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At the Gate - Thursday
Thankfully I like handicapping maiden races.

Thursday's Aqueduct card features six, count 'em, six maiden races on the nine race card, and I do not recall ever seeing more races carded for non-winners for as long as I have been covering New York racing.

While some might complain, I just had to spend some extra time handicapping the card. When 'capping maiden races I look up the pedigree of each and every horse, which actually is a lot easier than it used to be.

The BRIS past performances list how many siblings each runner has along with how many winners and stakes winners are among the group.

The Formulator software from The Daily Racing Form includes a Sibling Summary, which gives race records of not only the siblings, but also the mare. There are also websites that more pedigree information can be attained like the Thoroughbred Pedigree Database.

In the "old days" I had to accumulate information by hand and placed it in notebooks, and relied on the Stallion Registry, which is a publication as thick as a phone book.

It was a lot of extra work, but it usually paid off at the betting windows.

In addition to pedigree, trainer stats become very important when it comes to maiden races, particularly how each trainer does with first time starters.

There are some barns that have them ready to go at first asking like Wesley Ward and Todd Pletcher, while there are other trainers like Tony Dutrow and Kiaran McLaughlin who I tend to like to back second time out.

Among Thursday's maiden races are three that are carded for grass. The turf course was labeled as "good" on Wednesday with the rail out 18 feet.

While the card lacks star power with so many unproven runners, it is actually a very good betting card.

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To purchase my full card report for Aqueduct for Thursday click here.

Here is today's opening from Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:

AQU Race 1 Md $50,000 (12:30 ET)
5 Unbridled Logic 5-2
3 O'Prado Ole 9-5
2 Retired 10-1
8 Cashleigh 5-1

Analysis: Unbridled Logic
ships in from Churchill Downs where last out the gelding made a mild late rally to finish fourth against $30K maiden claimers on the main track as the beaten favorite. The third place finisher El Enforcer came back to graduate in his next outing for a $25K tag on Nov. 29 at Fair Grounds. He was claimed out of his last start and goes here for the Levine barn that is 27% winners (with a +ROI) first off the claim. This guy may take to turf, he has three sibs that are turf winners.

O'Prado Ole makes his first start since his debut back in August at the Spa where he checked in seventh at 7-1 in a field of ten. He did not face a real strong group in his debut and these are not exactly tough either. The $40K Keeneland purchase has a decent enough pedigree, by Grade 1 turf winner English Channel out of the stakes winner Mexican Moonlight ($195K) who did her best work on turf. He looks like a good fit here dropping in for a tag for the Romans barn that is off to a slow start at the meeting (0 for 8), but five of those starters did manage to land in the money.

WIN: #5 to win at 2-1 or better.
EX: 3,5 / 2,3,5,8
TRI: 3,5 / 2,3,5,8 / 2,3,4,5,8

Today's Featured Race of the Day from Aqueduct:

AQU Race 7 Md Sp Wt (3:18 ET)
8 Can't Catch Me Now 2-1
1 Dr Figawi 5-2
3 Cielo Soleggiato 9-2
4 Fierce Face 4-1

Analysis: Can't Catch Me Now
pressed the early pace and weakened to finish third behind a pair of next out winners in a race taken off the turf. The colt comes back off a 2 1/2 month break here for the Guillo barn that is 25% winners (with a +ROI) with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff. The colt has three sibs that are winners, top earner stakes winner Like Now ($407K). The colt popped a bullet drill over the training track on Dec. 1.

Dr Figawi makes his debut for the Weaver barn that is on the light side with firsters, hitting at an 8% clip. The colt debuts with lasix and has solid looking works on the morning tab. He also has an attractive pedigree, out of the stakes winner Dr Margaret ($181K) who has dropped four winners including a pair of stakes winners, top earner Dr Disco ($276K).

WIN: #8 to win at 2-1 or better.
EX: 1,8 / 1,3,4,8
TRI: 1,8 / 1,3,4,8 / 1,3,4,6,8

Live Longshots:
These are price plays for exotic players looking to find a couple of extra contenders to use in their trifecta and superfecta wagers. Or for those with smaller bankrolls, you might want to get in a small win-place wager.

R1: #2 Retired 10-1
R2: #2 Lazulite 10-1
R4: #1 Cybertron 8-1
R4: #3 Small Town 12-1
R6: #6 Inquiring 8-1
R6: #2 Field Star 20-1
R9: #3 The High Priest 10-1

Good luck today!

· Dempsey: At the Gate - Saturday
· Justify to resume training in California
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· Lather Up wins $1M North America Cup
· Justify back at Churchill after winning TC
· Owners: Justify will race again
· Justify grabs Crown with Belmont win
· Mike Smith oldest jockey to win TC
· Baffert has winning day, 3 times over
Mike Dempsey Mike covers the New York racing circuit (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) year round as well as Keeneland, Churchill Downs, the Triple Crown, and the Breeders' Cup.
The 2015 Triple Crown saw Mike correctly predict American Pharoah to win both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Mike nailed the Exacta and Trifecta in the Belmont Stakes.

Mike had a solid 2014 Triple Crown race season, correctly picking the winning horse in 2 of 3 races. He selected I'll Have another to win The Preakness, and nailed Union Rags to win the Belmont Stakes as his top pick.

Mike also had past succes in the Kentucky Derby, winning with Animal Kingdom in 2011 and rode his top picks, Super Saver and Street Sense, to the finish line in 2010 and 2007 respectively.

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Jerry Sessa Jerry "Shots" Sessa has been involved in horse racing for over 30 years. He now brings his meticulous handicapping style to When Jerry posts picks you are getting his best bets...when you win, he wins.
Jerry opened the 2016 Triple Crown season by hitting his Derby Day best bet, Nyquist. He also nailed the Derby exacta for a $30.60 payout. On 4/16/16 at Keeneland, Jerry hit an $819 exacta that led to a $38k Trifecta & a $300k Super.

In the 2015 Belmont Stakes Jerry dominated races 8-11 by hitting a $4,400 Pick 4, 3 Daily Doubles, 2 Pick 3's and calling American Pharoah as the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.

Jerry is always looking to repeat his 2012 Triple Crown success, when he selected the winning horses for The Preakness and The Belmont Stakes.

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