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At the Gate - Thursday

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Live racing was canceled for Thursday afternoon at Aqueduct due to extreme cold. The temperature this morning was 19 degrees and there is going to be a high of 25 with winds at up to 20 miles per hour.
 
To be honest we will not miss much as the card on Thursday featured a few short fields and I had trouble coming up with many live longshots. It is four hours of work wasted, but things look brighter this weekend.
 
Saturday marks the return to 2012 juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby, who is the headliner in the Grade 3 $300,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.
 
The race is the first of three key preps for the Run for the Roses at Gulfstream Park. The Fountain of Youth is Feb. 23, and the marquee event of the Gulfstream Park meeting is the Florida Derby, which will be run on March 30.
 
The Todd Pletcher trainee was undefeated in five starts as a two-year-old, capping off his year by winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park.
 
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The colt finished gamely to hold off He’s Had Enough by a head and took advantage of a racing strip that was playing to inside speed that day.
 
The colt is an early favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, but I am not convinced he wants to stay 1 ¼ miles, and the colt did not scare anyone away on Saturday.
 
Nine foes will line up to take the champion on, and there are several talented runners in the field that can pull off the upset.
 
The Ken McPeek trained Frac Daddy makes his first start since a neck loss in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs on Nov. 24.
 
Bern Identity is a two-time stakes winner and makes his first start since running second in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot on Nov. 17 for trainer Kelly Breen.
 
Dewey Square was third in the Kentucky Jockey Club and looks as if he still has some upside for Eclipse Award winning trainer Dale Romans, and Itsmyluckyday won the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year’s Day.
 
The co-feature on Saturday at Gulfstream Park is the Grade 2 Forward Gal for three-year-old fillies going seven furlongs on the main track.
 
The race drew five including Kauai Katie, who has won four of her five career starts, most recently taking the Grade 3 Old Hat at Gulfstream Park on New Year’s Day. The filly’s lone loss was a fourth place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies where she was 7 ½ lengths behind the winner Beholder.
 
An interesting filly in the race is Spring Venture, who will be making her dirt debut. She won her first three races, including the Grade 2 Natalma on turf and the Grade 3 Mazzarine on polytrack, both races coming at Woodbine.
 
She was the “wise guy” horse for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Fillies Turf, bet down to 7-2 but she failed to fire in a 13th place finish. 
 
The feature on Saturday at Aqueduct is the $75,000 Affectionately, which drew a compact field of five fillies and mares.
 
R Gypsy Gold, yet another Pletcher runner, is the 4-5 morning line favorite. The filly was beaten a neck last out in the Ladies Handicap going nine furlongs on the inner track on New Year’s Day.
 
Withgreatpleasure is coming off three straight runner up finishes, the most recently in the Thirty Eight Go Go at Laurel Park on Dec. 22.
 
The filly is also entered in the $125,000 Nellie Morse at Laurel Park on Saturday, a race that drew ten plus a couple of runners sitting on the also-eligible list.
 
If trainer David Nunn elects to keep her home we are going to be looking at a four horse field, and we have seen far too many short fields in stakes at Aqueduct this winter.
 
Saturday’s Best Plays Report will include my 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.
 

  
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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.

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