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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:05 PM

At the Gate - Friday

To say Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert enjoys his trips to Hot Springs is an understatement. The trainer has won six of the last eight editions of the $900,000 Rebel (G2) and on Saturday at Oaklawn Park he will be seeking yet another victory in the major Derby prep.

Baffert has also won two of the last six runnings of the Arkansas Derby (G1), which is the marquee event of the Oaklawn Park meeting.

On Saturday Baffert will saddle Solomini, a somewhat under the radar Baffert runner who already has McKinzie and Justify on the Derby trail.

Solomini is making his first start since crossing the wire first and getting placed third via a disqualification for interference in the stretch in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1), with his stablemate McKinzie placed first.

The $270,000 Keeneland purchase is a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and he ran second in last year’s Frontrunner (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The colt has picked up 14 Derby points to date which place him 15th in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points standings.

His main foes will be Sporting Chance (5-1), who was third in the Southwest (G3), the undefeated Magnum Moon (7-2), who makes his stakes debut and Combatant (8-1), who was second in the Smarty Jones and Southwest in his last two starts.

Also coming up on Saturday is the $200,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) from Turfway Park. The race was formerly called the Spiral Stakes and offers up 20-8-4-2 Derby points.

Since the race is on polytrack it is not considered a major Derby prep, but don’t forget Animal Kingdom raced in the Spiral and went on to win the Kentucky Derby in 2011.

I will have selections for both Derby points races in Saturday’s Best Plays Report.

To purchase my Aqueduct Report for Friday click here .

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

AQU Race 1 Md Sp Wt (1:20 ET)
#2 Two Swords 7-2
#1 Hoard 2-1
#5 Tilt 8-5
#3 American Lincoln 5-2

Analysis: Two Swords caught a muddy track going a mile last out, dueling for the early lead and finishing gamely for the runner up spot, beaten a half-length for the top spot. He should be able to handle the extra furlong, by First Samurai out of a Saint Ballado mare that has dropped three winners, top earner Inca Saint ($224,919) and also stakes winner Harlan's Ruby ($172,245). He owns solid early and mid pace numbers and may prove tough to catch if able to shake loose early.

Hoard set the early fractions and battled on gamely in a runner up finish at 9-1 last out, his best effort among his seven career starts. This guy has had three starts at nine furlongs and has the pedigree, by Super Saver out of a Speightstown mare that has dropped two other runners but no winners to date. He likely will not be on the lead here but should get a good tracking trip.

WIN: #2 to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 1,2 / 1,2,5
TRI: no play

Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Aqueduct:

AQU Race 8 OClm $25,000N1X (4:56 ET)
#3 Taoiseach 5-2
#5 Zabaione 6-1
#7 Blugrascat's Smile 7-2
#6 J J's Dreaming 5-1

Analysis: Taoiseach stalked the early pace and finished gamely while unable to get to the winner late in a runner up finish at this level, six lengths clear of the rest of the field. The gelding makes his third start of his current form cycle for the Schettino barn. He has not won since taking a state bred $25,000 claimer last March on the inner track. He owns a solid pace profile throughout and a repeat of his last effort looks good enough to handle this group.

Zabaione exits the same race as our top pick. He was bumped coming out of the gate, stalked the early pace and weakened inside the final furlong to finish fourth. He won at this condition last February on the inner track He gets a jock upgrade from the bug to Arroyo.

WIN: #3 to win at 2-1 or better.
EX: 3,5 / 3,5,6,7
TRI: 3,5 / 3,5,6,7 / 3,5,6,7,9

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.

R7: #3 Ostolenka 8-1
R9: #4 The Chamo 8-1
R9: #8 Bourbon Bay 12-1

Good luck today!

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