There are a trio of stakes live on Attheraces on Saturday. The two from Aqueduct are for New York breds. The second due off at 9.20pm is The Haynesfield. It's for older horses over an extended mile. Likely favourite is Royal Posse. He was one of the claims of the year in New York if not America. Rudy Rodriguez acquired him for $20,000 last May. By the end of 2015, connections were almost $300,000 richer.
The meet's leading trainer Rudy Rodriguez has a live chance in the first stake at The Big A, The Broadway, due off at 6.50pm. He has improved Court Dancer since he claimed her in October. She has claims in a wide open sprint for older gals. Unlike Rodriguez, trainer James Iselin hardly ever wins. That said he has handled Willet really well in her career as over $800,000 in win and place prize money testifies.
The stake at Oaklawn, The Essex Handicap has a hare and tortoise look to it. Bob Baffert's Midnight Hawk is the former with the versatile Cougar Ridge being the late runner. It is the final event of eight previewed with the five races in between Aqueduct's two stakes included.
PAUL'S ANALYSIS FROM Aqueduct and Oaklawn
Saturday 13 February 2016
Aqueduct Race 3 (6.50pm)
The Broadway - A stake for New York bred fillies and mares - 4 year olds and upwards - 6 Furlongs - Dirt
A quick glance at The Beyer Speed Figures will tell you there's nothing between all of this sextet on their best recent form. In fact, a few of them have beaten and been beaten by each other in close finishes. The gal with the bragging rights at the moment is Blithely (5). She beat Court Dancer (6) by a nose with evergreen eight year old Willet (3) just behind in an allowance event here last month. A 7lb pull in the weights puts the old gal there and she saves her best for the inner dirt at Aqueduct.
Court Dancer (6) is another of the claimed by Rudy Rodriguez success stories. Prior to her tight loss last time, she was beaten half a length by Willet. On 4lbs better terms and an outside draw which gives Manuel Franco tactical options. Her rider may elect to stalk Tricky Zippy (2) who has worked swiftly for her return.
Myfourchix (1) sports two fine workouts since a promising return last month. Late running Make The Moment (4) ran fourth behind a trio of these last time. This race plots to be as evenly or maybe even slower which won't suit her.
Court Dancer (6)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Willet (3) and Court Dancer (6)
Aqueduct Race 4 (7.20pm)
Maiden Special Weight -New York bred 3 year old fillies - 6 Furlongs - Dirt
Stella Who (4) and Gonna Find Her (5) are the only two that have raced so far. They both have shown something and have only had a trio of starts between them. That said, it may be best to give a long look to the first time starters.
Woodford Tea (3) and Roman Ceres (1) may be the pair to concentrate on. The former debuts for Todd Pletcher and is a half sister to six winners. Her workouts are fine and her trainer wins more than his share with newcomers. She wasn't with Pletcher in Florida preparing. That was the case with Bill Mott's Roman Ceres (1). She showed ability in the mornings at Payson Park before shipping to New York. The only real knock on her is her handler's poor record with firsters.
Shimmering Moon (2) and Picco Uno (7) debut for decent trainers. Their jockey's often get first call for Todd Pletcher on the inner dirt so maybe landing elsewhere is a pointer towards their mounts.
Woodford Tea (3)
Aqueduct Race 5 (7.50pm)
Claiming $12,500 - 4 year olds and upwards - 1 Mile - Dirt
Some plays in US racing are almost automatic. At this track at present, trainer Rudy Rodriguez is winning at over a 40% clip. If he claims a horse off a lesser operator, it's odds on that it will improve. He took Ground Control (6) in late December off a poor effort in a sprint. Now freshened up, he returns over a mile. He only tried a route twice early in his career. The result was an allowance win and sixth in what turned out to be a good stake. The booking of Irad Ortiz Jr. is the icing on the cake.
Ground Control will have to run big as horses like City Steel (2) have better recent form than him. He was a fading fifth in a two win key race on his return. That effort alone gives him a decent chance and he's a likely improver second time back and halving in claiming price. He is very playable from that often advantageous rail draw over a mile here. Depending on scratches, he may end up on the lead.
Barn mates Inca Saint (1) and Unstoppable U (1A) have both been running well and winning at this meet. The worry is they go second and first time respectively for a trainer who can't buy a winner at this meet. Upgrade (4) who gets more ground to race over and the freshened up Divine Child (3) may better prospects at the likely odds.
Ground Control (6)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): City Steel (2) and Ground Control (6)
Aqueduct Race 6 (8.20pm)
Claiming $25,000 - 4 year olds and upwards - Non winners of 3 races lifetime - 1 1/16 Miles - Dirt
Point Hope (1) seemed to find six furlongs too short on his return last month. Both his victories have come over a mile or more. Most of races over a trip go one of two ways. He either wins by open lengths or hangs a little and finishes second. With a nice draw it may be the former.
Gold Hawk (6) has been gelded and rested since a spell in Kentucky. His form line look ugly but that's because he's been taking on better company. He is on a long winless streak but may be a new horse after the unkindest cut of all. The class dropper gets the nod in a race he can finally contend in.
Midnight Trace (7) may have the best speed here. He may have company from Easy Comparison (8) and possibly Fleeting (3). The latter is another who may run better since being gelded. He was claimed off David Jacobson last time. He runs Americas Guest (4) here. He ran second in a sprint nine days ago but has form in routes.
Gold Hawk (6)
Combination Exacta (6 bets): Point Hope (1), Americas Guest (4) and Gold Hawk (6)
Aqueduct Race 7 (8.50pm)
Allowance (entry level) - New York bred 4 year olds and upwards - 1 Mile - Dirt
Full Of Mine (5) is without question the horse to beat here. He broke his maiden over seven furlongs in October but has looked massively improved since being put over a trip. He's ran third and fourth in stakes for New York breds and was only six lengths behind Tonalist in a Grade 1 in between. He's been gelded since his last run on New Year's Eve. The five year old has the look of a good thing dropping in class here. The only worry is a big one. His trainer is winless with 20 starters at this meet. His losing streak is almost double that going back to 7 October.
Brimstone (3) who wired claimers last time and looks to be lone speed here. He's one alternative. Others of note are Zabaione (7) and Thirst For Glory (2) who have placed form at this level. Beyond The Green (9) should improve second time out and for getting more ground. But maybe Brother O'Connell (8) is the most interesting play at the odds in here. He's only ever ran on turf, breaking his maiden at Belmont in June. He is bred top and bottom to be a dirt horse. Lack of race since July is a concern but he's been working regularly and forwardly for some time now.
Brother O'Connell (8)
Combination Exacta (6 bets): Brimstone (3), Full Of Mine (5) and Brother O'Connell (8)
Aqueduct Race 8 (9.20pm)
The Haynesfield - A stake for New York bred 4 year olds and upwards - 1 1/16 Miles - Dirt
In terms of New York bred events, Saratoga Snacks (7) has been one of the kings on the block for a while now. He made it career victory number nine in July when winning another stake. In three starts since, he's come up against old rival Empire Dreams and Royal Posse (4) or both.
Royal Posse (4) was claimed for only $20,000 in the middle of 2015 and has looked a new horse since. He won three times including a nose defeat of Saratoga Snacks in September. Admittedly nine furlongs may not have suited the runner up but the bad news for him is the winner has ran even better since. He won The Claiming Crown Jewel, a $200,000 stake at Gulfstream in December. In his return to New York, he found a slow pace and a quicker rival too much when second in a stake in open company. This race sets up better, at least on paper.
Ostrolenka (6) is likely to sent hard for the lead and Saratoga Snacks may go a tad too fast to stop that frontrunner getting an easy lead. The in form Fox Rules (3) has speed too.
Good Luck Gus (5) was three lengths behind Saratoga Snacks last time. The four year old may have more improvement to come.
Royal Posse (4)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Royal Posse (4) and Saratoga Snacks (7)
Aqueduct Race 9 (9.50pm)
Claiming $10,000 - 4 year olds and upwards - 6 Furlongs - Dirt
Trainer Jeremiah Englehart has found it much tougher here than at his main base of Finger Lakes. That's due to the better competition and many of the horses he's shipped here struggle on the big circuit. He still has winners in The Big Apple and may have one here with back classer Nevada Kid (7). He claimed him off his comeback in October and the money looked wasted when he ran awful for him first time in December. He ran much better second time out despite bobbling the start finishing fifth. Now dropped in class, this may be his day.
Frazil (3) was taken out of his normal racing style routing and ran below form last time. He's a capable sprinter and is halved in claiming price by a trainer having a poor run. The veteran is on the shortlist here along with Buckleberry Grey (4). He ran second on his local debut and has been competitive against better fields in the past.
Perfect Disco (6) is a dangerous frontrunner when on his game. Barn mates Lane Allen (5) and Say Mr. Sandman (8) are wake up candidates making their third starts back after an absence.
Nevada Kid (7)
Combination Exacta (6 bets): Frazil (3), Buckleberry Grey (4) and Nevada Kid (7)
Oaklawn Park Race 9 (11.09pm)
The Essex Handicap - A stake for 4 year olds and upwards - 1 1/16 Miles - Dirt
Cougar Ridge (7) is on a five timer here. The first two victories were stakes at Remington in August and September on the turf. At Keeneland in October, he was successful in an allowance event on dirt. In his last start, he won a nice pot in a stake at Delta Downs on a muddy track. That was in November and he's worked really well locally in preparation for this event.
Bob Baffert's Midnight Hawk (2) is the obvious danger. He faded badly on his return at Santa Anita last month. That was his first start since losing a Grade 3 by a neck here last March. He's worked swiftly since that race. He may be hard to reel in but may have to run hard early with Ain't Got Time (6) and that could leave him vulnerable late on.
Oaklawn specialist and stakes winner Carve (4) has speed but can also stalk. He hasn't raced since August.
Cougar Ridge (7)
Reversed Exacta (2 bets): Midnight Hawk (2) and Cougar Ridge (7)