Free Picks & Analysis — Who Do Ya Like
Saturday, July 11, 2015
On Saturday, we’re headed back out to Arlington Park for Arlington Million Preview Day! We’re thrilled to have FREE PICKS & ANALYSIS from our friend Nicolle Neulist (@rogueclown).
Nicolle is an extremely reliable source for all things Illinois racing. She maintains her own blog, Blinkers Off, and she works with Paul Mazur on Picks & Ponderings. The race card is incredible today. Let’s get to it. Take it away, Nicolle…
Saturday at Arlington is Million Preview Day: the first of the graded stakes on the season, and the first card to draw a throng of shippers to the northwest suburban oval. The card features four graded stakes, each of which is a prep to a corresponding race on Arlington Million Day next month. The card features competitive fields from top to bottom, and the late Pick 4 (races 5-8) is all graded stakes.
Best Bets: Race 1 – Curative (7); Race 5 – Nun The Less (4)
Price Picks: Race 4 – Lafanciulladelwest (5); Race 8 – Roman Approval (3)
Race 1: Maiden special weight ($21,600 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, six furlongs on the polytrack, post time 1:15pm CDT
Selections: Curative (7), W W Afleet (1), Fionetta (5)
Curative is the very definition of a bet-back, especially in maiden company. Last out, on debut, she closed on the outside on a day when there was a wicked inside speed bias. She missed catching Latte Da — a well-built full sister to Colonel John — by just a head. No one in this field looks to have that sort of class, and if Curative improves, she should be even tougher here. W W Afleet comes from the same race as Curative. The rail-drawn filly from 25% trainer Scott Becker should show a bit more speed with blinkers on, and she was relatively forward last out. Inside speed continues to be helpful, and Becker wins at 32% of the time with first-time blinkers. Fionetta is a first-time starter from trainer Dale Bennett, who has a healthy +$0.61 ROI with debut maiden special weight runners. She has a regular worktab stretching back to May, and has a blazing four-furlong bullet leading into this race.
Race 2: $16,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, one mile on the turf, post time 1:46pm CDT
Selections: Hotter N Blazes (2), Y Ya Gottabedatway (9), Stockholder (8)
Hotter N Blazes failed as the favourite last out, but that was on polytrack. Here he returns to turf. He has run two turf miles before, and has a close second and a three-quarter length win to show for it. His best speeds have been on the turf, and his stalking style should keep him right in range of Y Ya Gottabedatway. He is also third off the lay here, for 20% third-off trainer Wayne Catalano. Y Ya Gottabedatway is the speed of the speed; among the others, only Tobacco Fox has done much on the front before. Y Ya Gottabedatway has ace speed rider E. T. Baird aboard, and though this is a rise in class, trainer Larry Rivelli wins at 27% with last-out maiden winners. Stockholder has struggled on the polytrack, but run well in his last two starts over the green stuff. Four starts back, his last turf race, he crossed the wire first against similar His last three races have been washouts, but he should appreciate the return to turf here. He also gets a rider change to Mitchell Murrill, the runaway leading rider on the grounds.
One to keep an eye on is Tobacco Fox (3). He has not raced since March of 2014, but trainer Pavel Vashchenko has a 17% win rate and a +$1.10 ROI with runners off of lays of three months or more. The 4/1 morning line may be a little short, but if he looks well in the paddock and post parade, and drifts a few points above his morning line due to the long lay, he could be worth a swing. He is versatile enough to win either on a contested pace or by coming from off, and may be the only one to take it to Y Ya Gottabedatway early.
Race 3: Allowance ($22,050 purse), three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $9,800 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N2:. One and one sixteenth miles on the turf, post time 2:17pm CDT
Selections: Call Sign (7), He’s Dann Good (1), Flash Trading (5)
Call Sign should be one of the longest shots in the field, but has a strong chance to be lone speed. In a field full of midpack to closing types, only Call Sign has shown good form right on the lead, with He’s Dann Good showing an ability to get a stalking trip. Call Sign does step up from a maiden win last out. That was over the Presque Isle Tapeta; though Call Sign has not yet tried dirt, Tapeta form can translate to the grass. He also gets James Graham aboard. Graham has not raced at Arlington yet this year, but showed his best in two-turn grass races there last year. He’s Dann Good beat starter-optional company last out, winning going away. He was a bit off form through his five-year-old year, but has strong back form at Arlington at age four. Last out suggests he may be back to that at six. He had typically been coming from off the pace, but last out he got a good stalking trip. If he does that again, he should get first run at Call Sign, and could just prove better. He also is a strong condition book type pick — though this is an N1X, his wins in starter and state-bred company allow him him here with four wins. Flash Trading drops from facing tougher allowance types at Churchill in his last two starts. His speeds are in range, and he was not too far off the pace in his maiden win at Keeneland earlier this year. He also gets rider Brian Hernandez back from that race. The turf form is a little questionable, but the class drop should help a lot. If he runs back to the speeds he has shown in previous races, he should be competitive.
Race 4: $7,500 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, three years old OR N3L, six furlongs on the polytrack, post time 2:48pm CDT
Selections: Lafanciulladelwest (5), Queen Otaheite (3), Gabio (1)
In a race with so many forwardly placed types in it, but no obvious Speed of the Speed, this race is a prime spot to take a shot with the longest shot in the field when she is the only true off-pace type in the field. Enter Lafanciulladelwest. She has not been the most consistent horse in the field, which says a lot given the $7,500 beaten level of this race, but one of her better races would stack up against this group. Last race they tried something new, sending her, but that did not work out. She should be off the pace again. Both of her wins have come at this distance, including on over the Arlington main. If she sits back, the odds will be good enough to bet that she fires. Queen Otaheite is typically forwardly places, but she has shown good enough tendencies to stalk that she has a shot to stay out of a real fight early. She cuts back to six furlongs today, a distance at which she is 2-1-1. She has hit the board in six of her nine starts, very consistent for this level, and she is a three-year-old who has beaten older. Gabio is dropping to the lowest class level of her career. The rail draw should help her, and she has shown ability to slug it out on the front. Though her dirt form tends to be better than her polytrack form, she did finish just a length behind next-out winner Keeker in $16,000 company two starts back over poly. She likely needs to be right along the lead to win, but even from a bit off, should finish in the money against this easier lot.
Race 5: American Derby (GIII), three-year-olds, one and one eighth miles on the turf, post time 3:19pn CDT
Selections: Nun The Less (4), King of New York (5), World Approval (6)
Longshot: Raagheb (3)
The American Derby drew a field of seven, but no one who typically does their best work on the lead. Nun the Less has done his best near it, and should default to the front end. His speed and class stack up well, and rider Florent Geroux should not be shy to take the lead in the likely event that no one else wants it. Look for him to go wire-to-wire on Nun the Less. King of New York has never missed the board in five starts on the grass. This race marks his stakes debut. Though he closed from the clouds last out, he has some good races from closer up as well. He would have to take a step up to win here, but has shown good enough form to get a piece at a price. World Approval. the likely favourite, is the most class-proven horse here. He fired a clunker last out in the Pennine Ridge, but that was an experiment with keeping him closer to the pace. If he reverts to his better style, coming from well off, his class should carry him to a better performance. Among long shots, Raagheb holds appeal. Though this will be his first time on the turf, his breeding suggests grass (Street Cry out of a Rahy mare who has produced two turf winners), and he may fare better near the front against route types than he did against sprinters earlier in his career.
Race 6: Arlington Handicap (GIII), three-year-olds and up, one and three sixteenths miles on the turf, post time 3:50pm CDT
Selections: Dramedy (1), Middleburg (7/2), Up With the Birds (4/1)
Longshot: Yankee Dealer (5, if he stays in); Looks To Spare (3, if Yankee Dealer scratches)
With the defections of The Pizza Man and Triple Threat from this race, the complexion has changed a bit. Dramedy should get a very similar trip as he did when winning the Elkhorn last out. He should be able to sit off an early speed (most likely Looks To Spare), and get the first run. He showed the form of his life in that start as well as real gameness to hold on late. He has also been training well over the local course, and has the advantage of familiarity. Middleburg missed by just a nose to Triple Threat last out at Monmouth. He usually runs a bit shorter than this, but finished a fine third at 1 7/16 miles last year, and has enough stamina in his pedigree to suggest he will be fine. He also hails from the 22% shipper barn of Christophe Clement, and rider James Graham did his best work going long on turf when he rode at Arlington regularly last year. Up With the Birds is not the most consistent horse around, but he ran a very strong third last out in his first race back from his Japanese adventure. If he progresses from that, back toward his best, he will be tough against this set. Though that last time out had him coming in from well off the pace, not what he likely wants to do against this field, he has some back races where he acquitted himself well from closer up.
The longshot choice here depends on scratches. Yankee Dealer is cross-entered in the Arlington Handicap and the Stars and Stripes. Should he opt for the Handicap, he is live. He has been in the form of his life over the last year. He faced his toughest class test yet in an open allowance at Arlington on May 25, where he outgamed Mister Marti Gras to the wire. His 10-6-1-2 line over the Arlington grass shows he loves it, and he has been able to close into pace that was not ridiculously fast. Should Yankee Dealer scratch out of this spot, consider Looks To Spare. Claimed for $5,000 four starts back by local trainer Otabek Umarov, Looks To Spare has been climbing the class ladder and holding his own. First-time turf against real grass horses will be a tougher test than beating turf horse Amen Kitten on polytrack (something Looks To Spare did two back), but the pace should suit him well. He probably will set those early fractions, and if he gets lucky enough that no one makes an early move, he could get a share as the longest price on the board.
Race 7: Modesty Handicap (GIII), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one and three sixteenths miles on the turf, post time 4:21pm CDT
Selections: Gaga A (8), Mango Diva (5), Overheard (7)
Longshot: Lots o’ Lex (6)
In a close and contentious field such as this, Gaga A has strong upside at a square price. She won the Pleasantly Perfect Stakes going a mile and a half at Santa Anita last out, her first start in the United States. She had been racing in France, and has a Group II win there at nine furlongs. That race showed that she came off the ship well, and she should handle the cut back to 1 3/16 well. Pacewise, she should get a good stalking trip. Mango Diva is another second-time US runner. She has some back class from across the pond as well, with Group II and Group III wins in Ireland. The latter came at the same distance as the Modesty. If the pace on the front end gets a little hot and she improves second off the ship, her class could carry her home late. Overheard is one of the most consistent horses in training, as evidenced by her 16-5-5-5 career line. She has been able to ship and show form at different tracks. She is a midpack to closing type, but she fires so reliably that it would be folly to count her out for a share. For a longshot, consider Lots o’ Lex. You might remember her as the 76/1 shot who almost stole the Challenger (GIII) at Tampa Bay over the winter. She should be one of the runners near the front, and could try to steal it if the likes of Riposte, Seeking Treasure, and Honey Lake all set back. However, that is unlikely — which makes Lots o’ Lex’s last out important, since she showed a rating gear then. Homeister, her regular rider, returns today.
Race 8: Stars and Stripes Stakes (GIII), three-year-olds and up, one and one half miles on the turf, post time 4:52pm CDT
Selections: Roman Approval (3), Three Hearts (11), The Pizza Man (2)
Longshot: Afortable (7)
This race is one of those scrambles where you can make a case for over half the field, so it is a prime place to look for a price. Roman Approval tries stakes for the first time since being Tonito M’s punching bag at Camarero, but that was on the dirt. He has found his true calling on the grass — not surprising, given that his second dam is Win Approval. With no need-the-lead types in this field, Roman Approval stands a strong chance to set the pace. He showed good form at 1 3/8 miles last out, and though these types are tougher (and grittier) than known hanger Belisarius, Roman Approval did show he wanted it. He should be well overlaid here. Three Hearts has been improving as her races have gotten longer. Her first race for trainer Neil Drysdale was a win in the 1 3/8 mile Red Carper (GIII) at 29/1 odds, and she finished third in the Santa Barbara (GII) two back despite trip trouble. Even though her rider is a shipper, he has known Arlington form: Drayden Van Dyke won the Pucker Up over the Arlington grass last year. The Pizza Man will likely go off favoured for his Stars and Stripes defense, but there are meaty reasons why. His 11-8-1-1 record over the course speaks volumes, and he gets regular rider Florent Geroux back. Geroux has piloted him to several of those wins, including victories in the Stars and Stripes and the American St. Leger last year. He returned from the winter layoff in sharp form, prevailing over next-out winner Departing in the Opening Verse. Among longer shots, consider Afortable. In terms of pace, he usually comes from well off, but has also shown some form closer up. Success in this race is in his blood: half-brother Suntracer finished on the board in the Stars and Stripes the last three years, and half-brother Free Fighter won this race twice. On the top side of his pedigree, he is by Fort Prado — stamina should not be a problem, and he is bred on the same “Taxable Deduction meets a son of El Prado” cross as Kitten’s Joy baby Suntracer. He finished second behind a very in-form Dad Are We Here last out, and draws a gate that is not the far outside for the first time in a long time.
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