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At the Gate - Thursday

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The sting of Hollywood Park’s closure will be a bit less on Thursday with the opening day of Santa Anita, which will run a winter/spring meeting that will feature 109 days of racing.
 
The action starts quickly, with three graded stakes on today’s card including the $300,000 Malibu (G1) which drew an evenly matched field of 12 that will go seven furlongs on the main track.
 
The co-features are the $300,000 La Brea (G1) for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs on dirt and the $200,000 Sir Beaufort (G2) for three-year-olds going a mile on turf.
 
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The La Brea starts the stakes action, the seven fillies going postward at 2:47 pacific, the sixth race on the card. Sweet Lulu is the 8-5 morning line favorite, and is looking to bounce back off a fifth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).
 
The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee won her first four career starts including the seven furlong Test (G1) at Saratoga in August.
 
The Sir Beaufort drew 10 three-year-olds who will go one mile on the turf course. No Jet Lag won his first two starts after arriving in the U.S. and then was beaten six lengths when checking in sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
 
The Malibu is the most wide-open race on the card, and you can see below I went with the speedy Distinctiv Passion, who is likely to be on the lead. He likes the Santa Anita main track but will he like going seven furlongs?
 
My Best Plays Report for Thursday includes my eight strongest plays from Aqueduct and Santa Anita including the graded stakes action.
 
Purchase my Monthly Package and receive an entire month of Aqueduct action and my Best Plays on the weekends for just $99.95.
 
To purchase my full card report for Aqueduct for Thursday click here.
 
Here is today’s opening from Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:
 
AQU Race 1 Md $35,000 (12:20 ET)
2 Team Lazarus   7-2
7 Solly's Mischief   10-1
4 Coronate   2-1
5 Eight Cents   3-1
 
Analysis: Team Lazarus chased the pacesetter but could never get by the gate to wire winner last out in a good effort in a runner up finish for a $50,000 tag. The fourth and fifth place finishers came out of the race to graduate next out while the winner Spirited Touch came back to run second against $35,000 non-winners of two or three-year-olds. The colt drops a notch in class here to the $35,000 level and owns a solid pace profile throughout. He has a pair of sibs that are winners, top earner Write When Ready ($121,234).
 
Solly's Mischief was beaten double digit lengths in both of his starts, last out trying to go long on turf. He was claimed out of the race by the RRod barn that is 25% winners (with a +ROI) first off the claim. The cut back and surface switch should suit this guy. He is out of the stakes winner V Formation ($155,618). The barn has been hot and this guy is worth tossing in the mix here if he goes off near his 10-1 morning line.
 
Wagering
WIN: #2 to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 2,7 / 2,4,5,7
TRI: 2,7 / 2,4,5,7 / 2,4,5,6,7
 
Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Aqueduct:
 
AQU Race 8 OClm $35,000N2X (3:43 ET)
4 Kelli Got Frosty   3-1
2 Familyofroses   7-2
6 Great Gracie Dane   5-1
1 Run to Mama    12-1
 
Analysis: Kelli Got Frosty was outrun in the early going, came with a wide bid and made a mild late rally to finish fourth last out in a New York Stallion Series race, beaten 1 1/2 lengths as the beaten favorite. She stretches back out to two turns as she makes her third start off a three month break here for the RRod barn.  She ran well here early this year going two turns on the inner track with a second and a third in a couple of stakes.
 
Familyofroses exits the same race as our top pick and she was beaten just a neck in a game effort. The third place finisher in the race was P J's Superego, who came back to non-winners of three optional claimers in her next outing on Dec. 19. The filly broke her maiden going long on the main track at Belmont Park three back in a race washed off the grass, drawing away to win by 14 1/2 lengths and then came back to beat state bred Alw-1 foes in her first try. She looks like a good fit in this spot.
 
Wagering
WIN: #4 to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 2,4 / 1,2,4,6
TRI: 2,4 / 1,2,4,6 / 1,2,4,6,8
 
Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Santa Anita:
 
SA Race 8 The Malibu G1 (3:52 PT)
11 Distinctiv Passion    6-1
10 Bakken   6-1
4 Flashback   7-2
5 Zeewat   9-2
 
Analysis: Distinctiv Passion set a sharp early pace and weakened late to finish third last out in the Sprint Championship (G1) here on Oct. 5. The runner up Goldencents came back to win the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) in his next outing. The colt has won two of his three starts over the main track and owns the edge in early and mid pace numbers. There is some other early zip in here but this colt is going to be the one to run down. He sports four bullet works since his last outing for the Bonde barn that is 15% winners with runners coming back off a 46-90 day break. The extra furlong here is the main question mark as he has not raced beyond six furlongs in his career, but looks as if he is going to be a fair price.
 
Bakken ships in from New York for the Chad Brown barn and is undefeated in his two career starts. He went gate to wire to break his maiden in his debut at Belmont Park in quick time and then came back to beat Alw-1 foes last out at Aqueduct. The $450,000 Keeneland purchase appears to have a ton of upside and should be able to work out a trip breaking from the outside. The barn is really high on this guy and to ship him west instead of finding a softer spot at the Big A indicates this guy is ready to fire.
 
Wagering
WIN: #11 to win at 4-1 or better.
EX: 10,11 / 4,5,10,11
TRI: 10,11 / 4,5,10,11 / 4,5,7,10,11
 
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: #7 Solly’s Mischief   10-1
R3: #3 Royal Currier   10-1
R4: #8 Madison V.   15-1
R8: #1 Run to Mama   12-1
 
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.

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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.

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