At the Gate - Saturday
February 7, 2014
By Mike Dempsey
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Belmont Stakes Day is a big day in racing, particularly if there is a Triple Crown hanging in the balance. Now the New York Racing Association has made the day the second richest day of racing in the U.S. by moving several graded stakes to the menu including the Met Mile, which traditionally is run on Memorial Day.
Five traditional Belmont Stakes Day contests - the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes; the Grade 1, $1 million Manhattan; the Grade 1, $750,000 Longines Just a Game; the Grade 2, $500,000 Woody Stephens; and the $150,000 Easy Goer will be back.
The new editions to the day are the Grade 1, $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap, the Grade 1, $1 million Ogden Phipps; the Grade 1, $750,000 Acorn; the Grade 2, $500,000 Brooklyn Invitational; and the Grade 3, $300,000 Jaipur Invitational.
Also scheduled as part of the 13-race card are three overnight allowance events - two on dirt, one on turf - offering a total of $300,000 in purses.
That will bring the total purses handed out at $8 million, which is only topped by Breeders’ Cup Saturday.
The reaction from horseplayers has been mixed on Twitter and on horse racing forums. I really like the move, especially if there is not a Triple Crown at stake.
We know interest will be great if a horse manages to win both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but there does seem to be a loss of interest if we do not have a Triple Crown up for grabs.
However, at least as a horseplayer and fan of the game, even if there is no Triple Crown at stake, the betting card is going to be tremendous.
We have a good card on Saturday despite the feature, the $100,000 Dearly Precious drawing a compact field of five. The remainder of the card is solid and we have plenty of stakes action at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita to solve.
My Best Plays Report for Saturday includes my 11 strongest plays from Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita
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Here is today’s opening from Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:
AQU Race 1 Md $40,000 (12:25 ET)
4 Sals Wonderfulgirl 1-1
5 Past as Prelude 5-2
3 See the Music 6-1
2 Brown Mellisa 5-1
Analysis: Sals Wonderfulgirl was the beaten favorite last out in her second career start. She chased the early pace and weakened to finish fifth. The runner up and seventh place finisher came out of the race to graduate next out. She was claimed out of the race by the RRod barn that is 26% winners (with a +ROI) first off the claim. The filly showed good early zip in her debut two back and owns a good edge in early and mid pace numbers.
Past the Prelude set the early fractions and faded, ending up getting eased going two turns at Charles Town as the beaten chalk. She comes back here with a couple of works and drops in for a tag for the first time here for the Trombetta barn that is 22% winners dropping runners from maiden special to maiden claiming. We will toss her try in West Virginia and expect to see a better effort here.
WIN: #4 to win at 6-5 or better.
EX: 4,5 / 3,4,5
TRI: no play
Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Gulfstream Park:
GP Race 10 The Suwannee River G3 (5:01 ET)
1 Riposte 4-1
7 Caroline Thomas 3-1
5 Abaco 5-2
2 Parranda 4-1
Analysis: Riposte makes her U.S. debut here landing with the Mott barn that is 27% winners with newcomers to the barn. This gal won a Group 2 at Ascot last June and was the beaten favorite in the Irish Oaks (G1) where she checked in fifth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths for the top spot. She comes back here off a four-month break for a barn that is 23% winners with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff. Three of her sibs are also stakes winners including Grade 1 winner Powerscourt ($1.9 million).
Caroline Thomas is also returning off a four month break, this filly last seen running a close up third in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) at Keeneland where she was beaten just 3/4 of a length. She lost her last eight starts last year since beating Alw-1 foes here. She fits here with her best but the main question mark is whether she is going to see enough pace in front of her here.
WIN: #1 to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 1,7 / 1,2,5,7
TRI: 1,7 / 1,2,5,7 / 1,2,3,5,7
Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Santa Anita:
SA Race 8 The Robert B. Lewis G2 (4:05 PT)
7 Chitu 7-2
1 Candy Boy 2-1
3 Midnight Hawk 9-5
2 Diamond Bachelor 6-1
Analysis: Chitu is going to be the better price of the two runners sent out here by the Bob Baffert barn. The colt took the field gate to wire to break his maiden in his debut and came back to beat first level optional claimers over the main track at Santa Anita on Dec. 27. The runner up in that race was Street Icon, who came back to beat first level optional claimers in his next outing on Jan. 16 with a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. Our top pick was a $300,000 Ocala purchase and now stretches out and faces stakes company for the first time. He is by Henny Hughes out of an A.P. Indy mare, so he looks as if he has enough pedigree to handle the stretch out. He put in a couple of bullet works since his last outing and figures to be right in the mix early.
Candy Boy makes his first start since running second to Shared Belief in the CashCall Futurity (G1) at Hollywood Park back in December. The colt that beat him continues to be one of the early betting favorites for the Kentucky Derby. It took the John Sadler trainee four tries to break his maiden but he did run into several talented runners in those maiden races including Tap It Rich, Bond Holder, and New Year’s Day, the latter going on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The colt is out of the stakes winner She’s an Eleven ($243,560) who has dropped two other foals to race, top earner Sharp Act ($26,470).
Midnight Hawk figures to be sent off as the betting favorite off his win in the Sham (G3) in his first go against winners. He only had to beat three in that race although the runner up Kristo is a talented runner. The colt was a good-looking maiden winner two back in his debut despite getting off a beat slow, drawing away to win by 6 ¼ lengths. With Mike Smith up it seems likely his stablemate Chitu will have the jump on him early and will likely offer more bang for the buck than this guy.
WIN: #7 to win at 3-1 or better.
EX: 1,7 / 1,2,3,7
TRI: 1,7 / 1,2,3,7 / 1,2,3,5,7
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.
R2: #3 Indy Tune 15-1
R4: #1 Go West Marie 8-1
R4: #2 Skye Saratoga 12-1
R5: #11 Sideways Vision 8-1
R6: #10 Two More Jacs 20-1
R7: #1 Tiffany 8-1
R8: #4 Make the Moment 10-1
R8: #9 Pegasus Diamond 12-1
R9: #1 Doubledown Again 8-1
R9: #2 Dr Wesley 12-1
R10: #7 Queen of Jazz
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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HORSE RACING EXPERT
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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