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At the Gate - Sunday

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The finalists for the 2012 Eclipse Award were announced on Saturday, and the winners will be announced at the 42nd annual Eclipse Awards Banquet on Saturday, January 19 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

The three nominees for Horse of the Year are Fort Larned, I'll Have Another, and Wise Dan.

Fort Larned won five of nine starts in 2012 including his victory in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic. The Ian Wilkes trainee also won the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap. His only other graded win was in the Grade 3 Skip Away. He won the ultimate race for older runners in the Classic, but a pair of Grade 1 wins on the year is not going to be enough.

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I'll Have Another has three Grade 1 wins on the year, and won the first two jewels of the Triple Crown. Tendonitis knocked him out of the Belmont Stakes on the eve of his Triple Crown bid, and he was retired. Having only four starts and none since May 19 is likely going to leave him short in the voting.

That leaves Wise Dan, who is going to be a rather unconventional Horse of the Year, but he is well deserving.

He won three Grade 1 races, all three going a mile on turf, capping off his year with a win in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Mile. He won the Grade 3 Ben Ali on polytrack at Keeneland to start off his year, and only missed winning the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on dirt by a head to Ron the Greek.

The gelding proved he could run over any surface and looks as if he could win Horse of the Year honors without winning the Eclipse for Male Turf Horse.

That honor could end up going to Little Mike, who won a trio of Grade 1 races on turf, capped off by taking the Breeders' Cup Turf.

The 2012 Eclipse Awards finalists (in alphabetical order) are:

Two-Year-Old Male: Shanghai Bobby, Uncaptured, Violence
Two-Year-Old Filly: Beholder, Dreaming of Julia, Executiveprivilege
Three-Year-Old Male: Bodemeister, I'll Have Another, Union Rags
Three-Year-Old Filly: Believe You Can, My Miss Aurelia, Questing (GB)

Older Male: Fort Larned, Little Mike, Wise Dan
Older Female: Groupie Doll, Include Me Out, Royal Delta
Male Sprinter: The Lumber Guy, Shackleford, Trinniberg
Female Sprinter: Contested, Groupie Doll, Mizdirection
Male Turf Horse: Little Mike, Point of Entry, Wise Dan
Female Turf Horse: Marketing Mix, Tapitsfly, Zagora (FR)
Steeplechase Horse: Demonstrative, Divine Fortune, Pierrot Lunaire
Horse of the Year: Fort Larned, I'll Have Another, Wise Dan

Owner: Godolphin Racing LLC, Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., Reddam Racing LLC
Breeder: Adena Springs, Darley, Brereton C. Jones
Trainer: Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, Dale Romans
Jockey: Javier Castellano, Ramon Dominguez, John Velazquez
Apprentice Jockey: Jose Montano, Irad Ortiz, Jr., Angel Suarez

Sunday's Best Plays Report includes my eight strongest plays from Aqueduct 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 Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:

AQU Race 1 Clm $32,000 (1:05 ET)
2 Smokin' Alice 7-5
4 Sheza Classy Lady 8-5
5 Expression 6-1
1 Discreet Lady 7-2

Analysis: Smokin' Alice
is coming off a win last out against $15,000 non-winners of two or three year olds. The filly has landed in the exacta in three of four trips on the inner track and today she makes her first start for the RRod barn that is 23% winners first off the claim. This gal knows how to win, taking six of her dozen career starts and the barn has been on fire on the inner track.

Sheza Classy Lady has won two in a row, taking a Alw-1 race at Penn two back and last out on the main track here the filly beat $20,000 non-winners of two or three year olds. Levine claimed this gal for just $14,000 back in May and she has won three times for the new connections and in her career she fires just about every time out, landing in the money in 12 of her 15 career starts.

Wagering
WIN: #2 to win at 6-5 or better.
EX: 2 / 4,5
TRI: no play

Today's Featured Race of the Day from Aqueduct:

AQU Race 7 OClm $25,000N1X (3:18 ET)
9 Rein King 4-1
10 This Hard Land 12-1
6 Photon 3-1
5 Bomber Boy 5-2

Analysis: Rein King
stalked the early pace, came with a wide bid and faded in the stretch to finish sixth last out. Two back over the slop this guy earned a career top, setting the early fractions and getting nailed late, beaten just a head for the top spot. This guy bounced last out and now could bounce back as he has run well on the inner in his career.

This Hard Land came back off a three month break last out, making a mild late run to finish fourth at this level. The top two in the race each came back to win in their next starts. This guy is another that has run well on the inner track, landing in the money in 7 of his 8 starts. Worth tossing in the mix if he goes off near his 12-1 morning line.

Wagering
WIN: #9 to win at 3-1 or better.
EX: 9,10 / 5,6,9,10
TRI: 9,10 / 5,6,9,10 / 4,5,6,9,10

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

GP Race 9 Alw $54,500N2L (4:35 ET)
9 Reload 6-1
2 Street Thug 4-1
1 Jamie's Boy 12-1
4 Angel's Tune 5-1

Analysis: Reload
makes his local debut after shipping in from New York for the Shug barn. The colt was a game second at this level two back and last out finished evenly in a third place finish, no match for a six length winner. I like the stretch out to a mile for this guy and love his pedigree. He is by Hard Spun out of the stakes winner Hidden Reserve ($203,360).

Street Thug makes his first start since May for the Dutrow barn that is 18% winners with horses coming back off a +180 day layoff. The colt showed plenty of promise before hitting the bench, breaking his maiden in his second career start and then running second against Alw-1 foes in his first go against winners. The winner was Private Tale, who has come back to run fourth in a couple of stakes and most recently was third at the Big A on Jan. 4 against Alw-3 optional claimers. The colt has been working steadily for his return and the $400,000 purchase is in a barn that can fire off the bench.

Wagering
WIN: #9 to win at 4-1 or better.
EX: 2,9 / 1,2,4,9
TRI: 2,9 / 1,2,4,9 / 1,2,4,7,9

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.

Aqueduct
R1: #2 Too Much Stuff 12-1
R3: #10 This Hard Land 12-1
R5: #6 Here We Go Joe 10-1
R9: #1 Jamie's Boy 12-1
R10: #8 Filare l'Oro

Good luck today!

  
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  HORSE RACING EXPERT
  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.
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.

Mike has 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.

No handicapper in the industry works harder to bring you analysis that produces profits at the track!

Mike’s Reports include his selections, detailed analysis, a fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for the entire card.

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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 VegasInsider.com. When Jerry posts picks you are getting his best bets...when you win, he wins.

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

Jerry looks forward to working with everyone and making money for anyone who invests in his picks on a daily basis.

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