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Road to Kentucky Week 4

submitted by The Oracle

The Road to Kentucky goes through New York today for the featured Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. The favorite will be Todd Pletcher’s Stay Thirsty who was last seen running in the Breeders Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. We also have a bonus race at Turfway Park, the John Battaglia Memorial so plenty of action on tap!

In my view, today is a very tricky day. Over the years in writing this recap, I have tried to stress the importance of picking against favorites to generate points to get in position to win the contest. However, today presents a difficult challenge that will have me altering my strategy due to the fact that the public is in tune with what is going on at Aqueduct. My research shows that since the beginning of 2011, 329 races have been run on the Aqueduct inner track. Two-thirds of the winners have paid 3-1 or lower and over one-fourth of the winners paid 7/5 or lower. Conversely, only 20 races this year have been won by a horse going to the post at 10-1 or higher, and only 10 of those were 15-1 and above. That means that a $22 winner will come rolling home approximately every other day, and you get a $30 horse about once per week. It’s a difficult situation when the public is in tune with what is winning because it means lower prices on winners and fewer overlay possibilities. It’s much better when everyone is confused except us!

I will be making some “defensive” selections today, conceding that the favorites will probably do well but at the same time also take several mid-range horses and hope that the public will be fooled at least once. If my analysis holds up I would expect the winning score to be around 1,700 again this week. Let’s target 1,000 as a good solid number. Good luck with your selections!

Race 1: This is a claimer for 4+ at 6f. I selected Four Star General (ML 5-1) who should be on the lead early from post 2. He’s a “need to lead” type who hasn’t been able to get it in his last few races.

The Result: Four Star General made the lead and scored narrowly at 5-1 over Timber Cruise (12-1) and Little Wise Guy (9/5). Timber Cruise stuck his nose in front near the wire but Four Star General came back to get the close decision. The favorite loomed and hung down the lane.

Maximum Points: Four Star General 242
Maximum Score: 242
My Score: 242

Race 2: This is a claimer for 4+ fillies and mares at 6f. I selected Pure Vixen (ML 12-1) who faltered badly in her last start after not making the lead, but was very game at Finger Lakes before that when she cleared off early. She figures to make the lead against this group.

The Result: Favored Say Toba Sandy (6/5) stalked the leaders and won decisively over No Rhyme or reason (2-1) and Bombilla (27-1). The pace was contested and my selection faded late at 10-1.

Maximum Points: Say Toba Sandy 94
Maximum Score: 336
My Score: 242

Race 3: This is the Broadway for NY breds 3+ at 6f. I selected Meese Rocks (ML 8/5) who appears to be the controlling speed in this field and looms a solid favorite in this spot.

The Result: Meese Rocks (4/5) secured the early lead and held off longshot Big Brownie (18-1) and Lots of Stones (6/5). Meese Rocks was helped by a slow opening quarter in this one. Big Brownie got the most contest points for his second place finish.

Maximum Points: Big Brownie 126
Maximum Score: 462
My Score: 328

Race 4: This is the Fred Cappy Caposella for 3yo at 6f. I selected Rift (ML 8/5) who is trained by Rick Dutrow and has 2 wins on the Aqueduct inner track.

The Result: Sensational Slam pulled the minor upset at 7/2 over Diski Dance (5-1) and Vengeful Wildcat (9/5). Unusual that Pletcher/Dominguez would go 7/2 in a five horse field! A disappointing run from Rift at 6/5 to finish a well beaten fourth…

Maximum Points: Sensational Slam 172
Maximum Score: 634
My Score: 328

Race 5: This is the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap for 3yos at 6f. I selected the Pletcher entry of Have You Ever and Calibrachoa (ML 4/5).

The Result: The stronger part of the entry, Calibrachoa (1/2), sat behind a wicked pace battle and blew them away down the stretch. Longshot Fastus Cactus (54-1) was up for second and Dahlgren Chapel (7/2) faded to third. Fastus Cactus got the most contest points for his second place finish.

Maximum Points: Fastus Cactus 212
Maximum Score: 846
My Score: 404

Race 6: This is a claimer for 4+ at 1m. I selected Five Aces (ML 7/2) who should be lone speed from the outside on the stretchout. His record at Aqueduct is poor but this horse should be well clear early.

The Result: Redwood Fever (6/5) was too good as he wore down Five Aces (5/2) down the stretch. Shotgun Bandit (33-1) finished third. The pace was plenty slow for Five Aces but he couldn’t get the money.

Maximum Points: Redwood Fever 100
Maximum Score: 946
My Score: 481

Race 7: This is a maiden special weight for NY breds 3+ at 6f. I reached a bit for first time starter Swift to the Bid (ML 12-1) who is by Northern Afleet (14% debut winners). Trainer Ferraro is a 30% trainer overall but he’s 0 for 20 at Aqueduct. Due???

The Result: No favorite here as Token Sacrifice sailed wire to wire at 5-1, followed by Ground Force (15-1) and Gotta Go Round (14-1). Favored Flying Valentine chased and faded at even money and my selection was never seen at 15-1.

Maximum Points: Token Sacrifice 233
Maximum Score: 1,177
My score: 481

Race 8: This is a maiden claimer for NY breds, fillies and mares 3+ at 6f. I selected Buddy System (ML 5-1) who makes her third start off the layoff and is up one class level. Winged Bandit is the heavy favorite.

The Result: Buddy System broke well and wired the field at 4-1. Winged Bandit (3/4) was second and Imagine Tomorrow (15-1) finished third. Buddy System won that one early with a great break from the gate.

Maximum Points: Buddy System 164
Maximum Score: 1,341
My Score: 645

Race 9: This is a claimer for 3+ at 6f. I selected Ex Pat (ML 4-1) who has had trouble in his last two starts and switches to top rider Dominguez. The favorite, Bawana Jake, looks vulnerable as he continues to drop and not win.

The Result: Jello Shot (4-1) closed late to win it over longshot Payout (24-1) and favored Bawana Jake (1-1). The favorite was bad goods but my selection didn’t run at all. Payout got the most contest points for his second place finish.

Maximum Points: Payout 226
Maximum Score: 1,567
My Score: 645

Race 10: This is the featured Grade 3 Gotham. I couldn’t get away from favored Stay Thirsty in this spot for Pletcher. He looks like controlling speed and best class on paper. The Fed Eased might have some promise breaking from the rail and stretching out but it looks like Stay Thirsty is a standout to me. I should have picked against this horse on principle!

The Result: Stay Thirsty broke a bit flat footed and had to stalk a slow pace early, but still managed to wear down the leaders in deep stretch at 4/5. Big longshot Norman Asbjornson finished second at 47-1 and Toby’s Corner (8/5) was third. Norman Asbjornson got the most contest points for his second place finish. The son of Real Quiet met the class hike challenge today!

Maximum Points: Norman Asbjornson 474
Maximum Score: 2,041
My Score: 829

Race 11: The finale is a maiden claimer for NY breds 3+ at 6f. I selected Neversaywhen (ML 6-1) who has good early speed but is 0 for 15. The favorites look below average in here so just taking a shot with one of the others.

The Result: Prowler won it as the lukewarm second choice (3-1) over Neversaywhen (6-1) and Digital Joe (5/2). The favorites ran better than I expected!

Maximum Points: Prowler 177
Maximum Score: 2,218
My Score: 937

John Battaglia: The second bonus race features Positive Response who ships in from California after finishing third in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate. Can’t knock him but since he ships in I decided to take the local Taptowne (ML 12-1) who has a win over the track and made a bold wide move on the turn in his last race. He’s one of the better bred runners in the field (Tapit) and is a logical longshot to be in the mix for a minor award.

The Result: Positive Response won it very easily in wire to wire fashion at 2-1 over Taptowne (11-1) and Son of Posse (93-1). Twinspired took some heavy action but didn’t fire. Taptowne and Son of Posse tied for the most contest points for their second and third place finishes, respectively.

Maximum Points: Taptowne 276
Maximum Score: 2,494
My Score: 1,213

Summary: The Aqueduct historical patterns held up today as there were no winners over 5-1 on the card. A few longshots got up for minor placings, including Norman Asbjornson who was the high point horse on the card in the featured Gotham. The Battaglia at Turfway Park went to the favorite from California. Next week we are at Tampa Bay Downs for the Tampa Bay Derby, with a bonus race from Santa Anita. Brethren will be the featured horse at Tampa Bay Downs for Pletcher. If you hit 1,700 points today that should put you right there for the weekly prizes. Until next week….