National Racing Rundown
Thursday, January 11, 2018
by John Piassek
A busy day of racing greets us on this Thursday. For the first time at the meet, Santa Anita Park will race on a Thursday, plus the return of Aqueduct after their long state of dormancy.
TRACKS RACING THURSDAY:
AQUEDUCT: 9 races, 67 horses, first post time 12:20 PM EST
GULFSTREAM PARK: 10 races, 100 horses, first post time 12:35 PM EST
FAIR GROUNDS: 9 races, 78 horses, first post time 2:00 PM EST
GOLDEN GATE FIELDS: 7 races, 51 horses, first post time 3:45 PM EST
SANTA ANITA PARK: 8 races, 76 horses, first post time 4:00 PM EST
PENN NATIONAL: 8 races, 70 horses, first post time 6:00 PM EST
TURFWAY PARK: 8 races, 88 horses, first post time 6:15 PM EST
DELTA DOWNS: 10 races, 96 horses, first post time 6:40 PM EST
CHARLES TOWN: 9 races, 88 horses, first post time 7:00 PM EST
AQUEDUCT (QUEENS, NY): 44*F, Partly Cloudy
GULFSTREAM PARK (HALLANDALE BEACH, FL): 76*F, Partly Cloudy
FAIR GROUNDS (NEW ORLEANS, LA): 73*F, Showery
GOLDEN GATE FIELDS (ALBANY, CA): 55*F, Partly Cloudy
SANTA ANITA PARK (ARCADIA, CA): 70*F, Sunny
PENN NATIONAL (GRANTVILLE, PA): 44*F, Showery
TURFWAY PARK (FLORENCE, KY): 57*F, Partly Cloudy
DELTA DOWNS (VINTON, LA): 62*F, Showery
CHARLES TOWN (CHARLES TOWN, WV): 49*F, Rainy
STORYLINES OF THE DAY:
RETURN OF THE BIG A: The last time Aqueduct ran a full program of racing was December 29, and December 30 was the last day they ran at all. Since then, they’ve been victim to a string of weather-related cancellations. All of that is scheduled to change Thursday, as they prepare to ring in 2018 with a 9-race program. There’s even a stakes race for the occasion: the Bay Ridge Stakes, which will go as the third race, with a post time of 1:20 PM EST. The headliners of the field of five are the 1, Frost Wise, who won her last race by sixteen lengths, and the 4, Frostie Anne, who has won two races in a row. Three other New York-bred fillies and mares will go 1 1/8 miles in the first stakes race New York has to offer this year.
THREE-YEAR-OLDS ON DISPLAY IN FLORIDA: As I alluded to last week, every time a three-year-old race is run over a route of ground at Gulfstream Park, people tend to get buzzed about it. There’s more cause for buzz Thursday, when seven three-year-old males will clash in a 1 1/8 mile n/w1x allowance race. The horses to keep an eye on in this race are the 2, Mississippi, and the 4, Noble Indy. The former broke his maiden impressively at Churchill Downs on November 19, winning by almost two lengths and earning a brisnet figure of 95. He’ll run for the Mark Casse barn, with Julien Leparoux in the saddle. The latter won his first start by almost nine lengths at Gulfstream on December 3, with a figure of 97. He’ll go out for Todd Pletcher, and will be ridden by John Velazquez. Post time is 4:37 PM EST.
YTD: 22-6-5-4, $44 bet, $32.40 returned
AQUEDUCT RACE 7: 4, MIGHTY ZEALOUS
POST TIME: 3:20 PM EST
The best betting race on the Aqueduct card is this one, a very wide-open field of ten New York-bred allowance horses going six furlongs. My pick takes a step up in class, but is nevertheless the fastest horse in the race. Last out, Mighty Zealous won a $25,000 New York-bred claiming race by 2 1/2 lengths, earning a big figure of 93. Two races ago, he earned a 97, and ran figures in the 90s and high 80s throughout 2017. With the exception of the 7, Jewel Can Disco, who appears to be cheap speed, no one else in the race can run as fast as Mighty Zealous on a consistent basis. I’ll concede that trainer Gary Contessa has been having a rocky meet, and that this horse’s victory came under the care of Rudy Rodriguez (Contessa claimed him back afterward). However, the horse ran great figures while in Contessa’s barn, and there’s no reason for me to believe in a serious drop. Trevor McCarthy, new to the NY circuit, intriguingly picks up the mount.
All in all, in a race like this, it pays to find a horse who may be value. With an 8/1 morning line and great figures, Mighty Zealous is one I’m more than willing to take a shot with.
GULFSTREAM PARK RACE 7: 1, VALEDICTORIAN
POST TIME: 3:35 PM EST
Gulfstream wasn’t on the turf on Wednesday, but hopefully the track will have dried out enough for this one to be run on the grass. It’s a n/w2x allowance optional claiming race for fillies and mares at 7 1/2 furlongs on the lawn. Among the nine horses in the main body of the field (plus two main-track-onlys), only two have recently run near the brisnet figure par. One is the 4, Island Reward, who has done her best recent work around one turn. The other is my play, Valedictorian.
She’s coming in here off a sixth-place finish in the Claiming Crown Tiara, a race where she was wide, then flattened late. Her figure was an impressive 93, and she had run numbers of 85 and 82 over the summer on the lawn at Monmouth Park. This shows that she’s looking like a filly on the upswing. She’s also shown an affinity for the Gulfstream turf, too, winning twice over the surface last winter. With Nik Juarez staying aboard, it all combines together to produce a very interesting filly.
SANTA ANITA PARK RACE 5: 12, GRACIOUS ME
POST TIME: 6:06 PM EST
This maiden special weight for three-year-old fillies attracted a giant field of 14, making it an appetizing race for spot players. As a rule, I usually avoid playing first-time starters in these kind of races, unless no one in the field has shown any ability. Out of the 14, seven of them have never raced before. This race also features a unique condition, as horses who were sold for more than $100,000 at auction are not eligible. As such, I would be really surprised if any of the first-timers have a ton of ability.
Out of the remaining seven, Gracious Me has shown the most promise. She was lowly regarded before her debut at Los Alamitos on December 15, going off at 22/1. However, this Washington-bred more than outran her odds, running an impressive second, more than ten lengths clear of fourth place, and 1 1/2 lengths clear of the third-place finisher, who also returns in this race. She makes her first start since then, so she’s not yet proven as a chronic maiden, unlike some of these. Her figure in her debut was 87, which fits right in with the par for the level of 89. Trainer Vladimir Cerin has been hitting at a torrid 42% at the meet (albeit with a small sample size of 12). I’d be more enthusiastic about Gracious Me if she was not breaking from the 12 post, but I’m still willing to roll with her.