by David Aragona
Race 1: 16 - 14 - 10 - 13
Race 2: 6 - 5 - 8 - 9
Race 3: 4 - 3 - 6 - 7
Race 4: 9 - 11 - 1 - 13
Race 5: 4 - 6 - 2 - 3
Race 6: 3 - 5 - 6 - 2
Race 7: 4 - 6 - 8 - 3
Race 8: 13 - 7 - 5 - 11
Race 9: 6 - 8 - 7 - 1
RACE 7: PINK SANDS (#4)
Following the scratch of Chalon, Ms Locust Point figures to inherit the favorite's role and she's dangerous given the likely pace scenario. The Pace Projector is predicting that she will be clearly in a front in a situation favoring the early leader. While that should help her cause, I’m a little concerned about her getting the seven furlongs, since that distance has been a problem for her in the past. That said, you can’t deny that she’s posted some impressive TimeformUS Speed Figures this year and would be formidable if she brings that form to New York. My top pick is Pink Sands, who won't be as big of a price after the scratch of the favorite but still offers some appeal at anything around 3-1 or 7-2. Her recent form leaves something to be desired, but I like this turnback in distance for her. She wanted no part of the two-turn 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga two back and then she never had a chance after a stumbling break when caught behind a slow pace at Churchill Downs last time. She had previously run well in a few stakes attempts out of town and I still believe that her ideal distance is seven furlongs. It’s somewhat of a concern that she won’t get much pace to close into here, but Jose Ortiz seems to ride this filly better than anyone else. Other horses that I'd want to include are Majestic Reason, who seems to be in top form now at the end of her 4-year-old season, and Saguaro Row, who handled a sloppy Belmont surface very well back in the spring.
Exacta Key Box: 4 with 1,3,6,8
Trifecta: 4 with 6,8 with 1,3,6,8
by David Aragona
Race 1: 6 - 1 - 5 - 4
Race 2: 8 - 2 - 5 - 7
Race 3: 9 - 2 - 4 - 10
Race 4: 3 - 1 - 7 - 2
Race 5: 4 - 6 - 7 - 8
Race 6: 5 - 6 - 9 - 7
Race 7: 4 - 10 - 7 - 2/2B
Race 8: 4 - 8 - 1 - 7
Race 9: 9 - 3 - 8 - 5
Race 10: 6 - 7 - 2 - 11
RACE 1: MANDATORY (#6)
Forza Di Oro was dismissed at 31-1 in his debut, but he’s going to be a tiny fraction of that price this time given how well he ran that day. He dwelt badly at the start, leaving the gates about 4 to 5 lengths behind the field. He continued to lag well back for a half-mile, but then advanced on the turn with a rush. He challenged for the lead in upper stretch before understandably flattening out in the last furlong. Trainer Bill Mott rarely has his 2-year-olds cranked up for their debuts, so this colt figures to improve, and the vastly improved workout times since that initial start support that notion. He needs to break better this time, but there’s obviously a ton of talent here. However, there are some other intriguing second-time starters to consider at better prices. Brother Brad debuted going two turns at Monmouth, and he stayed on well despite enduring a wide journey. This son of Belmont Stakes runner-up Commissioner appears to have some size to him and presents as one that should want to run all day. I’m using both of these prominently, but my top pick is the stretching-out Mandatory. This expensive 2-year-old purchase has a regal pedigree, being a son of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and a half-brother to multiple Grade 1-winning dirt router I’m a Chatterbox. Based on that breeding, the 6 furlongs of his debut was probably too short for him, and he ran like one that would want more ground. He had to go wide on the turn, traveled greenly in upper stretch, and only hit his best stride in the last sixteenth of a mile. John Kimmel has been having a strong year with his juveniles and this one appears to have some talent.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 1,4,5
Trifecta: 1,6 with 1,6 with 4,5
RACE 5: SEISMIC WAVE (#4)
Front Run the Fed is going to be a fairly short price in this spot as he attempts to collect a second consecutive stakes victory. He beat today’s rival Bourbon War by only a half-length at Saratoga, but he accomplished that victory in impressive fashion, making a rush from last to take over in midstretch. He got the two turns that day, but this one-turn configuration should be right up his alley. I’m hardly against him, but I do think that he might be slightly overbet given that he’s going out for a barn whose runners tend to attract inordinate support. Bourbon War is worth considering as he turns back to a mile. He didn’t pose a threat in the Hill Prince, but he should encounter a more favorable set of circumstances here. I’m using him, but the horse that I’d rather take out of the Hill Prince is Seismic Wave. I know that he’s been a disappointment for Bill Mott, but you can make plenty of excuses for this horse. It’s possible that he just didn’t want to go 10 furlongs in the Belmont and Saratoga derbies, so I don’t mind this turnback to the one-mile distance at all. He had an uncomfortable trip in the Saranac two back, as he was steadied at a critical point on the far turn when attempting to launch a rally. It’s not unreasonable to suggest he might have won that race with a clean trip. Then last time, like Bourbon War, he never had a chance to get into the Hill Prince, which was dominated on the front end. He also wasn’t helped by getting rank behind the slow pace. This time the Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace and his TimeformUS Late Pace Rating of 114 is the highest in the field.
Exacta Key Box: 4 with 1,6,7,8
Trifecta: 4,6 with 4,6 with 1,3,7,8
RACE 6: HAIL MICHIGAN (#5)
Malthael figure to be the slight favorite in this spot, but this horse is starting to run out of chances. He’s hit the board in all three of his turf starts this season and has earned speed figure that make him competitive here. However, he too often finds trouble or just seems to run into a horse that’s a little better. He was finishing well going the one-mile distance last time, but he was never a serious threat to winner Chantry Flats. Now he attempts to stretch out to 9 furlongs, and I’m not sure that added distance is the answer, considering that he’s a half-brother to top sprinter A. P. Indian. I’m using him, but I don’t think he’s a great bet at a short price. Tiberius Maximus also makes some sense, but he’s had trouble putting races together in recent months and now he returns for a new barn. This race feels like one that could be ripe for a new face to emerge, so I want to take a look at some of those. Stare Decisis has to be considered as a potentially live Chad Brown firster. This son of Noble Mission has more than enough turf pedigree, being a half-brother to a turf stakes-placed runner. He’s been working at Monmouth in recent months, most recently going in company with the maiden Border Town. My top pick is the first time turfer Hail Michigan. This colt debuted going a mile on dirt for Barclay Tagg and he actually earned a respectable speed figure despite losing by a large margin. While Bernardini isn’t the greatest turf influence, the dam’s side of his pedigree is all turf. His dam never ran on dirt and earned her only victory on turf, and she is a half-sister to some excellent international runners, including Australian Group 1 winner Homesman and British Group 1-placed runner U S Ranger. This is also the female family of Dynaformer. It’s a good sign that John Velazquez takes this mount for Tagg and the horse should have no trouble handling the added distance.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 3,6,7,9
RACE 8: TRUE TIMBER (#4)
It’s exciting to see Maximum Security back in action as he turns back to contest this Bold Ruler, which he’ll use as a prep to springboard to the Cigar Mile later this autumn. It’s fairly obvious that he’s going to be a major threat in this race if he shows up with this best effort, as his Haskell-winning TimeformUS Speed Figure of 128 is the highest number in this field. However, he’s returning from a setback that forced him to miss the Pennsylvania Derby. While he was successful going shorter early in this career, he was competing against vastly inferior rivals. Furthermore, he’s drawn the rail in a race with some other speed, so he could find himself having to come from just off the pace if he doesn’t break sharply. I’m using him defensively, but I think this is the time to take a shot against him at what figures to be a very short price. I’m interested in a couple of horses exiting the Kelso as the primary alternatives. Prince Lucky is most logical as he just missed last time when run down by Pat On the Back. He’s clearly good enough to beat this field, but the turnback to 7 furlongs is a bit of a question mark for a horse who hasn’t sprinted since his 2-year-old season. I instead prefer True Timber. He was returning from a layoff in the Kelso, and he actually ran quite well to be third after contesting the pace. He had excuses for his poor efforts last winter, so I won’t hold those against him. Unlike Prince Lucky, 7 furlongs is arguably True Timber’s best distance so this turnback should be perfect for him. He appears to be working better leading up to this race and he would be a handful if he could recapture the form that carried him to a second-place finish in last year’s Cigar Mile.
Exacta Key Box: 4 with 1,6,7,8
Trifecta: 4 with 1,7,8 with 1,2,6,7,8
RACE 9: BUY LAND AND SEE (#9)
Tiesto looks like the horse to beat off his visually impressive maiden score a few weeks ago. That race appeared to have some quality to it going in, and Tiesto just dominated that crew, taking over with a decisive move at the top of the stretch to win going away. This $600,000 2-year-old purchase looked to be worth every bit of that price tag and Mott’s runners tend to improve with experience. Though, he might not need to improve much at all off that performance to beat this field in his stakes debut. I’m using him prominently, but there are others to consider, including a few who also just broke their maidens in impressive fashion. My top pick is Buy Land and See, who romped to victory when stretched out at Parx last time. Going two turns and wearing blinkers for the first time, he was aggressive in the early stages, easily took over on the far turn, and just widened at will through the lane under Jose Ortiz. That 97 TimeformUS Speed Figure is one of the highest in this field and he seems like a horse who still has room for improvement, since many runners in this female family have gotten better with age. He loses Jose to his brother Irad, but that’s hardly a concern. It doesn’t hurt to have speed on this turf course, and he should sit a good stalking trip. I have no concerns about him getting the mile after a series of stamina-building workouts in recent weeks. I’d also include a horse like Get Smokin, who ran a fast time despite facing restricted maiden company last time. He clearly handles the distance and horses have come back out of that race to run well. As for those dropping in class, Talking faced Grade 1 foes in the Summer last time, but I’m not sure that this race actually came up much softer than that one. I could also use Irish Mias, but he needs to improve significantly off his Laurel Futurity win.
Exacta Key Box: 9 with 2,3,5,8,10
Trifecta: 9 with 3,8 with 2,3,4,5,8,10
by David Aragona
Race 1: 1 - 3 - 4
Race 2: 1 - 9 - 8 - 4
Race 3: 5 - 1 - 4 - 2
Race 4: 10 - 7 - 12 - 4
Race 5: 6 - 2 - 1 - 7
Race 6: 4 - 7 - 1 - 6
Race 7: 4 - 6 - 2 - 5
Race 8: 6 - 4 - 8 - 7
Race 9: 1 - 6 - 9 - 11
RACE 2: JAZZY LADY (#1)
While I acknowledge that this is a tougher field than she faced in her debut, I think Jazzy Lady is likely to take a step forward in her second career start. Ray Handal has yet to win with a first-time starter in his training career, but this filly came pretty close at 9-1 in her debut. She broke a bit slowly and saved ground after that, but found herself held up behind a pretty slow pace on the far turn. She was running on well late in a race where few others made closing runs. There are some intriguing first-time starters to consider, but I’d rather go with the experienced runner in this situation. I also wouldn’t totally dismiss Positive Power at a square price. She didn’t get the most comfortable run through the lane last time in that same race and might do better if Dylan Davis is able to steer her into the clear this time. Two fillies who are likely to attract plenty of support are Las Ramblas and Love of My Heart, both of whom are stretching out for the first time after debuting in sprints at Saratoga. Las Ramblas didn’t take a cent as she was dismissed at 17-1, which is highly unusual for Wesley Ward. She ran on evenly and has some pedigree to stretch out. Love of My Heart is probably the more dangerous of that pair, since she faced open company in her debut and was not disgraced in finishing a solid fourth. She has a pedigree that says she should prefer routes, and she’s dropping into restricted company, but I’m always a little wary of horses stretching out on the turf, especially at short prices.
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 4,6,8,9
RACE 4: SWAYED (#10)
Lovely La La is probably going to be the favorite here by default. She’s had four chances to break through this N2X level and has hit the board every time without winning. While few of her rivals can match that sort of consistency, you have to wonder if she’s just the type of horse who always finds at least one rival to beat her. I will concede that 7 furlongs is probably Lovely La La’s best distance, but she’s not just the kind of horse that I want to key on top at a short price. The others who have been competing at this level are pretty hard to separate. Sadie Lady ran well against N1X company, but her one turf start at this level was disappointing. Purrageous Dyna has been competing against open company for the past year. She was good enough to compete at this level last year, but her current form is hard to read and she might want more ground than this. I want to get a bit more creative, so I’m taking a shot with Swayed as she returns to the NYRA circuit. This filly ran well over sprint distances back in 2017 when she was in the George Weaver barn. She missed over a year, only returning this past winter at Gulfstream. She got in two starts on turf for Patrick Biancone, both against open company, and she had absolutely disastrous trips on each occasion. She got pinned down on the rail and shuffled back multiple times in both of those starts, making her finishing positions almost irrelevant to me. Now she’s returning late in her 6-year-old year for a barn that can be dangerous and she’s back at the right class level. She’s going to be a big price and I think she has a real chance to upset this field.
Exacta Key Box: 10 with 4,5,6,7,11,12
RACE 7: LEITONE (#4)
I’m not trying to beat likely favorite Leitone in this spot. The fact of the matter is that this horse is probably just a little better on dirt than he is on turf, so I can excuse his two losses on the grass, both of which came against tougher company. He beat a few common rivals in this race when he won that Aug. 30 race at Saratoga at this level, earning an impressive 112 TimeformUS Speed Figure. He only was assigned a 106 when he won against much cheaper company back on June 16, but he easily could have fun faster that day – a lot faster – had he not been geared down an eighth of a mile from the wire, giving up perhaps around 5 lengths of his sizable lead. Furthermore, the Pace Projector is predicting he will be on the lead in a situation favoring the front-runner, and he’s already proven that he’s extremely dangerous when allowed to control the pace. Unless he suddenly regresses, he seems like a perfectly logical winner. I just can’t get behind any of the alternatives. Supreme Aura is somewhat interesting off the claim by Chris Englehart, but he couldn’t get to Leitone at Saratoga and his overall form is a bit more inconsistent than my top selection. However, the slight turnback to a one-turn 1 1/16 miles should help him and he figures to be a square price. Control Group obviously has back races that would make him a threat, but his recent form leaves many questions. He’s been in some top barns, but perhaps he can turn things around for Jeremiah Englehart. I’m somewhat against Zulu, who has had some trips but just hasn’t run a competitive speed figure in quite a while. It was pretty bizarre that he took so much money at Saratoga last time, but he didn’t run to that support and has just generally been a disappointment for a barn that usually gets horses to deliver.
Exacta Key Box: 4 with 2,5,6,8
Trifecta: 4 with 2,6 with 2,3,5,6,8
RACE 8: MADE YOU LOOK (#6)
Bound for Nowhere is probably the horse to beat as he makes his return from a third trip over to Royal Ascot. If this horse brings his best effort, he’s going to be very difficult for this field to handle. While some may be concerned that he hasn’t won since October 2018, he actually ran a sensational race off the bench at Keeneland in April, losing a heartbreaker in the Shakertown when just run down by the extremely talented sprinter Imprimis. Bound for Nowhere has been effective going shorter than this, but he’s also won as far as a mile, so I don’t think the 7 furlongs will pose a major problem. The only minor concern is the fact that he’s running in this race at all. Wesley Ward has never been afraid to get ambitious with this runner, bringing him back off layoffs in some tough spots. I wonder if him running in an optional claimer is an indication that he might need a start off this particular layoff. I’m using him prominently, but I prefer his main rival Made You Look, who should be a slightly better price. Some may not remember that this horse actually began his career in sprint races for Todd Pletcher. He was second in his debut going 5 furlongs and then won his next outing over the very good Master Merion going 6 furlongs. He clearly has the speed to win going this 7-furlong trip and the fact that he’s failed to finish off his one-mile races that strongly in recent starts indicates that this turnback may be exactly what he needs. Furthermore, while I don’t want to put too much emphasis on the horse-for-course angle, he did run two of the best races of his career at Belmont Park in 2018.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 4,7,8
Trifecta: 6 with 4,8 with 4,7,8
RACE 9: CLAMOR (#1)
I’m not thrilled with the favorites in this spot, though I acknowledge they can win. Beach Front is getting a needed drop in class after facing maiden special weight foes twice since returning from a layoff. His comeback effort at Saratoga was awful, but he did run a bit better going a mile last time. It remains to be seen if turning back again will help him or hurt him, but at least he’s run a recent speed figure that puts him squarely in the mix. The other horse likely to attract support is Plebe, and I have some concerns about him. He showed promise as a 2-year-old, but then was off for a long time. He returned for James Ferraro in a maiden special weight after getting entered and scratched for a tag and he ran on evenly without threatening. That race received a high Beyer, but the TimeformUS Speed Figure is fairly low. Ultimately, I think the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, so he may not have any major figure edge on this field. He also now comes off another layoff and shows up for a new barn, which are all red flags. I’d rather focus on some lightly-raced runners with upside. One of those is Silver Token, who improved second time out at Saratoga, as so many Linda Rice second time starters tend to do. He was still fairly green in the early going that day, but he ran on decently in the stretch once he got into the clear. If he takes another step forward he might be able to contend with this group. However, my top pick is Clamor. This 3-year-old returns from an 8-month layoff, having made just one prior start at Gulfstream Park last winter. While he lost by 10 lengths that day, the effort wasn’t nearly as bad as it seems. He was sluggish and reserved in the early going, but he was really running in the stretch despite the fact that the race featured an extremely slow pace and swift closing splits. Now he’s coming back as a new gelding for a trainer who has had plenty of success of lengthy layoffs recently. He’s reportedly been working well and it’s a good sign to see Castellano take the mount.
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 4,6,9,11
by David Aragona
Race 1: 1 - 7 - 3 - 4
Race 2: 4 - 5 - 6 - 3
Race 3: 2 - 3 - 1 - 6
Race 4: 2 - 3 - 1 - 4
Race 5: 6 - 9 - 1 - 10
Race 6: 6 - 3 - 7 - 4
Race 7: 5 - 6 - 4 - 3
Race 8: 6 - 8 - 4 - 5
RACE 3: TANGLED WEB (#2)
Firewater Jake is the horse to beat as he drops in class out of the Caesars Stakes at Indiana Downs. While some might view this as a negative drop, it’s not as if this colt hasn’t started for a claiming tag before. He was in for the tag in his two starts at Arlington prior to trying the stakes last time. The speed figures that he earned in those victories would make him tough here, but I do think it is fair to wonder if he’s still in that kind of form. Brad Cox sends out nothing but live runners, so I’m using him defensively. However, I want to consider some others at better prices. Baffin Bay and Southern Brigade faced off in a similar spot on Sep. 12 and the former got the job done, making a late run into a slow pace. Southern Brigade may take some money here due to the rider switch to Luis Saez, but I didn’t feel that he was ever a major danger last time. I instead prefer Tangled Web, who makes his first start off the claim for Mike Maker. This barn hasn’t had as much recent success off the claim on turf as in past seasons, but I don’t think this gelding needs to improve much to beat this field. He ran quite well last time, surviving a fast pace to hang on for second going this distance. The horse that he dueled into defeat that day, Honorable Hero, returned to win last week with an improved speed figure. Furthermore, this horse ran one of his best races over a turf course with some give to it back in June and we got plenty of rain on Tuesday. At a much bigger price, I'd also throw Halstaat into the mix underneath. This gelding is getting some needed class relief and has actually run fairly well on a few occasions while facing tougher company.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 1,3,6,7
Trifecta: 2 with 1,3 with 1,3,6,7,8
RACE 4: RAZEENA (#2)
Trial and Error may go off as the slight favorite here after she ran second in a similar spot last time. While it was nice to see her finally run a faster speed figure that day, I didn’t think that she had any major excuse to lose as Stand for the Flag just outstayed her in the final quarter pole. That winner does have some ability, as she returned to win her next start, albeit as a 2-5 favorite at Parx. She’s the horse to beat, but she may have to contend with Bell Court on the front end. This Kiaran McLaughlin trainee had been training well into her debut, in which she was bet down to 5-2 odds. She didn’t break that sharply, but she tugged Luis Saez up into a good position and briefly looked like a potential winner before fading in the last eighth. It’s possible that she’ll improve with more distance, but her pedigree gives mixed signals. Her dam Burmilla was best as a sprinter but she is a half-sister to nice dirt router Snowbell. I think this filly has talent, but I’m a little skeptical about her going this far in her second career start. I actually want to take a shot with McLaughlin’s other runner Razeena. This filly has had more chances than most in here, but I think it’s worth noting that her only two dirt efforts in this country came over sloppy tracks. It’s unclear if she actually prefers that kind of going. She closed well into a fast pace back in May, but she just got the wrong trip last time as she got stuck behind some tiring rivals at the quarter pole and lost momentum while altering course in traffic. She handled fast dirt pretty well over in Dubai when finishing third in the UAE Oaks over the winter and she might get a decent pace setup here.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 1,3,4
RACE 7: GETMOTHERAROSE (#5)
Rose Flower is probably the horse to beat as she drops out of stakes company down into this optional claimer. She was a little unlucky in the Christiecat as Franco had to briefly pause while trying to find a seam at the quarter pole before splitting horses. However, the main issue with her last time was the distance, since 6 furlongs just seems like it might be too short. She put in an electrifying late run going 7 furlongs in her final start in France and she’d be a handful if she could run back to that form here. Clement’s foreign shippers will sometimes need a start, so she should be ready to step forward here. That said, the Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring runners on or near the lead, and that could work against her. I prefer Getmotherarose as she steps up in class. This 3-year-old has improved by leaps and bounds since the springtime. She has steadily climbed the class ladder, winning her N1X condition last time like a filly who’s ready to take on tougher company. She traveled beautifully in the early stages that day and exploded once Jose Ortiz asked her for run. She has to get the 7 furlongs this time, but her ability to relax in the early stages might allow her to get it done. That recent bullet workout suggests she’s maintaining her excellent form and I think she might just be the “now” horse. I’d also consider Psalmody as a backup since Joe Sharp is so dangerous with his turf sprinters. I usually don’t like turnbacks like this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this mare handles it.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 3,4,6,8
Trifecta: 5 with 4,6 with ALL
RACE 8: STAR COMMAND (#6)
Laughable is a deserving favorite off her second-place finish to the very talented half-sister to Lady Eli, Princesa Caroline. While this filly was no match for that rival, she finished nearly 7 lengths clear of the rest of the field in what was an unusually fast race for this level. If she repeats that performance, she’s going to be a handful in this spot. The only knock against her is that she’s not going to be much of a price, since her form is totally exposed at this point. Furthermore, while there may not be a potential star in the mold of a Princesa Caroline in this race, you could still argue that this is a deeper maiden special weight from top to bottom than the one she exits. There are a number of alternatives to consider. Two of those exit a different maiden race from earlier in September. Antoinette and Coalition Building finished fourth and fifth behind the Chad Brown second-time starter Indochine. Both tried to make wide runs in the stretch and just flattened out late. Antoinette is probably the one you want out of that race, since Bill Mott doesn’t usually have his turfers cranked up to win first time out. However, I’m not sure how strong that race was overall. I’m instead taking a shot with Star Command on the stretch-out. This Phipps-owned and bred filly was curiously started off at 5 1/2 furlongs in her debut at Saratoga despite the fact that she’s clearly bred to go farther than that . Shug McGaughey often gives his youngsters a start before getting serious, so she’s likely to take a step forward here. Furthermore, this filly has reportedly been working in sensational fashion ever since that debut, going in company with impressive debut winner Power Move a few times and reportedly outworking her on one occasion. She has to transfer that morning improvement to the afternoon, but I’m willing to take a shot with her given that she’s almost guaranteed to be a square price given all of the other viable options in this spot.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 1,4,5,8
Trifecta: 6,8 with 6,8 with 1,3,4,5,10
by David Aragona
Race 1: 5 - 3 - 4 - 2
Race 2: 9 - 4 - 8 - 1
Race 3: 7 - 5 - 8 - 3
Race 4: 9 - 10 - 3 - 5
Race 5: 1 - 7 - 9 - 3
Race 6: 7 - 1 - 2 - 3
Race 7: 5 - 1A - 2
Race 8: 6 - 11 - 4
RACE 3: PETER’S PROJECT (#7)
One River Place and Armament figure to vie for favoritism in this spot, and they both have some questions to answer. I prefer Armament, who makes his first start off the claim for Chris Englehart. While it’s not a great sign that he’s being dropped in class in his first start for the new barn, Englehart is 2 for 2 with horses dropping by 50% or more on dirt off the claim. If he gets back to his winning effort at Saratoga on July 11, he’ll be a handful. However, I’m a little concerned that he won’t make the lead going this one-turn configuration, since One River Place is faster early. My problem with One River Place is that he just seems like a sprinter. He probably doesn’t want to go this far and Rudy Rodriguez is 0 for 16 off layoffs of 150 to 300 days in dirt routes. The drop in class is not a great sign, but at least the Pace Projector is predicting he’ll get a favorable trip. I’ll use both defensively, but my top pick is the venerable 9-year-old Peter’s Project. It seems like this horse has regained decent form for Jeffrey Englehart in recent months. He transferred his Finger Lakes form to Saratoga two back, finishing gamely to be third against a solid field at this level. He wasn’t as effective at Penn National last time, but he didn’t get a great trip that day, as he was shuffled back to last on the backstretch in a race that was dominated up front. He’s in better form than that and I think he can bounce back here.
Exacta Key Box: 7 with 3,4,5,8
RACE 6: SHE TAKES CHARGE (#7)
Behind the Couch may go favored in this spot as she returns following a disastrous performance in the Fleet Indian. Something clearly went amiss that day, as she was never traveling well and was eased on the far turn. Given that unsightly effort, it’s a good sign to see her back in the entries just two months later, showing a steady series of workouts leading up to this. Jeremiah Englehart does well with turn-backs in general, and this filly may ultimately be better going shorter. She’ll be formidable if she bounces back, but she’s still hard to completely trust. Sweet Meadow Mist also figures to attract some support, but horses with her kind of late-running style are always at the mercy of the pace and there just isn’t much speed in this field. Given that situation, I want to take a shot with She Takes Charge as she returns from a layoff. This filly hasn’t been seen in nine months, but she showed talent in her two appearances over the winter last year. She was bet down to favoritism in her December debut and did not disappoint, drawing off to an impressive victory. That race only received a 75 TimeformUS Speed Figure, but almost every horse to come out of that spot improved in their next start. Of the 11 horses to run back, not counting this filly, 10 improved their figures and one regressed. Those who improved did so by anywhere from 10 to 47 speed-figure points, averaging out to a 23-point improvement. She Takes Charge didn’t quite handle the mile in her only other start before getting put on the sidelines. Yet she appears to be working well for her return. Furthermore, the Pace Projector is predicting she will be stalking the pace in a situation favoring horses on or near the lead.
Exacta Key Box: 7 with 1,2,3
Trifecta: 7 with 1,2 with 1,2,3,5,6
RACE 7: CHANTRY FLATS (#9)
The Chad Brown/Klaravich Stables entry may look intimidating, but I would demand some value on them, since these pairings are often overbet. Spirit Animal looks like the stronger half of the entry. His Saratoga effort was fine, as he stayed on evenly while no match for stablemate Value Proposition, the trouble noted there being merely incidental. This colt showed promise as a juvenile, running a deceptively strong race in the Pilgrim after a disastrous start, and still has room for upside. However, this is a tall order off the layoff. He could face a challenge from fellow 3-year-old Mr. Alec, who took a major step forward last time when getting 1 1/4 miles in a sub-two-minute clocking. He won in commanding fashion, opening up about three lengths in the final furlong before crossing the wire comfortably ahead. However, runner-up Compliant returned to lose as the heavy favorite at Keeneland, so the form of that race is uncertain. Clement has strong statistics off maiden wins on turf and the slight cutback to nine furlongs shouldn’t bother him. Speed has been dangerous on these Belmont turf course, especially in recent weeks and that makes Everyonelovesjames and Chantry Flats somewhat intriguing. The former is back at an appropriate distance after trying some new things over the course of his last few starts. He didn’t settle going the 1 3/8 miles in July, and then was outrun to the lead sprinting last time. If he can get back to his West Point performance, he’ll be a handful. However, I prefer Chantry Flats in this spot. It took him nine starts to break his maiden, but he’s been earning TimeformUS Speed Figures that would make him competitive at this level for a while now. He finished a strong second to Unleveraged in April, and that rival had no trouble winning this condition next time out. He should sit a good trip stalking Everyonelovesjames and you know he appreciates this distance.
Exacta Key Box: 9 with 1,2,6,10
Trifecta: 9 with 1,2,6 with 1,2,6,7,10
by David Aragona
Race 1: 4 - 5 - 1 - 2
Race 2: 9 - 4 - 1 - 10
Race 3: 5 - 2 - 3 - 4
Race 4: 6 - 2 - 1 - 7
Race 5: 5 - 4 - 6 - 8
Race 6: 5 - 2 - 4 - 6
Race 7: 8 - 10 - 4 - 7
Race 8: 6 - 1 - 2 - 4
Race 9: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
Race 10: 7 - 4 - 11 - 1
RACE 4: BACCHANALIA (#6)
Coilean Bawn and In Front should vie for favoritism in this spot. The former took a significant step forward once she was stretched out in distance on the turf. Her stamina came through in that second-place finish to Romantic Pursuit in July, and that rival returned to run well in some stakes, picking up a Grade 2 placing in the Sands Point. I won’t hold the 6-5 loss at Kentucky Downs against her since she repeated her top speed figure. However, now she has to replicate those efforts over 1 1/8 miles and there are some rivals with more upside drawn to her outside. Main rival In Front didn’t take much money in her debut, but she gave a solid account of herself, chasing wide around the far turn before staying on in the lane to just miss third. That race’s third-place finisher Kelleycanrun returned to win and the top two finishers have shown talent. McGaughey runners often improve with racing and this filly also figures to appreciate added ground. The dam is a full-sister to Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Magician as well as 12-furlong stakes winner Apple Betty. I’m using them both, but my top pick is one of the Chad Brown trainees, Bacchanalia. This filly has had trouble putting races together, needing significant time between all of her starts. Princesa Carolina, who beat her in the debut, has turned out to be pretty nice, achieving a Grade 1 placing last week. Bacchanalia finished behind Coilean Bawn in her only other start, but she got very rank in the early stages that day, throwing her head about under restraint. She was also fairly green in the stretch, ducking out at the eighth pole. There’s obviously some talent here, and she can beat these if she runs a more professional race this time.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 1,2,7,8
Trifecta: 6 with 1,2 with 1,2,7,8
RACE 5: SUPER SILVER (#5)
Jerome Avenue may go off as the favorite in this spot as he attempts to win right back off the claim for Steve Asmussen. He earned a strong 109 TimeformUS Speed Figure when holding off today’s rival Allured in that conditioned claimer last time, and a repeat of that performance would make him formidable. However, that race was run in the slop, as was his prior dirt starts. He’s a bit of a question mark on a fast track, especially considering his turf form and wet track-oriented pedigree. Furthermore, the Steve Asmussen barn under assistant Toby Sheets is just 7 for 46 (15%, $1.01 ROI) first off the claim at Belmont and Aqueduct on dirt over 5 years. Once you get past him, there are many alternatives to consider. A number of horses exit the ninth race on September 21, won by Dark Storm. Sargeant Drive did best that day, closing strongly to be second. Yet he’s often at the mercy of the pace and there doesn’t appear to be that much early speed in this field. Mental Model was setting the pace before fading that day as one of the short prices. He has a right to improve second off the layoff, but I’d rather go for a bigger price out of that spot. Super Silver didn’t work out the right trip in that Sep. 21 race, as his connections elected to rate him from an inside post position. He was subsequently shuffled to the back of the pack and was never able to mount a rally while in behind a wall of horses for much of the stretch drive. He had previously been more successful when allowed to use his tactical speed, and I would imagine that Kendrick Carmouche will place him much closer to the early pace on this occasion.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 1,4,6,7,8
RACE 7: LOCAL HERO (#8)
This is one of many very confusing races on this card. The two runners likely to take the most money are Siding Spring and Tusk, and I don’t have major problems with either of them. Yet, I also don’t completely trust anyone in this field, so I’m reticent to accept short prices on these two. Siding Spring is perhaps more trustworthy as he makes his second start off the claim for Mike Maker. I thought he ran pretty well in defeat last time, hanging on until deep stretch against a solid starter allowance field. If he merely repeats that effort, he’s going to be tough. However, the Pace Projector is predicting that he could face a fast pace this time with Tusk serving as a potential early challenger. Tusk’s running style has completely transformed for Jorge Navarro, to the point where he’s not a run-off speed type. If he hooks up with Siding Spring in the early going, it could set it up for one of the longshots. The problem is that the rest of this field is pretty difficult to separate. Morrison once would have been dangerous on this class drop, but his recent form is poor and Joe Sharp doesn’t have very strong numbers with horses dropping in for a tag for the first time. Lucky Ramsey would be a player if he can run as well as he did off the bench last time, but I’m concerned that a flat mile is a bit short of his best distance. I think this race could produce a wacky result, so I’m taking a shot with Local Hero, who might be the biggest price on the board. I thought this gelding ran pretty well when he won at Saratoga in July, beating a pair of next-out winners, one of which has returned to run much fast subsequently. Local Hero then got a less-than-ideal wide trip in that Aug. 3 affair and still only lost to Siding Spring by 2 lengths. He was claimed out of that spot by Dave Cannizzo and at first glance it might appear that his form has fallen apart for the new barn. However, I believe he’s just been placed in the wrong spots. He wanted no part of 11 furlongs two back and then last time he was asked to sprint on dirt. Furthermore, both of those races came at a much higher class level. Now he’s dropping down into a realistic spot at the perfect distance, and he gets a positive rider switch to Joel Rosario. I believe he’s going to outrun his odds.
Exacta Key Box: 8 with 1,3,4,7,10
RACE 9: SIMPLY BREATHLESS (#1)
I’m not trying to beat the likely favorite Simply Breathless, who just appears to have found the right spot as she makes her New York debut for California trainer Neil Drysdale. West coast shippers are often overmatched when they ship east for major stakes, but this filly is catching an unusually weak field for a graded stakes event. She got a great trip to win the Wilshire at Santa Anita during the summer and she was just placed in some tougher spots after that. She couldn’t quite get the longer distance of the Modesty two back, but it turns out that losing to Juliet Foxtrot is no disgrace, considering that rival’s subsequent Grade 1 placings. Last time out at Kentucky Downs, Simply Breathless was racing over a course that had gotten very speed-favoring, and she was unable to reel in a couple of classy rivals. She didn’t get the smoothest trip through the stretch that day, as Geroux had to wait in traffic and tried to find room inside. I like this rider switch to Joel Rosario, who should be a perfect fit for this filly, and Drysdale’s runners tend to show up in these situations. Two of her main rivals are exiting an optional claiming race at Belmont on September 22. Sweet Bye and Bye was impressive in victory that day, but she got a very soft trip on the front end, setting very slow fractions before sprinting home. Victorine actually ran deceptively well in that spot, since she advanced outside and just couldn’t make up ground late into those sprint-like closing splits. I’d use both defensively, but I’m just not sure that either one possesses the quality to overtake a horse like Simply Breathless.
Exacta: 1 with 2,3,4,9
Trifecta: 1 with 2,3 with 2,3,4,5,9
RACE 10: AMAZING ZERO (#7)
Corey Scores is going to be a heavy favorite in this finale and I don’t dispute that she’s the most likely winner. If she runs back to either of the speed figures she posted at Saratoga, she’s going to crush this field. However, her last race concerns me. She was chasing a moderate pace set by Winifred J and came up completely empty at the quarter pole. She was intended to do well that day as the 7-5 favorite and she threw in a clunker. I think it’s worth pointing out that she’s only run well going 5 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga, so I’m very worried that 7 furlongs might just be too far for her, especially after she faded going a furlong shorter last time. Once you get past her, this race is pretty wide-open among the alternatives. I’m taking a shot with Amazing Zero as she cuts back in distance. This filly ran deceptively well in her debut, as she overcame a slow start to rally well for third behind a couple of fillies who have gone on to do nice things in the last month. They tried stretching her out at the maiden special weight level last time and nothing went right. She broke slowly again, and this time she got very rank under Rajiv Maragh, tugging him up into the lead on the backstretch. She had nothing left at the quarter pole after that early move and he just let her fade through the pack. Now she’s dropping back down to the right class level and this 7-furlong distance should be more appropriate. If she can work out a decent trip this time, I think she’ll outperform her odds.
Exacta Key Box: 7 with 1,2,4,11
Trifecta: 4,7 with 4,7 with 1,2,6,9,11
by David Aragona
Race 1: 10 - 8 - 5 - 3
Race 2: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
Race 3: 1 - 9 - 4 - 3
Race 4: 6 - 7 - 3 - 4
Race 5: 4 - 3 - 2 - 5
Race 6: 1 - 8 - 3 - 2
Race 7: 7 - 9 - 8 - 3
Race 8: 1 - 3 - 5 - 2
Race 9: 4 - 3 - 5 - 7
Race 10: 9 - 1 - 8 - 10
Race 11: 1 - 7 - 10 - 3
RACE 2: FIRENZE FREEDOM (#1)
Naked Avenger figures to be a heavy favorite as she attempts to keep her undefeated record intact and collect a second stakes victory. She was sent off at a big price in the Joseph A. Gimma after winning her sloppy track debut, but she took a major step forward off that win, rallying past the favorites Fierce Lady and Irish Danzing. While she won impressively and won going away, I think part of that was due to the fact that the two fillies ahead of her basically hit a wall in the final furlong. Naked Avenger obviously has talent and she doesn’t figure to have a major issue handling the mile. However, there are a couple of recent maiden winners who could make her task difficult. Critical Value figures to attract support of her 6-furlong win in late August at Saratoga. She was unlucky to lose a desperate head bob in her debut and she easily handled that field last time. However, now she has to stretch out in distance and her pedigree gives mixed signals. I’m using her, but I prefer another last-out maiden winner. Firenze Freedom, like Naked Avenger, was helped when the fillies battling ahead of her dueled themselves into defeat last time. However, I still thought this daughter of Istan responded very well in the late stages, finishing up like a runner who should have no trouble negotiating an extra furlong. She’s bred to have a future as a half-sister to Grade 1-placed dirt runner Firenze Fire. Furthermore, Jason Servis is a remarkable 10 for 21 (48%, $2.63 ROI) with last-out maiden winners in dirt routes.
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 2,3,4
Trifecta: 1 with 2,3 with 2,3,4
RACE 4: GUCCI FACTOR (#6)
This Mohawk features a rematch of the runners that contested the Ashley T. Cole last month. Dot Matrix was able to run down Voodoo Song that day under an astute ride from Luis Saez, who put him into a stalking position in the early stages. The pace of the Cole was fairly moderate, which gave both Voodoo Song and Dot Matrix a distinct advantage and worked against a closer like Offering Plan. Voodoo Song is arguably even more dangerous this time around since there is no true speed signed on to challenge him and the Pace Projector is unsurprisingly predicting a situation favoring runners on or near the lead. However, it’s also worth noting that this race is contested over the Widener turf course, whereas last time Voodoo Song was going 9 furlongs on the inner. This configuration doesn’t tend to help speed as much, so we might see a more fairly run race. I’m hoping that’s the case because I think Gucci Factor deserves another chance after his Ashley T. Cole debacle. He completely blew the start that day as he was acting up when the gates opened and spotted the field about half a dozen lengths. Gucci Factor had no real chance after that, especially given the manner in which the race was run, but I thought he nevertheless did well to get within 4 lengths of the winner at the wire. Also consider that 1 1/8 miles probably isn’t even his best distance, and he should appreciate this slight cutback in trip. He had progressed to the point of winning a graded stakes during the summer, and I believe it’s quite possible that he’s still in the same stellar form now.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 3,4,7,8
Trifecta: 6 with 3,4,7 with 2,3,4,7,8
RACE 6: BUILD TO SUIT (#1)
The first five finishers across the wire in the John Morrissey at Saratoga are all back in this Hudson field. Celtic Chaos got the job done that day over Build to Suit in what was his second consecutive victory and his first stakes win since the 2017 Morrissey. The 6-year-old was uncharacteristically close to the pace and actually got the jump on his main rival at the top of the stretch. He has been campaigned judiciously in 2019, and now enters this race off another brief layoff. While he’s seeking his third win in a row, it’s still true that this horse can be somewhat difficult to ride since his late move has to be timed just right. Furthermore, there isn’t any significant speed in this field and the Pace Projector is predicting he could be at a pace disadvantage. The same is technically true for Build to Suit, but I don’t expect him to be quite as badly compromised. Build to Suit fell just a nose short of victory in the Morrissey while making his first start in over 6 months. He probably was best on that occasion, as he got shuffled back after the start and had to weave his way through traffic in the stretch. He returned last time against a slightly softer field and won going away over this race’s likely pacesetter Eye Luv Lulu. If that Jason Servis runner falls apart again here, that should bring the closers into the race and allow Build to Suit a fair chance. He’s probably not going to be much of a price, but he’s been in great form this year and I just think he’s the most likely winner. The other horse to consider is Gold for the King, but he’s disappointed as the favorite a few too many times recently and I’m starting to wonder if his form has tailed off.
Exacta: 1 with 2,3,4,8
Trifecta: 1 with 3,8 with 2,3,4,8
RACE 7: SATISFY (#7)
I’m not exactly against horses like Holiday Disguise and Carrera Cat, but I also haven’t been thrilled with their recent efforts. You have to admire Holiday Disguise’s longevity, as she’s still competing at this level after three seasons, but it’s been a while since she’s run one of her better races. She was fairly dull last time out when losing the Union Avenue as the 8-5 favorite and I believe she could be up against it here unless she produces a better performance. Carrera Cat seems like a logical alternative, especially after she defeated Holiday Disguise in that aforementioned stakes. However, the name of the game with her is speed, and I’m somewhat concerned that she might hook up with the very swift Filibustin in the opening furlongs. Filibustin isn’t really a threat to be around at the end, but she could spell trouble for this otherwise logical contender. It’s also not as if Carrera Cat’s top speed figures make her that formidable at this level, and this race came up tougher than the Union Avenue. Given my reservations with those two, I’m going with Satisfy to get back on track here. This mare was obviously in excellent form last year when she finished second in this race, earning an impressive 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure. She obviously had a setback earlier this year to be off for so long, but I thought her return race at Monmouth wasn’t nearly as bad as it seems. She was in behind some longshots in a bunched field coming around the far turn and Joe Bravo had to tap on the brakes a few times while trying to find a clear path. She ultimately got free in the stretch, but it was too late to mount a rally in a race that held together up front. She’s better than that and I believe her performance isn’t as poor as the speed figures indicate. I expect her to bounce back with a good effort this time.
Exacta Key Box: 7 with 1,2,3,8,9
Trifecta: 7 with 3,8,9 with 1,2,3,8,9
RACE 8: CITY MAN (#1)
Three of the main players in this Sleepy Hollow faced off in the Bertram F. Bongard last time and they basically hit the wire simultaneously. Cleon Jones just got his head down in front after racing surprisingly close to what turned out to be a pretty moderate early pace. He might win again, but you could have had him at 6-1 last time and you’d now have to accept a much shorter price on a horse who doesn’t necessarily have any advantage over his rivals. After all, he did finish nearly 5 lengths behind City Man when they met in the Funny Cide at Saratoga. It’s possible that Cleon Jones has improved since then, but I also think it’s fair to say that we probably didn’t see City Man’s best performance in the Bongard. He got a decent trip, held up behind runners until upper stretch, and he got into the clear with plenty of time to run down the front-runners. That said, he ran well two back with a more aggressive ride, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joel Rosario put him in the game sooner this time. Furthermore, Christophe Clement applies Lasix for the first time in this start and he is 5 for 13 (38%, $4.06 ROI) doing that with 2-year-olds on the dirt. I think he’s the horse to beat, but I also have respect for Harris Bay. This debut winner earned the highest TimeformUS Speed Figure in the field when beating Dream Bigger back in September. That rival returned to win a minor stakes at Finger Lakes, so the form of his debut is strong. The only question for Harris Bay is the distance, since he has to get an added two furlongs here, but he clearly has plenty of talent.
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 2,3,5
Trifecta: 1 with 3,5 with 2,3,4,5
RACE 10: MIDNIGHT DISGUISE (#9)
Two rivals coming off blowout victories figure to vie for favoritism in this Empire Distaff. Newly Minted dominated an overmatched group of 3-year-olds in the Fleet Indian last time, proving that she doesn’t have serious distance limitations. She carved out honest fractions and widened at will in the stretch, en route to an impressive 111 TimeformUS Speed Figure. While she has plenty of speed, she’s not the type of horse who needs the lead, and that’s a good thing in a race that features plenty of pace to her outside. If she gets the same kind of stalking trip that she worked out in the Bouwerie, I believe she’ll be tough to beat. Ratajkowski will also take money after trouncing optional claimers by over 10 lengths last time. However, her task was made much easier once main rival Might Be failed to show up. She’s an imposing 5-year-old who clearly will relish the one-mile distance, but I think she might be somewhat overrated off that victory against lesser company. I’m using both prominently, but I’m going in a different direction. Midnight Disguise has been a little frustrating for her connections, as she hasn’t won a race since May of her 3-year-old season. However, her 2019 form is actually better than it seems, since she’s had a number of excuses. She doesn’t care for a wet track, so I can excuse the efforts in March and April. She was against a bias in February and was going a distance that is clearly too short for her in June. Therefore, the only time that she’s had a real chance to be successful was in the Critical Eye two back going today’s distance, and she ran an excellent race to be second that day, earning a competitive 112 TimeformUS Speed Figure. Now she’s back at the mile distance in a race that figures to feature some pace for her to close into. I like this rider switch to Joel Rosario and I think she might be able to get back to the winner’s circle this time.
Exacta Key Box: 9 with 1,5,8,10
Trifecta: 9 with 1,8,10 with 1,2,3,5,6,8,10
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