weight level. I wasn’t thrilled with his effort two back when he stalked a slow pace and faded, but he did do better last time cutting back to this 7-furlong distance. The Michelle Nevin barn has been on a strong run at the current Belmont meet and he’s a deserving favorite. Yet I want to go in a different direction with Rogue Leader. This horse’s last two turf races are better than they seem. He lost all chance on the backstretch two back when he clipped heels badly and could never recover. He obviously needed some time to get over that mishap, and he returned for new trainer Tom Morley last time. While he was beaten many lengths by the top two finishers, the pace of that race didn’t work in his favor and he got shuffled back in the early going while racing too keenly. I think he’s better than those performances, and now he’s reunited with regular jockey Manny Franco for a barn that has been hot. At a much bigger price, I would also give a look to Chase the Cat. This horse got a very wide trip last time at Saratoga and ran better than his seventh-place result would indicate. Perhaps a win is too much to ask, but he’s one to throw into the exotics at a massive price.
Exacta Key Box: 7 with 3,5,9,12
RACE 6: MY SWEET WIFE (#6)
Clara Peeters has finished third in both 2021 starts despite going off at short prices each time, and she figures to take money once again here. The turnback to 7 furlongs may benefit her, since she earned her only U.S. victory going this distance last season. The question is whether she’s still as good as then. She hasn’t had any major excuses from a trip standpoint in her last two starts, though she is arguably facing a softer field this time. She’s a contender, but I didn’t want to take a short price on her. I have similar feelings about Publication. A repeat of her April 24 performance makes her a deserving favorite, as she defeated the very good High Opinion, who would later go on to place in Grade 2 company in the Ballston Spa. However, that was going 1 1/16 miles, and she didn’t handle the cutback to today’s distance particularly well in the Intercontinental. She took a ton of money that day and never picked up the bit, finishing last. Perhaps something else was going on, as she’s now been off for nearly 5 months. She obviously runs well fresh but she needs a bit of pace ahead of her. I want to get a little more creative here with My Sweet Wife. This filly has run some of her best speed figures on the turf but she’s never hit the board on this surface. She has been successful going this distance on the dirt, winning both prior 7-furlongs starts, so perhaps a slight turnback on the turf is what she wants. The problem is that her recent form looks spotty. Though, note that she didn’t run as poorly as it might seem last time at Monmouth. The turf was wet and the race was dominated up front. She’s a little better than her form might suggest, and she’ll be a square price for capable connections.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 2,4,5
RACE 7: TOOSWEETTOBESOUR (#5)
There are a couple of first time starters who could take money in this spot and I’m not thrilled with either one. Make a Wish is by Curlin out of the Grade 1-winning dam Got Luck, who was best routing. That makes her a full-sibling to Overtook, runner-up in the G3 Withers going 9 furlongs earlier this year. However, Todd Pletcher is just 2 for 23 (9%, $0.85 ROI) with 2-year-old firsters in dirt routes over the past 5 years. Her Saratoga workouts this summer were fairly ordinary, and she’s had a series of slow and steady drills since then. She’s not the biggest filly, considering her pedigree, and I wonder if she’ll take money just because of the connections. I have even more questions about Nostaglic. This filly was entered to debut on Sep. 25 and was a vet scratch. She had reportedly trained well into that race, but I haven’t liked her recent workouts. She’s been outworked in the morning by a couple of maiden stablemates in the Bill Mott barn who both are turf horses. Plus Mott has worse numbers than Pletcher with juvenile firsters routing on dirt. The horse to beat is probably Handbelle, who ran decently in her debut and is bred to stretch out. I’m hardly against her and think she probably deserves to be favored. I also would give a look to Into Happiness on the stretch-out. She showed very little in her debut, but she’s bred to relish the added ground given her stamina-laden damside pedigree. I could have put either of them on top, but I want to get more creative. The first time starter that I find most intriguing is Toosweettobesour. This filly was a $55k RNA as a yearling, and then sold for $45k at OBS June after working a quarter in 21 4/5. Mastery is off to a slow start as a sire, but the dam won 4 of her first 5 starts, including the Shine Again on dirt. This is her first foal to race, but the dam is a half-sister to Horse of the Year and BC Classic winner Mucho Macho Man, and is a full-sister to G2 Brooklyn winner Marconi. James Begg is 0 for 2 with firsters in his solo training career, but both of those finished third. She looks to be spotted at the right distance, and it’s interesting that Luis Saez lands here.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 1,2,3,8
RACE 8: SUSSEX GARDEN (#9)
Tuscan Queen is clearly the horse to beat as she drops out of a pair of stakes events into this N1X allowance affair. They put her directly into some tough spots out of her maiden victory at Saratoga and I think the connections now are just getting a little more realistic. She didn’t run badly in either the Galway or Christiecat and would have been a contender in last weekend’s Glen Cove. I thought she was particularly compromised last time when she was wide all the way over a course that was favoring rail runners. She can handle 6 furlongs and her best race may just be too much for these to handle. I prefer her to some of the more familiar faces at this level like Stolen Holiday and Harper’s In Charge. The latter filly may appreciate the cutback in distance, but she’s gotten good trips in both prior turf starts. My top pick is Sussex Garden. This Irish-bred filly made a splash in her U.S. debut when she threatened to run a big race at 32-1 before fading to fourth in the Wild Applause. It turns out a mile was just too far for her, as she improved next time out at Saratoga. That was a tough field, and she ran well to be third, actually finishing ahead of subsequent Christiecat winner Bay Storm. Her most recent effort at Monmouth was disappointing, but I thought she got a poor ride, just sitting inside behind a slow pace, ridden without any urgency. She’s better than that, and I expect Kendrick Carmouche to get a better result out of her this time.
Exacta Key Box: 9 with 2,6,7,12
Trifecta: 6,9 with 6,9 with 2,4,7,12
RACE 9: SNOW HOUSE (#12)
This Carle Place has drawn a wide open field of 12 runners with no clear standout. I think the horse to beat is probably Easy Time, who exits a solid runner-up performance in the Grade 2 Franklin-Simpson at Kentucky Downs. He was facing a couple of classy European shippers in that spot and did well to close for third while coming up the rail. I think 7 furlongs is the perfect distance for this horse, as he won going this far over Tapeta in his career debut last year. He didn’t fare so well in his lone prior start at the NYRA circuit in the Hall of Fame, but he got taken up sharply in the stretch of that race. There should be some early pace for him, and I just think he makes the most sense. I’m also not against the two horses coming out of the Allied Forces earlier in this Belmont meet. Smokin’ Jay got the better trip that day, as he just saved ground on the rail and found running room to move through inside in upper stretch. Arzak, meanwhile, broke slowly and switched out to come around horses at the quarter pole, which proved to be the wrong move. I think Arzak is just as good as Smokin’ Jay and could be a bigger price this time. They’re all worth using, but I’m most interested in a new face. Snow House switches back to the turf for the first time since his career debut. He had a bit of a trip that day, getting shuffled back on the far turn and encountering some traffic in upper stretch. Since then he’s improved on dirt, placing in the Grade 3 Dwyer, but I’m intrigued by him getting back on grass. He’s by versatile sire Twirling Candy and his second dam is multiple Group 1 winning Special Duty, who was elevated to victory in both the English and French 1000 Guineas via disqualification. Notably, Snow House has been training over turf recently and he’s been outworking this barn’s Slicked Back, who runs in Saturday’s Hill Prince.
Exacta Key Box: 12 with 3,5,6,11
Trifecta: 12 with 5,6 with 3,5,6,7,8,11
RACE 10: CALL MY BANKER (#11)
The two runners with experience who figure to attract the most support are Hot Rod Rumble and Bali’s Shade. The former has had his fair share of chances, but did produce his best effort by far last time out. After disappointing in his first couple of races, he showed improved speed and hung on for second last time behind the superior Who Hoo That’s Me. He did get a favorable pace setup that day, but he’s a contender here nevertheless. Bali’s Shade is more of a wild card as he returns from a layoff. He showed good speed when finishing second in his career debut back in May. That race earned a respectable speed figure for the time and he’s trained well for his return. I expect him to show plenty of early speed with blinkers added. They’re the two horses to beat, but there are some first time starters worth considering. The bigger priced one that intrigues me is Always Charming. Cleveland Johnson sent out a winner at a bit price for these connections last week, and this gelding has some pedigree. He’s put up some fast workout times in the morning and may be a runner. My top pick is the colt drawn just to his outside. Call My Banker is by versatile sire Central Banker out of a dam who wasn’t much of a racehorse and hasn’t produced much. That said, I really liked this colt’s quarter-mile drill in 21 2/5 at OBS June. He’s been working well for his debut, putting in a particularly strong workout on Oct. 7, when pulling away from the experienced turf horse Blue Lou Boyle with some style through the lane. To my eye, it looked like Kendrick Carmouche may have been up that day, and it’s usually a good sign when jockeys get on firsters in the morning.
Exacta Key Box: 11 with 3,8,10