At the Gate - Friday
February 22, 2013
By Mike Dempsey
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The Road to the Kentucky Derby series goes into full swing on Saturday, with the stakes higher for connections with talented three-year-olds looking to make the starting gate at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May.
The first 19 Derby preps offered up 10 points to the winners of those races, and that increases to 50 points starting with Saturday’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park and the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds.
The points go to 100 for each winner during the final round of Derby preps starting with the Grade 1 Florida Derby on Mar. 30.
The point system is still not perfect, but it is better than the old system of graded earnings determining the 20 runners that got to start in the Kentucky Derby.
I still have a tough time wrapping my head around the fact that the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile earns 10 points while the winner of the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park gets 50 points.
However, it does appear this new system is going to lead to larger fields, because runners that win graded stakes with inflated purses like the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot are no longer assured a starting spot.
The Risen Star drew 15 runners and the Fountain of Youth drew 11 foes. If we see that trend continue, and there is every indication it will, score one for the horseplayers who will have a few really good betting opportunities this spring.
Speaking of field size, it is time for the New York Racing Association to stop carding these overnight stakes that draw fields of five or six runners. Friday’s $75,000 Ruby Rubles drew a field of five, with one of those being 30-1 longshot Acquisitive, who was fifth against $5,000 non-winners of two at Penn national in his last start.
Nobody wants to bet these races, and the solution is pretty simple. If a race does not draw seven or more runners, scrap it!
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Here is today’s opening from Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:
AQU Race 1 Clm $16,000 (12:30 ET)
6 Catalan 3-1
7 Rigby 2-1
1 Swiss Tart 6-1
4 Al's Lark 5-1
Analysis: Catalan steps up to face open company here after a game win last out against $20,000 non-winners of three or a race in six months. The gelding as claimed out of the race by the Levine barn that is 30% winners (with a +ROI) first off the claim. The gelding makes his third start of his current form cycle and this guy has been popular at the claim box, switching barn s in each of his last three starts. He looks capable of stepping up and winning right back.
Rigby stalked the early pace and came up short in the stretch in a fourth place finish last out against non-winners of three optional claimers. The six year old earned a solid fig three back in a runner up finish versus Alw-2 optional claimers on the main track and was claimed out of the race by the Kenneally barn. He drops into a softer spot here tagged for $16,000 for a barn that was off to a really chilly start at the meeting, finally picking up a win here on Feb. 17 with Ortiz up. It's hard to knock the horse having won 10 of 25 career starts including a trio of wins on the inner track.
WIN: #6 to win at 2-1 or better.
EX: 6,7 / 1,5,6,7
TRI: 6,7 / 1,5,6,7 / 1,4,5,6,7
Today's Featured Race of the Day from Aqueduct:
AQU Race 7 Clm $20,000N2L (3:18 ET)
5 Tancredi 5-2
1 Quorum 5-1
6 Rock Star Charlie 3-1
2 Money Only 8-5
Analysis: Tancredi tracked the early pace while in between foes, had to steady off heels just as he was making his move nearing the 3/16's and flattened out late in a fifth place finish last out against state bred Alw-1 foes. Two back he ran third at the same level behind repeat winner N.F.'s Destiny, who came back to beat state bred Alw-2 foes in his next outing on Jan. 19. Jacobson has this guy well spotted here for his third start off the bench.
Quorum had to steady when squeezed back coming out of the gate, came with a four wide bid around the far turn and weakened late to finish fourth. He caught a racing strip that was playing to inside speed that day. He makes his second start off a 2 1/2 month break and may end up getting overlooked on the tote here.
WIN: #5 to win at 2-1 or better.
EX: 1,5 / 1,2,5,6
TRI: 1,5 / 1,2,5,6 / 1,2,4,5,6
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.
R6: #2 Unbridled Band 8-1
R8: #1 Nicole’s Miss El 8-1
R9: #5 Cinder Cone 12-1
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.
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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