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At the Gate - Saturday

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There is no racing at Aqueduct until Wednesday, but have no fear, Santa Super Saturday is here.

Fair Grounds offers those of us done with our Christmas shopping a 12-race card on Saturday including five stakes races. First post is 1:00 CT.

The $1.8 million earner Chamberlain Bridge is one of the headliners. The eight-year-old gelding is the defending champion in the $75,000 Bonapaw, and is the 5-2 morning line favorite in this year's edition.

Trained by the red hot Brett Calhoun, the gelding won the 2010 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G2) and is a 17-time winner on turf in his career.

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He looks tough but does face a couple of interesting runners that will be making their turf debuts. Hollywood Hit (4-1) is a polytrack specialist with a trio of triple digit Beyers in his last dozen starts, and Cash Refund (8-1) is a multiple stakes winner over the Fair Grounds main track but has not raced on turf in his career.

One of the best wagering races this afternoon is the $75,000 El Padrino, the feature at Gulfstream Park.

A full field of 14 will line up to go one mile on turf led by Nikki's Sandcastle (7-2), who is coming off a win in the Claiming Crown Emerald over the Gulfstream Park turf on Dec. 1.

It is such a wide open affair that a pair of $1 million earners are longshots. Get Serious (10-1) has earned $1.1 million in his career and is an 11-time winner on turf, and Teaks North (15-1) won the Grade 1 United Nations last summer and has bankrolled just over $1 million in his career.

Saturday's Best Plays Report includes my nine strongest plays from Fair Grounds and Gulfstream Park.

Purchase my Monthly Package and receive an entire month of Aqueduct action and my weekend Best Plays Reports for just $99.95.

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

GP Race 1 Md $12,500 (12:45 ET)
9 Perfidia Light 5-2
11 Flopodopolus 4-1
10 Sunbabyrun 6-1
7 Gimme Honor 12-1


Analysis: Perfidia Light returns off nearly a three month break here and drops into a soft spot here for the Brownlee barn. Last out the filly was a good second for a $25,000 tag, tracking the early pace and finishing four lengths back of the winner but was well clear of the rest of the field in the effort. The work tab is on the light side and the barn goes with a seven pound bug, but she owns solid early and mid pace numbers and if she can shake loose early she may be tough here.

Flopodopolus makes her first start since her debut back in July of 2011 where she checked in fifth at 7-1 for a $30,000 tag at Churchill Downs. She takes the hood off and is in good hands with the Mareina barn that is 2 for 8 with runners coming back off a +180 day layoff. She has one sib to race, four time winner Shankopotamus ($146,028).

Wagering
WIN: #9 to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 9,11 / 7,9,10,11
TRI: 9,11 / 7,9,10,11 / 5,7,9,10,11

Today's Featured Race of the Day from Gulfstream Park:

GP Race 9 The El Prado (4:35 ET)
5 Salto 5-1
14 Nikki's Sandcastle 7-2
8 Empire Builder 12-1
1 Bad Debt 12-1


Analysis: Salto is coming off a fourth place finish in the Fayette (G2) on poly at Keeneland. The colt tracked the early pace, took over the lead and did not have enough punch left late, checking in three lengths back of the winner. His last turf try as a solid second in the Cliff Hanger (G3) three back at Monmouth Park behind Tune In. This guy is Group 1 placed as a juvenile and I like the switch back to turf here. The Pletcher barn is 30% winners (with a +ROI) moving runners from synth to turf.

Nikki's Sandcastle held on gamely to win the Claiming Crown Emerald last out over the turf here. The gelding had a couple of tough beats earlier this year and he can run over any surface. His best is turf where he is a six time winner over the weeds and this year he has been very consistent, landing in the exacta in 8 of 10 starts. The break may be key as he breaks from the outside and there is not much of a run up before they hit the first turn.

Wagering
WIN: #5 to win at 7-2 or better.
EX: 5,14 / 1,5,8,14
TRI: 5,14 / 1,5,8,14 / 1,3,5,8,14

Today's Featured Race of the Day from Fair Grounds:

FG Race 8 The Bonapaw (4:25 CT)
8 Icon Mike 8-1
6 Chamberlain Bridge 5-2
1 Hollywood Hit 4-1
7 Ready for More 5-1


Analysis: Icon Mike is coming off a good effort in the one mile Woodchopper where the colt was a close up third despite a wide trip. The cut back here to 5 1/2 furlongs suits as he is 4 for 6 in his career at the distance. He has won 3 of his 4 starts over the Fair Grounds turf including a win in the Black N Gold back in March. He offers decent value if he goes off near his 8-1 morning line.

Chamberlain Bridge was third in the Woodford (G3) last out and comes back here off a 2 1/2 month break. The 2010 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1) champ has won just 1 of 7 starts this year but has been facing mostly tougher than he catches here. The gelding won this race last year over yielding footing and has won 5 of 8 starts over the turf here with a couple of seconds. The old timer still fires just about every time out but his price may end up on the light side here.

Hollywood Hit has done his best work on poly and will be making his turf debut here. The gelding beat Alw-3 optional claimers last out at Woodbine in a sharp effort. He has a decent turf pedigree, by Cactus Ridge out of a Time for a Change mare that has dropped nine other winners with just one turf winner. He earned a 105 Beyer last out on poly despite coming back off a 7 1/2 month layoff. Now he come s back off a 3 1/2 month break for the Stidham barn that is 20% winners with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff.

Wagering
WIN: #8 to win at 9-2 or better.
EX: 6,8 / 1,6,7,8
TRI: 6,8 / 1,6,7,8 / 1,6,7,8,9
Good luck today!

  
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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.
Last Year Mike had a solid Triple Crown, 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.

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