Saturday is one of the best nights of racing Stateside this winter. No less than seven graded stakes from a trio of venues. The majority of the action comes from Aqueduct. Theirs and America's race of the day is The Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap. Defending champion Private Zone has had a similar preparation as last year and is strictly the one to catch and beat.
The supporting stakes at The Big A are interesting. So too are the pair of graded stakes for juveniles at Churchill and The Hawthorne Gold Cup (Grade 2).
PAUL'S ANALYSIS FROM Aqueduct, Churchill Downs and Hawthorne
Saturday 28 November 2015
Aqueduct Race 3 (5.50pm)
The Demoiselle (Grade 2) - 2 year old fillies - 1 1/8 Miles - Dirt
Lewis Bay (2) already has fine form to her name. Her six length maiden victory last month was franked when two beaten fillies came back to win. That was over seven furlongs and there's every chance that she'll be even better over a distance of ground. Her half brother won two route stakes.
The main dangers to Lewis Bay come from Flora Dora (1) and Team Pletcher. The former won a stake at Gulfstream before running a close second in a Grade 3 here. Disco Rose (7) was over three lengths back in fourth. The fillies she split are talented and have a decent level of form.
Of The Todd Pletcher's trio, the once raced Mo D'amour (4) needs to improve off her maiden win. Lost Raven (5) is unbeaten in two starts, the latest being a stake at Laurel. She has never been beyond six furlongs. Barn mate Thrilled (3) has no distance worries but it's the surface that is the unknown. The twice stakes runner up, once in a Grade 3 has never raced on dirt. Her pedigree is encouraging for the surface switch.
Invite (6) broke her maiden in a slow time but she's worked really nicely since that race.
Lewis Bay (2)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Flora Dora (1) and Lewis Bay (2)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Lewis Bay (2) and Thrilled (3)
Aqueduct Race 5 (6.50pm)
The Remsen (Grade 2) - 2 year olds - 1 1/8 Miles - Dirt
Mohaymen (3) is unbeaten in two starts for Kiaran McLaughlin. His maiden win came over six furlongs in September. He was stepped up to a Grade 2 here last month over a mile. The result was an almost two length victory over a couple in his field. This event is over a furlong longer and over two turns but he looks the one to side with. He still looked green last time and now races with lasix here.
Flexibility (4) and Sail Ahoy (2) haven't got that much to find with Mohaymen that they can't be fancied. The former has only had two starts. His maiden win was franked in style when the runner up graduated next time by almost 10 lengths. He's worked really well since his last race. Sail Ahoy could do with some pace to chase down. He now runs in blinkers after maybe in an effort to keep him closer in the early stages.
Gift Box (6) is a barn mate of Flexibility. He broke his maiden second time out earning a massive speed figure in the process. That was in the slop and results on that footing can be a bit freaky. The runner up gave some credence to that form by winning next time by open lengths.
Last time maiden breaker Donegal Moon (1) doesn't look good enough. He is trained by Todd Pletcher and draws the often advantageous rail. Marengo Road (9) slammed an allowance field by nine lengths at Laurel earlier this month.
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Mohaymen (3) and Flexibility (4)
Aqueduct Race 7 (7.50pm)
The Comely (Grade 3) - 3 year old fillies - 1 1/8 Miles - Dirt
Of the quartet of graded stakes on The Aqueduct card, this is the most open looking. That doesn't mean the favourites will win the other three and not this one. It is far from certain which filly would head the market. Grade 1 juvenile winner Peace And War (1) is one possibility. She's winless in six starts in 2015. She has been placed in a trio of stakes including The Grade 1 Cotillion at Parx in September. Pangburn (5) wasn't too far behind her and gets a nice pull in the weights. Since then Peace And War was flat out overmatched in The Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff.
There's plenty of locally bred and trained talent in this event. Wonder Gal (3) is just one of them. Last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies third was placed in successive Grade 1's at Belmont in June. She returned last month to beat Temper Mint Patty (6) and Jc's Shooting Star (8) in a stake for New York breds. She runs as if this slightly longer trip will suit her.
Forever Unbridled (9) is interesting here. She ran well in defeat in a series of stakes at The Fair Grounds in preparation for The Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. She disappointed in the big race itself. Being off from May to October suggests she must have sustained an injury in that event. She reappeared in a Grade 2 over seven furlongs at Keeneland which had prep race written all over it. In the end, she was beaten less than two lengths staying on nicely. She's only a one time career winner but may be worth chancing. She should come on for that run and gets weight from most of these.
Fast Retailing (4) and Carrumba (7) are improving fillies for New York based Shug McGaughey. The latter is on a four timer and is stepping up from the allowance ranks. She made all last time but has won stalking closely and sitting a few lengths back. In addition, she won on her only start over nine furlongs. She looks to have lots in her favour with the possible exception of her price.
Forever Unbridled (9)
Combination Exacta (6 bets): Wonder Gal (3), Carrumba (7) and Forever Unbridled (9)
Aqueduct Race 9 (8.50pm)
The Cigar Mile Handicap (Grade 1) - 3 year olds and upwards - 1 Mile - Dirt
There's a lack of pace in this race. That plays heavily in the favour of defending champion Private Zone (7). Last year, he won a Grade 1 in New York before running third at in The Breeders' Cup Sprint. This term, he's been campaigned in a similar manner. Victory in a Grade 1 at Saratoga before a valiant runner up at Keeneland behind Runhappy. He draws a cozy outside post here. Regular rider Martin Pedroza can either go to the lead and wait in front or elect to sit close to a very tepid pace. He does run first time for another trainer. In the past, those barn changes have not stopped him running his race.
The classy Tonalist (5) has form equivalent to Private Zone. Although best at nine and ten furlongs, he ran two fine races over a one turn mile earlier this year. They were both when wearing blinkers which he does after a below par effort in The Breeders' Cup Classic. The first was a victory in a Grade 3 at Belmont. Then he ran second to Honor Code in The Grade1 Met Mile with Private Zone two lengths back in third. The difference then was the speedster went scorching fractions and the played into the hands of the stretch runners.
Matrooh (4) is very progressive. The former William Haggas trained five year old had never raced on dirt until March. He won a Grade 3 last time out on his return. In his favour is the ability to sit close in what may be a steadily run affair. That may mean a bronze medal, maybe even better depending on how Private Zone runs and how far back Tonalist gets.
Red Vine (3) like Matrooh has really really improved since switching from turf to dirt. He ran third at a safe distance in The Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile last month. Marking (1) is a three year old colt of real potential. He's unbeaten in two starts and could be anything. The same can be said for Mshawish (2). He's a Grade 1 winner on grass making his dirt debut here. His pedigree is not a purely turf one and the surface switch won't be without justification by Todd Pletcher.
Private Zone (7)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Matrooh (4) and Private Zone (7)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Tonalist (5) and Private Zone (7)
Churchill Downs Race 9 (9.35pm)
The Golden Rod (Grade 2) - 2 year old fillies - 1 1/16 Miles - Dirt
Stageplay (3) is unbeaten in two starts She beat Carina Mia (8) by three lengths on debut in October. That was in a sprint at Keeneland. She then won a stake at Churchill earlier this month over a mile. She beat Dream Dance (7) by a length and a half despite being bumped at the start. This is her first start over two turns.
Carina Mia (8) appeared to improve massively second time out to break Keeneland's track record for six and a half furlongs. She'll be hard to beat if she can repeat that form in a route. By contrast Dothraki Queen (9) has no stamina issues. She comes off back to back placed efforts in Grade 1's at Keeneland. Take out the talented Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and she wasn't beaten far in both. She may need some luck in running but is capable of exposing any stamina issues with those trying two turns for the first time.
The unbeaten Susies Yankee Girl (1) draws the rail and has worked well for the stretch out in distance.
Dothraki Queen (9)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Stageplay (3) and Dothraki Queen (9)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Carina Mia (8) and Dothraki Queen (9)
Churchill Downs Race 11 (10.35pm)
The Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade 2) - 2 year olds - 1 1/16 Miles - Dirt
This has an open look to it with lightly raced juveniles, many trying a trip for the first time. In the case of Airoforce (3), trying dirt for the first time. He was caught near the winning line in The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf losing his unbeaten record in the process.
Gun Runner (4) has no such surface worries or distance worries for that matter. He won over a mile on debut at Churchill and then was successful in an allowance event over two turns at Keeneland. He had Uncle Jerry (4) two lengths back in second. With a decent post, he should go well and he may be a price with some big reputations in this stake.
Mor Spirit (9) is bound to take money here. He was stepped up to a mile second time out and broke his maiden by open lengths at Santa Anita. Also near the head of the market will be the unbeaten Annual Report (11). He won a Grade 2 at Belmont second time out. That was sprinting but he is bred to be a router.
Mo Tom (10) beat Tom's Ready (7) by a length in a one mile stakes trial for this Grade 2. Rated R Superstar (12) was Grade 1 placed before showing nothing at The Breeders' Cup.
Gun Runner (4)
Combination Exacta (6 bets): Gun Runner (4), Mor Spirit (9) and Annual Report (11)
Hawthorne Race 8 (11.45pm)
The Hawthorne Gold Cup (Grade 2) - 3 year olds and upwards - 1 ¼ Miles - Dirt
Commissioner (7) is probably the one to beat here. He was used up stalking a quick pace while wide at Keeneland last month. He may be on his own on the lead here. At Hawthorne, that's often over half the battle. His run in Kentucky was his first since June. A month earlier, he won a Grade 3 over a similar distance to this.
Neck 'n Neck (4) and Majestic Harbor (1) have swapped decisions in recent months. The former was a winner by half a length in a 12 furlong stake at Parx in September. In a marathon at The Breeders' Cup meeting, the rail runner did best by a length when second. This may be a different test to those long distance races.
Valiant City (3) might be The Wise Guy horse in here. Unlike the trio that may be shorter than him in the betting, he has experience at Hawthorne. He's won half his six races locally. The five year old is on a tear, rattling up a hat-trick. He does get a class test here after winning allowance events. With tactical speed, he may get a nice trip under regular rider and Hawthorne stalwart Chris Emigh.
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Valiant City (3) and Commissioner (7)