Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship – Race 8 at Aqueduct – Post time 3:20 PM Eastern Time
High percentage trainer Jason Servis saddles a pair of very tough runners in Rainbow Heir and Summation Time, opening at 10/1 and 12/1, respectfully, and I’ll play them as if they were a coupled entry and bet them both. Rainbow Heir is 12 for 29 in his career but has run on turf just eight times. Seven of those came since Servis took over his training in July of last year. Since then, Rainbow Heir has won five of 10 races, missing by inches in three others. He comes back off a short layoff and won a stakes on turf like this one the last time he took a bit of time off. It’s a BIG sign Irad Ortiz, Jr. takes the call because Ortiz rode the horse just one before, when he was defeated a head in the 2016 Troy Stakes at Saratoga. Summation Time moved privately from Clement to Servis for his first start in seven months in October, dominating by three lengths at the end at this distance on grass. He’s been first or second in 10 of 18 turf races and although Ortiz appears to have had his choice of mounts, moving to Rainbow Heir, Manny Franco is no slouch and gives Summation Time a big shot to win his 2nd in a row. White Flag, Snowday and Bucchero are three more to use on exotic tickets played like the exacta and multi-race wagers, perhaps bet to win if the odds are right. White Flag won the similar Allied Forces Stakes in September on firm turf before a poorer effort on soft grass in Canada and can rebound. Snowday has earned over $400K on turf in his career including a turf sprint stakes, the Laurel Dash, in September. Bucchero finished 4th, beaten just a length, in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint three weeks ago after pulling off the 26/1 upset in the Woodford Stakes at Keeneland and is another who likes to win (10 for 23) and is in good form.
Bet BOTH Rainbow Heir and Summation Time to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more. Consider adding place bets at 5 to 1 or higher.
Consider a small win bet on Snowday at odds of 6 to 1 or more.
Play an exacta box consisting of Rainbow Heir, Summation Time, White Flag, Snowday and Bucchero
Hollywood Derby – Race 7 at Del Mar – Post time 6:30 PM Eastern Time (3:30 Pacific Time)
Mo Town was highly regarded as a two year old, winning his second career start in September 2016 by seven lengths then winning the prestigious Remsen Stakes easily by two and one-half lengths. After poor efforts to start his three-year-old campaign in the Risen Star Stakes (fifth) and in the Wood Memorial Stakes (seventh), Mo Town was given four months off to mature. Returning in August, he finished fourth, then third before trying turf for the first time last month, taking to turf like a duck takes to water with a strong six and one-half length victory. Not only did that win earn Mo Town a career best 113 Equibase Figure, that was a stakes quality effort as that figure equaled the career best effort Sharp Samurai put forth to win the Twilight Derby. With a very visually impressive turn of foot shown on the far turn, going from three lengths back to three lengths in front by the time the field straightened for home, and against a slow early pace, Mo Town demonstrated enough ability to win a stakes like this one on the grass. He has the added benefit, albeit a small one, of facing just three year olds after beating three year olds and upward last month. Souper Tapit, like Mo Town and Sharp Samurai, is also a stakes winner. He won the Marine Stakes in May on the all-weather surface at Woodbine. That was his first try on that surface, and he’s only raced on turf since. In both those grass starts, Souper Tapit had significant traffic trouble, but it was the trouble in his most recent race that was highly notable. In his most recent race on November 11, Souper Tapit was in a perfect position on the far turn but was completely surrounded and had no place to go as other horses around him accelerated. Even when the field turned into the stretch, Souper Tapit and jockey Jose Lezcano could do nothing to find a path to run as he was completely boxed in. Finally getting a clear path to run in the final yards, Souper Tapit stretched his legs and rallied from sixth to third. Having earned a 106 figure in the Marine, it might be assumed, if not for trouble in two starts since, Souper Tapit may have improved to the same 113 figure level of Mo Town and Sharp Samurai. As such, with a clean trip Souper Tapit could very well post the upset in the Hollywood Derby. It is indisputably tough to take a horse on a four race winning streak like Sharp Samurai is and to list him as the third win contender in this year’s Hollywood Derby. Coming off a career best 113 figure and having won three similar graded stakes on turf for three year olds in a row, Sharp Samurai has proven to be a very tough foe. Sharp Samurai beat five of the other eight entrants in this race when victorious in the Twilight Derby and there’s no reason to think any of those can turn the tables on him in this situation. Only the two horses that have never faced him, Mo Town and Souper Tapit, who have won with figures that are either competitive with Sharp Samurai (in the case of Mo Town) or that project to be competitive with Sharp Samurai without traffic trouble (in the case of Souper Tapit), appear to have a legitimate shot to beat him if he repeats his Twilight Derby effort (or improves upon it). We should use Big Score in the second position on any exacta tickets we play as he’s finished second behind Sharp Samurai in two straight races.
Bet Mo Town to win at odds of 2 to 1 or higher.
Make a win bet on Souper Tapit at 3 to 1 or higher and add a place bet at 5 to 1 or more.
Play an exacta consisting of Mo Town, Souper Tapit and Sharp Samurai over Mo Town, Souper Tapit, Sharp Samurai and Big Score
Berkeley Handicap – Race 7 at Golden Gate – Post time 6:45 PM Eastern Time (3:45 Pacific Time)
This year’s Berkeley Handicap drew a huge field of 14 and so the race is very playable with horses coming in from Southern California as well as Canada to run. However, the horse to beat is a local horse in Force, who began his career in England before making his U.S. debut this past February at Santa Anita. He’s not a dirt horse at all but he needed a race after a long layoff and stayed in even after the race moved from turf to dirt. After three more races, all very poor efforts, he was privately moved to the barn of John Martin and shipped to Northern California, where he’s found a home and then some, winning four of seven including both of his starts on the Tapeta surface at Golden Gate. He won a minor stakes on the grass in September before an irrelevant try on dirt then ran one of the best races of his career last month when moving from 10 lengths back early to win going away. With Hernandez riding back and having been up for his last two wins as well as picking Force to ride over Rye, who Hernandez rode to his most recent win, Force appears to have more improving to do for a barn that wins about 1/3 of its starts on the circuit. Rye and Camino Del Paraiso were separated by a neck when 1st and 2nd, respectively, on the grass in their most recent races and both have run well enough on the all-weather surface in the past to be considered contenders as well. The same can be said for Seattle Serenade and Street Moxie, who were separated by a nose when 1st and 2nd, respectively, in a minor stakes on dirt last month. The last horse we must consider is Hard Aces, tough to bet to win as he opens as the 3 to 1 favorite based on the fact he’s dropping in class after finishing 3rd in the Grade 2 Marathon Stakes on Breeders’ Cup Weekend. He can win but with a 2 for 15 record this year and last he’s tough to consider for anything other than inclusion on exacta tickets.
Bet Force to win at odds of 2 to 1 or higher.
Play an exacta of Force over Rye, Camino Del Paraiso, Seattle Serenade, Street Moxie and Hard Aces.
Play the reverse of that exacta as well.
Jimmy Durante Stakes – Race 9 at Del Mar – Post time 7:30 PM Eastern Time (4:30 Pacific Time)
Even in a deep field of two year olds on the grass, many who can improve significantly from one race to another, I see a standout here in Daddy Is a Legend, who finished 5th in her career debut in August in a turf route, improved to finish 2nd in her next start, and who won powerfully third time out last month. In that 2nd start, Daddy Is a Legend was second behind next out Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Rushing Fall, and then in her 10/27 start Daddy Is a Legend made a quick move on the turn to go from fourth, 1 1/2 lengths back, to be in front by 5 at the eighth pole before coasting to a two ad 3/ 4 length win. Joe Bravo follows the filly west and with logical continuation of her pattern of improvement, Daddy Is a Legend should earn her first stakes win in this situation. Other contenders, mostly for exacta bets, are Raucous, Ever So True, Fatale Bere and Lexington Grace. Raucous won the Chelsey Flower Stakes at Belmont three weeks ago for her 2nd straight win on grass and gets leading jockey Prat. Ever So True close fast for 2nd in her 2nd career start, first turf route, and gets John Velazquez for the red hot Miller barn. Fatale Bere made a big move from 9th to 3rd in the BC Juvenile Turf then hung and ended up 5th but she was 7 wide into the stretch so that was a pretty good effort. Lexington Grace just ran in England on 10/25, wining a race in a field of 20. Stevens rides and she has the most wins (4) of any horse in the field so may have an experience edge on some of these.
Bet Daddy Is a Legend to win at odds of 2 to 1 or higher.
Play an exacta consisting of Daddy Is a Legend over Raucous, Ever So True, Fatale Bere and Lexington Grace
Play the reverse of that exacta as well.
Play an exacta box consisting of all five horses, which is an investment worth the risk in a 13 horse field like this one.