Picks & Plays for Sunday, July 10
by David Aragona
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Race 1: 4 - 5 - 1 - 3
Race 2: 6 - 7 - 1 - 2
Race 3: 4 - 8 - 1 - 2
Race 4: 1 - 3 - 2 - 9
Race 5: 3 - 4 - 1 - 2
Race 6: 6 - 3 - 7 - 1
Race 7: 5 - 8 - 1 - 2
Race 8: 5 - 1 - 4 - 6
Race 9: 6 - 7 - 9 - 5
(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: THE LAST ZIP (#6)
Class droppers dominate this $32k claimer. The field is led by #7 Duress, who drops to the lowest level he’s encountered since getting claimed by Tom Albertrani early in his career. His form tailed off noticeably last season, though he did show himself still capable of putting forth competitive efforts every now and then. His return from the layoff in May wasn’t terrible, though he didn’t really finish chasing home a trio of superior rivals. I don’t care too much about the off-the-turf affair last time, and this just seems like the right spot as he drops down. #1 Not Phar Now might be his main rival. He would easily beat this field if able to run back to his first start off the layoff when holding on for third going this distance against a tougher New York-bred field. His results since then have been poor, but he was involved in a suicidal pace last time that completely melted down. He’s likely to do better here as the controlling speed, but he’s hard to trust. The same can be said for #2 Reux, who hasn’t run a competitive race since his first start in this country. I’m going to try to beat the dropdowns with #6 The Last Zip. He’s obviously done most of his running over longer trips than this, but he was effective sprinting on turf in the first two starts of his career. His recent form looks pretty poor, but he’s now been freshened and returns for Joe Sharp. This barn doesn’t have the best numbers off the claim, but Sharp is a solid 11 for 69 (16%, $2.82 ROI) in turf sprints at NYRA over the past 5 years, and it feels like he’s brought some live runners to New York. I also like that he was previously entered for $25k in a race that was rained off the turf earlier in the meet, and is now entered back for $32k.
WIN: #6 The Last Zip, at 7-2 or greater
RACE 3: UNCLE WATER FLOW (#4)
I have trouble taking either #1 Patrick the Great or #8 Eminency at short prices in this bottom-level New York-bred maiden claimer. The former showed some promise when second in his career debut, but that off-the-turf affair has proven to be a very weak race. He’s since been uncompetitive in a couple of maiden special weights and now drops down. Eminency has had even more chances at the special weight level and has continually disappointed. His last dirt race was his worst yet, and the move to turf last time prior to this further drop is a little concerning. I want to look elsewhere, and there are viable alternatives in this race. #2 Barone Marchis is a little interesting off the claim for Orlando Noda, though he has to improve. #6 Devil Or Angel broke through the gate prior to the start last time and ran on well, though was aided by a fast pace. I’m going for a bigger price with #4 Uncle Water Flow. He’s made most of his starts on turf, but he’s a much better dirt horse. He got a strange ride and trip on Dec. 31, and subsequently showed up with a solid effort when dropped in for a tag in March. That performance gives him an outside chance here, and it’s notable that it was his only start on a fast track. He’s better than he looks and is finally getting a massive rider upgrade to Javier Castellano.
WIN: #4 Uncle Water Flow, at 8-1 or greater
RACE 4: SMART JOKER (#1)
I have no argument that #2 Media Sensation is a contender in this spot, but it is worth noting that he’s exclusively run against New York-breds and is now moving into open company. He earned solid speed figures without doing much running in maiden special weight company, but I thought his last race was a step in the right direction. He was wide throughout and still stayed on mildly for third. That said, he’s arguably facing a tougher field this time, so he needs to improve again. Among the short prices, I’m more interested in #3 Left On Boylston. This horse put in a good effort to be third at this level back in April behind Bail Out, who is better than anything he faces here. He probably needed his return going 11 furlongs last time when not really persevered with by the rider. He’s now back in a realistic spot and is going out for a barn in the midst of a strong meet. I just have an opinion about a bigger price in here. I want to give #1 Smart Jokera chance getting on turf. I know his pedigree isn’t screaming grass, but Practical Joke has had some mild success with his turf runners and the dam has produced a couple of runners who handled grass without winning. John Kimmel is 5-for-34 (15%, $4.69 ROI) with maidens switching over to turf for the first time over the past 5 years. Watching this horse’s races, he moves more like a turf horse and he figures to be forwardly placed from the inside in a race that features a very murky pace scenario.
WIN: #1 Smart Joker, at 6-1 or greater
RACE 6: KING’S HARLEQUIN (#6)
Chad Brown sends out a pair of runners who both figure to attract support in this optional claiming event. #2 Nevisian Sunrise stretches back out in distance after failing to handle sprinting in the Intercontinental last time. I like the distance for her, but I’m just not thrilled with her prior form. She beat a mediocre field at Keeneland two back, and figures to vie for favoritism given the fact that Irad Ortiz is riding. #7 Zainalarab is perhaps more appealing since she’s only had the one start on turf, in which she ran quite well to be second. However, now she’s stretching out to a mile and it’s no guarantee that added distance will suit her. I won’t be shocked when either wins, but I wanted to look elsewhere. I think #5 Miss Dracarys could bounce back at a square price. She ran well behind Love and Thunder two back, albeit with a very good trip. I didn’t like her last effort but she may prefer more ground than 7 furlongs these days, as she just seemed to have trouble keeping up with the pace on the turn. I’m going with a different horse out of the Love and Thunder race. #6 King’s Harlequin finished fifth that day, but it was her U.S. debut while returning a one-year layoff. Christophe Clement does not do well with foreign shippers first time in this country, but he does do better second off a layoff. Over the past 5 years, he is 12 for 48 (25%, $2.23 ROI) second off a 180+ day layoff in turf routes at NYRA. King’s Harlequin has solid French form to build upon from early in her career. She got a wide trip last time and should fare better here. I also don't think #3 Evvie Jets is impossible after just missing at this level last time. This is a tougher spot, but she's underrated and has the tactical speed to work out a nice trip.
WIN: #6 King's Harlequin, at 3-1 or greater
RACE 7: QUEEN BOURBON (#5)
Christophe Clement arguably has the two fillies to beat in #2 Eylara and #8 Classic Colors. I much prefer the latter of the two. Classic Colors delivered a career-best performance in her return last time, closing into a moderate pace to win pretty easily over a couple of next-out winners. This is a step up in class as she tries open company, but she appears to have matured since she tried this level as a 3-year-old. The bigger question is the stretch-out in distance, but she has enough stamina on the bottom side of her pedigree to handle it. She has plenty of upside, whereas Eylara has just been a little disappointing in her two U.S. starts to date. A couple of fillies are shipping in from Churchill Downs. #4 Stepper finished well to be second behind the talented Lady Rockstar in that May 7 race at this level. However, that was by far the best performance of this 3-year-old’s career, and I’m not convinced that the added distance is going to suit her. I’m far more interested in #5 Queen Bourbon. This filly made her turf debut a winning one after a trio of solid dirt efforts last year. It took her a while to get back to the races after that, and I think she’s run deceptively well since returning as an older horse. She was facing better rivals both two and three back, as April 15 winner Ocean Road returned to win the G1 Gamely out west, and Lady Rockstar came to New York with a dominant performance. I also thought she might have moved too soon in that May 7 affair. I wouldn’t be too concerned about the stretch-out for her, since she’s handled 1 1/4 miles on dirt. She picks up Irad Ortiz, who should have her forwardly placed in a race that doesn’t feature much early speed. The other horse I want to consider is #1 Hail To, the full-sister to Sadler's Joy. She's light on speed figures, but may appreciate this stretch-out in distance.
WIN: #5 Queen Bourbon, at 3-1 or greater
RACE 9: THE ICEMAN COMMETH (#6)
It’s hard to trust anyone in this wide-open maiden claiming affair, which closes out the Belmont meet. #2 North Carolinaonce had turf form that towered over this field, but his recent efforts leave a lot to be desired. #9 Calloway Peak has to be considered on the class drop. Even though he hasn’t done much running in his races, he’s exiting one of the best maiden special weight events of the meet and may have found the right field returning on short rest. A couple of runners exit that 10-furlong maiden special weight event on May 20. #8 Dream of a Day stayed on mildly late without really threatening, though he’s another who could appreciate the drop. I’d be more interested in #7 Greg’s Honor, who got a somewhat indecisive ride, making an early move on the backstretch before fading. He should fare better as John Velazquez takes over. My top pick is #6 The Iceman Commeth. I had thought this horse was an interesting prospect in his debut prior to that race getting rained off the turf. He clearly needed the experience, as he got squeezed back at the start and had no speed thereafter. Yet he did get rolling in the last quarter mile, passing tiring runners before galloping out with interest. Keen Ice has had a bit of success with turf routers, and the dam earned some of her best speed figures on turf despite never winning on the surface. Second dam Duty Dance was an excellent turf performer, so there is plenty of pedigree for him to handle the surface. Tom Morley runners tend to do better with experience, and this gelding isn’t meeting the toughest field.
WIN: #6 The Iceman Commmeth, at 5-1 or greater