by Dustin Fabian
November 30, 2017
As the calendar shifts from November to December, the eyes of the racing world look to Gulfstream and Aqueduct this weekend for its Saturday best.
Gulfstream’s marquee Championship Meet opens with the $1.1 million Claiming Crown, a robust series of nine stakes races for current and former claiming horses. A total of 163 horses has been entered for the 11-race card – more than 14 per race – so bettors can trust the chances to hit big are certainly abundant.
Not to be outdone, Aqueduct’s Saturday card features a quartet of stakes races, headlined by the Grade 1 Cigar Mile, Grade 2 Remsen and Grade 2 Demoiselle. Top runners like Sharp Azteca, Mind Your Biscuits, Practical Joke, Highway Star and Verve’s Tale are scheduled to be in action.
Here’s a quick preview of the races at both tracks.
First Post: 12:00PM ET
Number of Races: 11
Key Stakes: Claiming Crown Races
My Late Pick 4 Ticket:
Race 8 (3:30PM ET) – Claiming Crown Rapid Transit
Defending champion, Shaft of Light, would win if he can regain his prior form, but lately he’s been downright disappointing. He’s lost four straight races by a combined 59-lengths, which is incredibly unlike him. Navarro’s ‘other’ horse, Aztec Sense, won by 8 ¾-lengths in his first start in the new barn, but he’s a little light on experience in races like this. Coxswain doesn’t have the credentials to figure per se, but he loves Gulfstream (4-for-5) and the distance (2-for-2), so you may want to include him.
Pick 4 Horses: #4 Shaft of Light, #5 Cautious Giant, #7 Manhattan Mischief, #9 Aztec Sense, #12 Coxswain, #13 Rhythm Park
Race 9 (4:00PM ET) – Claiming Crown Tiara
This sequence is so loaded that it’s essential to keep things short in a few legs. That’s why, in the ‘Tiara, I’m only using Canadian shipper, Sharship Jubilee, who will win if she replicates her summer form, and Gianna’s Dream, who is 6-for-10 on the lawn and goes out for Mike Maker, who is incredibly talented in training turf horses and claimers. He claimed her for $25K last August and hasn’t looked back since, bankrolling $400K with her.
Pick 4 Horses: #9 Starship Jubilee, #12 Gianna’s Dream
Race 10 (4:30PM ET) – Claiming Crown Emerald
I know I’ve gone deep in the first and fourth legs of this bet, so I need to find a way to pare down a ticket without losing all of my coverage. And in the 16-horse ‘Emerald, that’s much easier said than done. These horses are good. You could use six or seven and not be fully covered. That said, I’m going to focus on just a few of them. Spring Up loves Gulfstream, so he makes the cut from a great inside post. Special Ops is Maker/Leparoux (big money connections) and his race two back at Kentucky Downs was phenomenal. Cammack is a dynamite closer who just missed here last year and will appreciate an anticipated hot pace, while Bingo Kitten will also appreciate a quick setup.
Pick 4 Horses: #1 Spring Up, #2 Special Ops, #6 Cammack, #8 Bingo Kitten
Race 11 (5:00PM ET) - Claiming Crown Jewel
There definitely aren’t any standouts in the $200K Claiming Crown Jewel, which attracted a strong field of 13. I would anticipate Chunnel will take plenty of action (he’s 4-for-5 since being moved to Jorge Navarro) and Woodbine-shipper, Gigantic Breeze, should be popular, despite having raced solely on all-weather and turf in his career. Indian Guide seems to be rounding into form and I trust Mike Maker will get Flashy Jewel back to his best. Maker’s other horse, Capital Letters, makes sense, as does New York shipper, Turco Bravo. Long story short, use a bunch and hope you’re alive when you get here.
Pick 4 Horses: #1 Chunnel, #2 Turco Bravo, #5 Dreaming of Gold, #6 Gigantic Breeze, #7 Capital Letters, #11 Indian Guide, #12 Flashy Jewel
Pick 4 Ticket: 4, 5, 7, 9, 12, 13 / 9, 12 / 1, 2, 6, 8 / 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12 = $168.00
First Post: 11:30AM ET
Number of Races: 10
Key Stakes: Cigar Mile, Remsen, Demoiselle, Go for Wand
Horses to Bet:
Race 6 (2:06PM ET) – Go for Wand Stakes - #2 Highway Star
Perfection is tough to attain in horse racing. Practically impossible. But Highway Star has maintained it, at least at Aqueduct (3-for-3) and at today’s one-mile distance (4-for-4). She won this race last year and figures to get a dream trip just off the pace. Keep an eye out for Jamyson ‘n Ginger, who is a perfect 2-for-2 since moving to Chad Brown’s barn. Her inside draw may prove to be troublesome, which could pave the way for Verve’s Tale, who is 3-for-3 in the Exacta at Aqueduct.
Race 8 (3:12 PM ET) – Demoiselle Stakes - #1 Daisy
First to load, first to lead, first to the wire? That’s how I see the Demoiselle going. From her inside draw, I expect Kendrick Carmouche to send Fox Hill Farms’ Daisy, a 2yo daughter of Blame, out of a Flower Alley mare (talk about two-turn breeding!). She’s a perfect 2-for-2 in her life, including a win in the Grade 3 Tempted last out. Wonder Gadot ran fine (6th of 13) in her conventional dirt debut in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, but the jury will still be out as to whether this is her preferred surface.
Race 9 (3:45PM ET) – Remsen Stakes - #7 Alkhaatam
Trained by anyone else, I wouldn’t give this one-start maiden much of a second look. But trained by Chad Brown, a guy who won this year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with a maiden, bettors have every reason to jump on the bandwagon. Alkhaatam ran decent in his debut, beaten ¾-length in a one-mile MSW at Belmont, and I think he should improve markedly in his second start. He gets two turns and gets a 4lb to 6lb weight break from the probable favorites. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Vouch handles a huge step up in class, and if Avery Island can replicate his Grade 2 Nashua win against a better field. Plus, what can Grade 3 turf winner, Catholic Boy, do on the dirt?
Race 10 (4:16PM ET) – Cigar Mile Handicap - #8 Practical Joke
I’ve been waiting to bet Practical Joke in this race since August, so I’m glad to see him land here after a relatively ho-hum 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last out at Del Mar. It’s rare to see such a stark contrast, but Practical Joke is unbeaten in one-turn races (5-for-5), but he’s winless in two-turn events (0-for-6). You can’t blame the connections for taking shots at the Kentucky Derby, Haskell, etc. but those trips definitely weren’t his forte. Back to one-turn racing, with speedsters like Sharp Azteca and Seymourdini in the field, my money is on ‘Joke to reel them in late.