At the Gate - Friday
January 4, 2013
By Mike Dempsey
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The Southern California jockey colony grew by one on Thursday as hall of fame rider Gary Stevens announced he is returning to the saddle, ending his seven-year retirement.
Stevens will be aboard the gelding Jebrica for trainer Jim Penney on Sunday at Santa Anita Park.
Rumors starting swirling around the backstretch that Stevens might be considering making a comeback, and he has been working out horses in the mornings for the last two months.
He previously denied the rumors that he would be accepting mounts for opening day at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, and still has a headline on his website at garystevens.com that reads, “Gary IS NOT planning to make a comeback. He just wants to be fit. Watch for him on TV!”
Turns out we will be watching him at the track.
“I want to give it a go again,” Stevens said. “I can honestly say after being on horses the last eight weeks my knees didn't feel this good the last 5 years I rode."
I was asked how Stevens is going to do. He turns 50 in March, and we have seen jockeys perform well at major tracks at his age.
I have spoken to a couple of people that have seen him in the mornings and they say he is in good shape, and his knees do not appear to be bothering him.
Seven years on the sidelines is a long time. In his last year of riding in 2005 he won 94 races from 487 mounts. His purse earnings of $9.2 million were good for 15th among all jockeys.
It may take him a couple of weeks to get back to top form, but I think he can be a major player on the Southern California circuit, but after being away for so long, he is going to have to prove himself to the top barns on the circuit.
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Here is today’s opening from Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:
AQU Race 1 OClm $50,000SAL (12:30 ET)
4 Tape It 8-5
7 Candy Raider 6-1
5 Brother Bob 7-5
2 Cashleigh 12-1
Analysis: Tape It was the beaten favorite last out at this condition, which was his first go against winners. The colt made a good late rally but had to settle for the runner up spot behind a loose on the lead gate to wire winner over a racing strip that was kind to inside speed that day. He gets a little more ground here and just needs to see somebody go early with Brother Bob, who is coming off a maiden score in gate to wire fashion but took full advantage of an inside speed favoring racing strip in that win and will be an underlay here.
Candy Raider broke his maiden at Belmont Park for a $50,000 tag and was jumped into stakes company where he was outrun in the Nashua (G2). He came back with a good effort last out in a third behind our top pick. He looks back on track and may end up getting over looked on the tote in this spot.
WIN: #4 to win at 8-5 or better.
EX: 4,7 / 2,4,5,7
TRI: 4,7 / 2,4,5,7 / 2,4,5,6,7
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Aqueduct:
AQU Race 8 OClm $14,000N1X (3:48 ET)
5 Madame Prosecutor 6-1
2 Fruttidimare 5-1
3 Sasta Go Lucky 3-1
1 Strike Accord / 1a Hall of Fame 9-2
Analysis: Madame Prospector prompted the early pace and finished gamely in a runner up finish last out in her first trip going two turns. She has outrun her odds in her last couple of starts and her 6-1 morning line looks more than fair here. Only our third choice in here earned a higher last out speed fig and she looks headed in the right direction for the Antonucci barn that we have had some luck backing with prices.
Fruttidimare returns off a two month break and makes her first start for the Rice barn that is 16% winners (with a +ROI) with newcomers to the barn. The filly broke her maiden at the Spa against state bred $20,000 maiden claimers two back and then came back off a 2 1/2 month break to bet Alw-1 foes at Suffolk in her most recent outing. She is back here with state breds and still looks as if she has some upside potential.
WIN: #5 to win at 3-1 or better.
EX: 2,5 / 1,2,3,5
TRI: 2,5 / 1,2,3,5 / 1,2,3,5,10
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 Cashleigh 12-1
R6: #10 River Ron 10-1
R7: #8 Thor’s Mjolnor 8-1
Good luck today!
HORSE RACING EXPERT
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.
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