by Brian Nadeau
April 19, 2018
With turf racing back in New York, and in influx of Gulfstream Park shippers coming north as well, things are looking up in South Ozone Park, so let’s take a look at a very competitive Pk5 Friday at Aqueduct. Whereas in the past I’ve put together one caveman ticket on a small-scale budget, going forward I’m going to try and present a bit more of an in-depth play that will utilize backup horses and tickets, while painting a broader picture of a suggested play.
Race 1: 3upfm 25k N2L going 6 furlongs
The opener really boils down to your thoughts on #5 RIBBONITE (2-1), who isn’t exactly the most trustworthy type, but does deserve to be favored and is clearly the best of the speed types. The problem is she never wins (1-for-14) and faces speed from the inside in #1 Mahabodhi Tree, who is a big play against off the long layoff and steep drop, and #2 Dream Fever, who will also be a play against as she meets older off a modest win and could be in a pace sandwich. Ribbonite did well to draw outside the rest of the speed, so she is an A, but is also hardly a lock at underaid odds. Top honors go to #7 OURO VERDE (3-1), as it looks like Michelle Nevin made a very crafty claim, and this miss had good back numbers for Dave Donk, should move forward in a big way for her new barn, and has a nice stalking gear too.
Pk5 A horses (listed in order of preference): 7,5
It doesn’t look like anyone else should be an A, but there are several who could qualify as B’s, most notably #3 OUR WHIM (8-1) and #4 SAND CITY (8-1), who are stalkers that fit the race flow, but will have to pick up their game just a bit to win.
Pk5 B horses (listed in order of preference): 3,4
Race 2: 3upfm 35k N3L going 1 1/16 miles on the outer turf
I’m not going to try to get too clever here, as I think we can wrap this one up using the three favorites, #1 SAVANNAH BELLE (2-1), #3 TALKN TIL MIDNIGHT (9-5) and #5 ULTIMATE CLASS (5-2), as they appear to lay over the rest and are all basically the same horse on paper. If anyone else wins, I don’t, it’s as simple as that.
Pk5 A horses: 3,1,5
The only other horse worth mentioning is #7 Edisto Island, who could be the controlling speed, but her lone turf run was dreadful and she could be damaged goods off a complete no-show on the dirt last time. If she forgets to stop, so be it, but on the drop and her lone turf run, she has to prove it to me.
Race 3: 3up MSW going 1-mile
The gut says that #4 PROVEN RESERVES (5-2) is another Chad Brown/Seth Klarman monster in the making, as his works are off the page and they paid a pricey 350k for a son of 40k sire Flatter. Normally he’d be the lone A in a spot like this, but #5 WEATHER WIZ (4-5) ran a very fast 2nd last time off a July layoff and could move forward, which would make him very tough. I’m apt to think he regresses instead, but there’s no way I don’t want him on my ticket at equal weigh with Proven Reserves.
Pk5 A horses: 4,5
The only B is #2 BALLARD HIGH (3-1), who improved mightily in start number two when he stretched out to this one-turn mile and has a ton of upside. If #3 Crimson King wins I’ll be very surprised, as his debut for Pletcher was meek, and the fact he was here in NY, instead of down in Florida with the big boys, says they don’t think much of him.
Pk5 B horses: 2
Race 4: 3up NYB 25k MCL going 6 furlongs
Here’s where things get tricky, as 14 are entered and you could make a case for more than half of them, if you’re in a forgiving mood. My budget won’t allow me to go that deep, so I’ll use the main protagonists--#9 CROATIA (4-1), #11 O SHEA CAN U SEE (7-2) and #12 SUSANS FUNNYBONE, who appear a cut above the rest on paper. The former looks best, even though the December layoff is a concern, because his lone start with blinkers was a big 2nd, beaten just a neck when last seen. The latter comes next, as his form is consistent and he’s been a much better horse in his two starts with blinkers. I am not sold on ‘Shea, even though he is a must-use A, but you could make a case he’ll be an underlay and is poised to regress off the big move forward last time.
Pk5 A horses: 9,12,11
The forgiving part, or maybe I should say the imaginative part, comes into play with the B’s, as none of them really inspire, but are close enough on paper where a lifetime run puts them on the line. The two I think who are potentially capable are #2 GIANT RUBIES (20-1) and #14 LEADING STORM (8-1). The former drops slightly in class after a tough trip and beginning in his debut, where he showed a bit of life late in a fast race for the level. The latter will be the underlay of the day, and is way too slow on paper, but he’s run just twice, and only once for Rodriguez, and he did have an adventurous trip last time and now gets Irad, so there’s a lot of upside here, if nothing else.
Pk5 B horses: 2, 14
Race 5: 3up NYB 80k/N1X going 6 ½ furlongs
There may just be six entered, but this is a tricky puzzle since four of them have legitimate chances. I’m going with the fresh new face--#6 PRESENCE OF MIND (6-1)—who has not started since running 6th in Belmont’s Tremont last June. I’m a big George Weaver fan and it looks like he’s got this guy going great guns in the AM, plus those spring races last year weren’t that far behind the best of what today’s rivals have been running this year, so with proper maturation, he’s got to have a big say at a nice price. My other A is the logical #5 ANALYZE THE ODDS (2-1), who looked good winning in fast time at the level last month and is the one to fear late on the cutback.
Pk5 A horses: 6,5
I just don’t trust #4 MORNING BREEZ (9-5), who was dreadful in blinkers last time (they come off today) and has now lost six straight since his debut win. Can he win? Sure. But off that run, with some cheap speed to his inside from #1 Comeoncomeoncat, I just don’t want anything to do with him at short odds, which is why he’s just a B. The two fringe B’s are #2 Mr. Pete, who returns as a first-time gelding after a solid 2yo campaign, and #3 What a Catch, who has middling form and will be overbet for Pletcher. I’m not using either, but won’t knock anyone who does.
Pk5 B horses: 4
The main A ticket would be a simple 2x3x2x3x2 for $36, and that’s our starting point. But by adding in our B horses in with the A’s in the other legs, we can get more coverage and allow for some margin for error too. As you’ll see below, the backups tickets are a more cost conducive way of getting added coverage, without breaking the bank; if we combined all the A’s and B’s, the ticket would cost $270 (4x3x3x5x3), whereas this way is a more manageable $132. I’m also an advocate of playing you’re a ticket for $1, so you capitalize if you handicap it out of the park.
Main Ticket: 7,5 with 3,1,5 with 4,5 with 9,12,11 with 6,5 = $36
R1 B Backup: 3,4 with 3,1,5 with 4,5 with 9,12,11 with 6,5 = $36
R3 B Backup: 7,5 with 3,1,5 with 2 with 9,12,11 with 6,5 = $18
R4 B Backup: 7,5 with 3,1,5 with 4,5 with 2,14 with 6,5 = $24
R5 B Backup: 7,5 with 3,1,5 with 4,5 with 9,12,11 with 4 = $18