At the Gate – Saturday

In addition to opening day at Gulfstream Park this afternoon, Aqueduct features four graded stakes and we have a Grade 1 race on turf at Del Mar on their closing weekend.

The Claiming Crown at Gulfstream Park offers up nine stakes races restricted to claiming horses with over $1 million in purses up for grabs. I have included five of the stakes in today’s Best Plays Report.

The last month at Aqueduct has been a bit of a grind, with tons of races coming off the turf and leading to a few too many short fields. That changes today as it looks as if the rain will hold off until late in the afternoon and we have four graded stakes on tap.

The highlight is the $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap (G1), the final Grade 1 race in New York this year.

The first stake on the card is the $250,000 Demoiselle (G2) for juvenile fillies that drew a field of seven. Enliven is the 6-5 morning line favorite off her runner up finish in the Tempted (G3).

The Go for Wand Handicap (G2) drew a field of eight that will go one mile on the main track. The race attracted the Bob Baffert trained Marley’s Freedom, the beaten a favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) where she checked in fourth.

The $250,000 Remsen (G2) is a Road to the Kentucky Derby points race. Maximus Mischief is the 6-5 favorite off two romps at Philly, but he only had to beat two foes in his last start.

The Cigar Mile is led by the Aiden O’Brien trained Mendelssohn, who was the pacesetter in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) before weakening to finish fifth. He has racked up the frequent flyer miles but is 0 for 5 in the U.S. this year.

The $300,000 Hollywood Derby (G1) at Del Mar is one of the toughest races to handicap, a full field of 14 three-year-olds going nine furlongs on turf.

Trainer Chad Brown ships in Raging Bull, who was the beaten favorite in the Hill Prince (G2) in his last start at Belmont Park. He is better than he showed in that effort and I am looking for him to bounce back with a better effort.

My Best Plays Report for Saturday includes my 11 strongest plays from Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park as well as my analysis of the Hollywood Derby (G1) from Del Mar.

Now is the perfect time to purchase my Monthly Package for just $99.95. It gives you a month of Aqueduct daily and my Best Plays Report each Saturday and Sunday.

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

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

AQU Race 1 OClm $40,000N1X (11:30 ET)
#9 Hierarchy 5-2
#12 Zap Daddy 12-1
#3 Hoboe 4-1
#5 Gaughin 5-1

Analysis: Hierarchy picked up his diploma last out in his fourth career start going 1 1/4 miles at Belmont Park over firm ground. This guy ran well in his first three starts but ran into repeat winners in each outing. The Shug trainee cuts back to nine furlongs for his first start against winners but that should suit him. Her is the first foal to race out of a First Samurai mare. Johnny V. who picked up his 6000th win yesterday sticks.

Zap Daddy was bumped coming out of the gate, stalked the early pace and came with a good late rally to beat $50,000 claimers last out over good ground. The gelding was claimed out of the race by the Reynolds barn that is 26% winners (with a +ROI) first off the claim. The gelding was competitive at this level two back with a fourth where he was beaten 1 1/4 lengths. He exits the Pletcher barn but this barn has had good success recently with newcomers to the barn.

WIN: #9 to win at 2-1 or better.
EX: 9,12 / 3,5,9,12
TRI: 9,12 / 3,5,9,12 / 2,3,5,9,12

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

GP Race 11 The Claiming Crown Jewel (5:06 ET)
#8 Chris and Dave 8-1
#5 Race Me Home 9-2
#6 Aztec Sense 2-1
#7 Flowers for Lisa 7-2

Analysis: Chris and Dave took the field gate to wire in the slop at Belmont Park last out to beat Alw-2 optional claimers. The gelding was down along a deep inside much of the trip. The gelding has a couple of wins over the main track here, both coming in back to back races in '16. He owns solid early and mid pace numbers and the 8-1 morning line looks more than fair on this guy.

Race Me Home stalked the early pace and came with a good late rally to beat $35,000 starter allowance foes at GP West last out in his first go off the claim by the Maker barn. He was taken two back for $50,000 out of a fourth-place finish at Churchill Downs. The winner of that race was Line Judge, who came back to beat optional claimers at Indiana Grand and then run second in the Delta Mile. Maker has them ready to go on this day over the years and this guy fits with his best.

WIN: #8 to win at 5-1 or better.
EX: 5,8 / 5,6,7,8
TRI: 5,8 / 5,6,7,8 / 5,6,7,8,10

Today’s Featured Race of the Day from Aqueduct:

AQU Race 9 The Cigar Mile Hcp G1 (3:45 ET)
#2 Sunny Ridge 9-2
#5 Copper Town 5-2
#1 Mendelssohn 2-1
#7 Timeline 10-1

Analysis: Sunny Ridge makes his first start since running a good second in the Kelso Handicap (G1). The gelding stalked the early pace and could not get to the gate to wire winner who was taking full advantage of a racing strip that was kind to inside speed that day. He came up just a length short while giving two pounds. His best effort came three back in the State Dinner where he tracked the early pace and finished strongly to win by 3 ¼ lengths and earn a career top speed fig. He is going to get a good pace set up here as there is plenty of early zip signed up. The Servis barn is 28% winners with runners coming back off a 46-90-day break.

Copper Town came off a year layoff with a sharp win versus Alw-2 optional claimers and now makes his stakes debut here for the Pletcher barn. He drew off to win by five lengths and has won his last three starts by a combined 15 lengths. He beat Patternrecognition last October at Belmont Park at the Alw-1 level but had to hit the bench with bone bruising and an abscess. After wiring the fields in his two previous wins he showed last out he does not need the lead and that should come in handy here. Pletcher has won this race four times, the most recent with Stay Thirsty in 2012.

Aiden O’Brien makes yet another trip from across the pond with Mendelssohn. He set the early fractions in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) before weakening to check in fifth, beaten four lengths. He was a decent third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and did the dirty work in the Travers (G1) three back and held on gamely for the runner up spot. The race does not set up for him as he draws the rail, has plenty of others in here with early speed and his price is going to be on the light side.

WIN: #2 to win at 4-1 or better.
EX: 2,5 / 1,2,5,7
TRI: 2,5 / 1,2,5,7 / 1,2,5,7,8

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: #12 Zap Daddy 12-1
R2: #4 Kumar 8-1
R3: #11 American Ninja 8-1
R7: #10 Fear 8-1
R8: #1 Jungle Warrior 8-1
R9: #7 Timeline 10-1
R10: #3 I Love Jaxson 15-1
R10: #5 Wrong Ben 8-1

Good luck today!