Picks & Plays for Sunday, May 15
by David Aragona
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Race 1: 2 - 4 - 1 - 5
Race 2: 8 - 4 - 6 - 1
Race 3: 7 - 2 - 8 - 1
Race 4: 3 - 5 - 6 - 8
Race 5: 4 - 8 - 1 - 2
Race 6: 6 - 3 - 7 - 2
Race 7: 10 - 5 - 2 - 9
Race 8: 5 - 4 - 6 - 3
Race 9: 2 - 6 - 7 - 8
(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: LINNY KATE (#8)
I suppose #4 Act Like Artie is the horse to beat in this starter allowance affair. Perhaps it’s as simple as her getting back to turf, where she ran the best races of her career last fall. However, I wonder if it’s all about surface with this mare. Formerly a cheap claimer, she really came into form following the claim by Kelly Breen last September. They had a lot of success in a short period of time. Did she tail off after that, or did the switch to Tapeta not agree with her? It may be a good sign that she’s not dropping in for a tag, but I’m skeptical at a short price. #6 Now Yus Can’t Leave makes some sense as she drops in class out of some N1X allowance races in New Orleans. She didn’t get ideal pace setups in a few of those races, but there’s not that much speed signed on here either. She’s not impossible, but I wish she possessed a better turn of foot. My top pick is #8 Linny Kate. She’s been racing on the dirt recently, but she’s always been a better turf horse. She showed some ability at the start of her career for Chad Brown before going off form. I don’t want to be too hard on her for the races she ran last fall because she was in a barn that just hasn’t had much success. Since then she’s been claimed by Orlando Noda, and is coming off a career-best dirt performance. It’s possible that she’s rounding back into form, and I also like that she’s been displaying improved tactical speed as she switches back to turf. One more horse to consider at a price is #1 Sweet Sensation. She was an easy winner against a weak field last time, and does have some turf pedigree, though she would really have to step forward.
WIN: #8 Linny Kate, at 5-1 or greater
RACE 4: KLICKITAT (#3)
I would imagine that both Christophe Clement runners will take money in this NY-bred optional claimer, and I’m not particularly fond of either from a wagering standpoint. #2 Straw Into Gold probably wants to go a bit farther than this and I thought he should have won last time after getting a nice trip stalking a moderate pace. #8 Panster may have a bit more upside as he two races second off a layoff. He didn’t have much closing punch going 6 furlongs last time, but that race was dominated up front. They both make some sense, but I thought there were similarly talented options at better prices. #6 Chulainn might have a better closing kick than both of the Clement runners. I thought he ran pretty well at this level last November, closing determinedly between horses when he finally found daylight. Seven furlongs might be a good distance for him, since he’ll get more pace up front. I’m also intrigued by #5 Not Phar Now returning from the lengthy layoff. He ran a big race in his lone turf start almost a year ago, which came over today’s course and distance. Runner-up Turn of Events exited that race to have success, so he beat a nice rival. This is a big ask off the layoff, but he may have the talent to pull it off. My top pick is #3 Klickitat. He’s a solid fit at this level, having run well in similar spots multiple times in the past. He didn’t even run that badly first off the claim for Mike Maker when he tried the much tougher Mohawk late last year. He subsequently failed to show up at Gulfstream, but that course just doesn’t suit him. He’s now returning to New York and cutting back in distance. Mike Maker is 8 for 37 (22%, $2.45 ROI) going from routes to sprints on turf at Belmont over the past 5 years. If he shows up with his good race, he’ll be tough to beat, and the price should be fair.
WIN: #3 Klickitat, at 4-1 or greater
RACE 6: SOUTH STREET (#6)
I have no major issues with #3 Dr Ardito, who is very logical as he seeks his fourth consecutive victory for the Chad Brown barn. It’s not easy to advanced right through New York-bred allowance conditions into open company, but this grey gelding has improved with each successive start. I do wonder where his ceiling lies since he earned a big speed figure last time and is now stepping up to meet a tougher field. I’m not against him, but I didn’t feel the need to take him at a short price. I am a little more confident in his trustworthiness than likely second choice #7 Jerry the Nipper. I can’t fault this horse for losing to the talented Pipeline last time, and he was chasing wide against a strong rail. However, he barely held off Uncle Moonlight for third and that rival wouldn’t exactly be that formidable in this affair. He could receive some early pressure from Perceived or American Rule, and I haven’t loved the way he’s finished in either start since returning from a layoff. I’m instead going for a bigger price with #6 South Street. This 3-year-old obviously needs to improve from a speed figure standpoint, but he does have plenty of upside. I thought he was pretty game to get up for the victory at Aqueduct two back despite coming into the stretch with plenty to do. He was subsequently flattered when runner-up Awesome Aaron came back to win. I don’t want to get too caught up in the margin of defeat in the Tesio last time, since he got a pretty uncomfortable trip that day, ridden into traffic on the backstretch before getting shuffled back. He’s better than that and figures to get somewhat ignored in the wagering.
WIN: #6 South Street, at 7-1 or greater
RACE 7: NEW YORK GIRL (#10)
This optional claimer came up unusually tough for the N2X condition, and Chad Brown has a couple of strong contenders. Both #2 Love and Thunder and #9 Flighty Lady have run well enough to make them competitive here, but have also been a little disappointing during their U.S. campaigns. The former settled for second when she should have won on more than a few occasions last year, but she was pretty impressive winning over this course in October. She projects to get a good trip and is dangerous off the bench. I slightly prefer her to Flighty Lady, who wasn’t beating a particularly good field at Aqueduct last April. She subsequently failed to step forward, though she might not have appreciated a yielding turf course at Saratoga last summer. An intriguing new face in this affair is #5 King’s Harlequin, who makes her U.S. debut for Christophe Clement. As a 2-year-old, she defeated subsequent Group 1 winner Sealiway, as well as G3 winner Harajuku. She was very game in the G3 Prix de la Grotte two back, as she got passed in mid-stretch but re-rallied to almost come back for the victory. Christophe Clement, who is 5 for 33 (15%, $1.20 ROI) with foreign shippers off 180+ day layoffs over the past 5 years. My top pick is #10 New York Girl. She showed excellent form when she first appeared in this country, just missing to some classy foes like Micheline and Blowout in Grade 2 races. However, she put in an inexplicably poor effort in the Just a Game and hasn't hit the board since then. Though her form may not be quite as poor as it looks. She did have a serious spot of trouble in that Aug. 1 allowance race at Saratoga before going to the bench. Then last time she just got too far back in a race that was dominated on the front end, but was finishing best of all. I think she lands in a good spot and could go off at a square price.
WIN: #10 New York Girl, at 7-2 or greater
RACE 8: DON’T WAIT UP (#5)
This Gold Fever has drawn a pretty intriguing field of 3-year-old sprinters. I’ll be interested to see what we get from the fleet New York-bred #6 Senbei, who tries to extend his career record to 5 wins in 6 career starts. However, the waters get much deeper for him, as he was beating up on weaker fields of state-breds last year. I like the 6-furlong distance for him, and he’s drawn well on the outside, but there are some talented rivals in here with upside. Among those is morning-line favorite #4 Fluid Situation. This horse could not have been much more impressive breaking his maiden at Tampa last time. He had displayed flashes of talent prior to that, but he really put it all together in that maiden-breaking score, getting comfortable on the lead before drawing off to a commanding victory. The major issue for him is that speed to his outside, since he’s unlikely to be on the front end here. I know his connections were considering stretching out off that last win, and I do wonder if he will ultimately want to go longer than today’s 6-furlong distance. #3 Provocateur is another to consider, but I thought he got a great trip winning the Hutcheson last time when heavily-favored runner-up Nitrous Channel failed to back up his debut performance. He’s another contender here, but I wanted to see him do it again, as he hadn’t always looked like the most genuine sort through the early part of his career. My top pick is #5 Don’t Wait Up, and I am hoping it is as simple as getting back into Tony Dutrow’s barn. This son of Upstart showed a lot of talent last summer at Saratoga. He was well meant in his debut but just missed that day after rushing up following a slow break. He then was a convincing maiden winner over what felt like a pretty good field at the time. The Breeders’ Futurity was just the wrong spot after that, since he’s not a router. I’m not sure what to make of his return loss at Evangeline Downs for Ricky Courville, but we did see Un Ojo come north to improve for Tony Dutrow over the winter. He’s worked well at Belmont and is an intriguing new face in this lineup.
WIN: #5 Don't Wait Up, at 4-1 or greater
RACE 9: LAUGH AND PLAY (#2)
Among those with turf form, #4 Mispelled Mooon may be most reliable since she’s at least put forth competitive efforts in her last couple of turf sprints. I made her the very lukewarm morning line favorite, but thought there were other more stimulating options to consider. #6 Radiant Gem makes sense as she returns to New York. She ran a race in her career debut that would make her awfully tough against this field. Her form went the wrong way after that, but I thought she showed some signs of life getting back on turf last time. It certainly doesn’t hurt to pick up Joel Rosario. There are a couple of turnbacks worth considering. #8 Diamant Damhsa may look appealing at first glance as she returns to turf sprinting for Brad Cox. Her best effort did come sprinting in Ireland as a 2-year-old. However, much time has passed since then and I didn’t like the way she threw in the towel at Fair Grounds two back since the pace otherwise held together. Among those shortening up, I’m most interested in #2 Laugh and Play. Turf is the right surface for her, but she was unable to handle the stretch out in distance last time. Putting blinkers on, she got too rank in the early stages, throwing her head about while rated going wide into the clubhouse turn. She never got inside thereafter and wasn’t able make an impact. I think she’ll be better suited to sprinting, since she’s a half-sister to Smack, who did some of her best work sprinting on grass. Christophe Clement is 9 for 24 (38%, $2.37 ROI) with maidens going from routes to sprints on turf at Belmont over 5 years. This is also a rider upgrade to Irad Ortiz. One bigger price that I would also use is #7 Roundabout. She doesn’t have much turf pedigree, but showed plenty of speed in her lone start last summer and could fare better here for a capable barn.
WIN: #2 Laugh and Play, at 7-2 or greater