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At the Gate - Sunday

I mentioned yesterday that I thought I had caught a case of Derby Fever, but today it feels more like a hangover after a frustrating day on Saturday.

The day got off to a slow start, and things were starting to look up when Pleasant Prince came rolling down the stretch in the third race at Aqueduct, taking over a short lead from Regal Strike. He was a light price at 4-5, but I was alive in a couple of doubles and would have him on top on most of my exacta tickets.

However, jockey Abel Lezcano failed to finish his work, allowing Irad Ortiz and Regal Strike to get a nose back in front at the wire. I could barely believe my eyes.

Things did not get much better the rest of the day, with a couple of contenders getting off poorly, having bad trips, or just coming out on the wrong end of photos.

The day ended with the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds. My top pick Code West went off at 7-1 and after battling for the early lead dropped back and the day looked over. However he fought back along the rail and I thought he might help stop the bleeding.


That is just about the time I got a glimpse of a colt coming on the outside that I could not even identify at first. It turned out it was the Keith Desormeaux trained Ive Struck a Nerve, who was beaten 13 ½ lengths in the Grade 3 LeComte in his last start.

Under his new rider James Graham the colt came with a six wide run and got up at the wire to beat us by a nose. A curious look to the toteboard showed his odds at 99-1.

It turned out he actually had gone off at 135-1, paying a hefty $272.40 to win, $110.60 to place and $42.40 to show. The $2 exacta with my top pick paid $2,295.00.

The colt went from an obscure also-ran to the top of the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings with 51 points.

Over at Gulfstream Park the Todd Pletcher trained Violence was supposed to have his coming out party, but had to settle for second as Orb ($12.80) ran him down in the stretch to win the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth for trainer Shug McGaughey, earning 50 points.

Violence chased a sharp early pace set by Majestic Hussar and just did not have enough punch left late. His runner up finish was still worth 20 points, and the colt now is third in the standings with 30 points, so it as a productive day for the Pletcher runner.

It was not much of a productive day for my bankroll, but there is plenty of betting action on tap this afternoon that can get us back in the black.

My Best Plays Report for Sunday includes my eight strongest plays from Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park.

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

AQU Race 1 Clm $12,500N2L (12:30 ET)
1 The Winged Venus 7-2
8 Castles Burning 10-1
9 Sassidy 5-2
2 Princess Katrina 10-1

Analysis: The Winged Venus has lost a dozen races in a row since breaking her maiden in her second career start but may have finally found a good spot where she can win. Last out she was outrun early and came with a good five wide rally to finish fifth, beaten four lengths for the top spot. She caught a racing strip that was strongly favoring inside speed that day. The runner up Karma Police came back to run second against state bred Alw-1 foes while the third place finisher File Gumbo came back to beat $20,000 non-winners of two in her next outing on Feb. 17. Four of these are stretching out from sprints so it looks like we should see some pace. Her maiden win came over a wet track and there is some rain in the forecast, but like yesterday we can't count on the weathermen ever actually being right with the forecast.

Castles Burning made her last three starts at Philly, coming up short last out in a fifth place finish, but running a good second two back beaten just a half-length versus $7,500 non-winners of two. She stretches back out to a route for the Zito barn that is having solid meeting, hitting at a 22% clip and is 20% winners (with a +ROI) moving runners from sprint to route. She broke her maiden here on the main track last April for a $25,000 tag facing state breds and she fits here with her best and is decent value if she goes off near her 10-1 morning line.

WIN: #1 to win at 3-1 or better.
EX: 1,8 / 1,2,8,9
TRI: 1,8 / 1,2,8,9 / 1,2,5,8,9

Today's Featured Race of the Day from Aqueduct:

AQU Race 7 Md Sp Wt (3:18 ET)
4 Danceteria 9-2
8 Cuvee City 7-2
5 Street Swagg 8-5
6 Greeley Pack 8-1

Analysis: Danceteria tracked the early pace, was bumped turning for home and did not have enough punch left late in a fourth place finish in his debut. The gelding figures to move forward with a race under his belt and catches a weak looking group of state breds here. The Rice barn is 15% winners (with a +ROI) with second out maidens. The gelding has one sib to race, 1 for 19 Plastique ($36,050).

Cuvee City ships in form Northern California where the colt is coming off a pair of runner up finishes for a $20,000 and $16,000 tag over the fake stuff. He has a couple of decent local drills and while he steps up to the maiden special weight level these are New York breds he faces here. The barn is 32% winners (with a +ROI) with newcomers to the barn.

WIN: #4 to win at 7-2 or better.
EX: 4,8 / 4,5,6,8
TRI: 4,8 / 4,5,6,8 / 2,4,5,6,8

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

GP Race 10 The Ladies Turf Sprint (5:05 ET)
3 Stopshoppingmaria 9-5
6 Whipsaw City 3-1
7 Double the Energy 5-1
8 Trippin' Along 8-1

Analysis: Stopshoppingmaria makes her third start off the bench for Pletcher and this gal has looked razor sharp beating Alw-1 and Alw-2 foes in her last two starts here. She mixed it up in graded stakes company last year including a runner up finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G2) where she was beaten just 3/4 of a length. Pletcher has been on a roll and this gal looks capable of stepping right back up in class and winning right back.

Whipsaw City tracked the early pace, battled on in the stretch and did not have enough punch left late in a third place finish behind a couple of these, coming up 3/4 of a length shy of the top spot. She won her first two starts after landing in the U.S. and has now lost six in a row but was competitive in a couple of tries against stakes company. She did not look fully cranked last out and figures to move forward here for the Chad Brown barn.

WIN: #3 to win at 8-5 or better.
EX: 3,6 / 3,6,7,8
TRI: 3,6 / 3,6,7,8 / 3,4,6,7,8

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.

R1: #8 Castles Burning 10-1
R1: #2 Princess Katrina 10-1
R4: #4 Corybant 15-1
R4: #2 Epic Legend 10-1
R5: #3 Lucci the Lion 8-1
R6: #6 Wishingonastar 10-1
R7: #6 Gravel Pack 8-1
R8: #1 Christopher's Joy 8-1
R9: #2 Salvar 15-1

Good luck today!

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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.
The 2015 Triple Crown saw Mike correctly predict American Pharoah to win both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Mike nailed the Exacta and Trifecta in the Belmont Stakes.

Mike had a solid 2014 Triple Crown race season, 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 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 When Jerry posts picks you are getting his best bets...when you win, he wins.
Jerry opened the 2016 Triple Crown season by hitting his Derby Day best bet, Nyquist. He also nailed the Derby exacta for a $30.60 payout. On 4/16/16 at Keeneland, Jerry hit an $819 exacta that led to a $38k Trifecta & a $300k Super.

In the 2015 Belmont Stakes Jerry dominated races 8-11 by hitting a $4,400 Pick 4, 3 Daily Doubles, 2 Pick 3's and calling American Pharoah as the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.

Jerry is always 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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