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At the Gate - Sunday
A pair of chalks looking to hop on the Derby Trail came up short on Saturday.

Catholic Boy was sent off as the favorite in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs but had to settle for second fiddle to upsetter Flameaway, who took the field gate to wire, holding off the chalk late to prevail by a half-length, returning $22.60 for the win.

Flameway, trained by Mark Casse, was coming off a victory in the Kitten’s Joy on turf, his first start since weakening to finish eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). He won a pair of stakes last year in races washed off the turf, the Bourbon (G3) at Keeneland in the slop and the Skidmore at Saratoga in the mud.

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The Ax Man was sent off as the chalk in the San Vicente (G2) off a 9 ½ length win in his debut going six furlongs on the main track.

The Bob Baffert trainee battled for the early lead and came up empty in the stretch, fading to finish fourth while the Jerry Hollendorfer trained Kanthaka rallied for the win, returning his backers $24.20 for the win.

The winner was coming off a maiden win in his second career start at Santa Anita going seven furlongs.

Things start to heat up next week on the Derby Trail with the Risen Star at Fair Grounds and the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday and the Southwest at Oaklawn Park next Monday.

To purchase my Aqueduct and Best Plays Reports for Sunday click here.

Here is the opening race from Aqueduct to get the day off to a good start:

AQU Race 1 Md Sp Wt (12:50 ET)
#4 Danny California 2-1
#2 Hokulea 7-2
#3 Speke 8-1
#1 Three Goals 5-2

Analysis: Danny California raced last early and came with a good late run to finish fourth last out, beaten a length for the top spot. The third-place finisher Lutheran Rags graduated in his next outing on Feb. 4 here. Three back our top pick ran fourth in a key race in which the top three won next out, the winner Audible winning the Holy Bull (G2) in his most recent start. The colt has a decent off track pedigree and catches an easier group here. His is the first foal to race out of an El Corredor mare.

Hokulea adds blinkers today after making a mild late bid to finish third last out going a mile. Two back this guy was a game second when dropping in for a $40,000 tag. That outing came in the mud and he likely catches another off track here. He is out of a Medaglia d'Oro mare that has dropped two other foals to race with no winners to date.

Wagering
WIN: #4 to win at 9-5 or better.
EX: 4 / 2,3
TRI: no play

Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Aqueduct:

AQU Race 7 The Rego Park (3:58 ET)
#3 Stoney Bennett 7-2
#2 New York Hero 8-5
#1 Battle Station 3-1
#4 Morning Breez 2-1

Analysis: Stoney Bennett pressed the early pace and faded badly in a seventh-place finish as the beaten chalk in a NY Stallion Series race. Two back this guy was a good second in the state bred Notebook and he broke his maiden in his debut at six furlongs earning a solid number. The blinkers come off and the Figgins trainee has a decent off track pedigree, by Bustin Stones out of a Unbridled's Song mare that has dropped three other winners. Looking for him to bounce back with a better effort here.

New York Hero cuts back from a mile where the colt dueled for the early lead and could not go with the winner late in a runner up finish against state bred Alw-1 optional claimers. He broke his maiden two back at Belmont Park by nine lengths going a mile in his second career start. Rice is having a strong meet and is 21% winners moving runners from route to sprint. This guy is out of a Touch Gold mare that has dropped two other winners, top earner stakes winner Upstart ($1.7 million).

Wagering
WIN: #3 to win at 3-1 or better.
EX: 3 / 1,2
TRI: no play

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

GP Race 9 Md $20,000 (4:06 ET)
#1 Stay On Base 6-1
#11 Paco Ensaco 4-1
#10 Christmas Treat 7-2
#3 We Take Checks 9-2

Analysis: Stay On Base stalked the early pace and finished evenly in a fourth-place finish last out in his third career start. The runner up New Atlas came back to graduate in his next start on Feb. 3 here for a $20,000 tag. The Sano trainee draws the rail and has shown some good tactical speed in his first two starts. He is out of a Grand Slam mare that has dropped three winners including one turf winner.

Paco Ensaco makes his second start off a three-month break, a runner up finish last out at this level at 6-1. The gelding was making his first start at a mile after sprinting in his first four starts which include a second and a third going five furlongs on turf. Light on turf pedigree but a move forward off his last effort puts him in the mix here.

Wagering
WIN: #1 to win at 4-1 or better.
EX: 1,11 / 1,3,10,11
TRI: 1,11 / 1,3,10,11 / 1,3,8,10,11

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
R2: #3 Cayman a Bikini 15-1
R3: #4 It’s Cold Out 20-1
R5: #6 Quenique 8-1
R6: #7 Sharp Bid 10-1
R8: #3 Going Strong 8-1

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.

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