Picks & Plays for Friday, September 22
by David Aragona
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Race 1: 2 - 3 - 5 - 7
Race 2: 7 - 6 - 3 - 1
Race 3: 3 - 2 - 1 - 7
Race 4: 1 - 3 - 9 - 4
Race 5: 2 - 10 - 11 - 9
Race 6: 4 - 8 - 6 - 1A
Race 7: 6 - 1 - 7 - 3
Race 8: 5 - 1 - 2 - 3
Race 9: 3 - 4 - 8 - 1
FAIR VALUE PLAYS
(Fair Value: These are the odds at which I could reasonably bet each of the horses listed. Wagering decisions should be based on the actual odds. The best value option will not necessarily be the top pick.)
Perhaps this race is as simple as Talkin Pharoah (#6) getting back on dirt, and picking up where he left off on that surface. He’s proven that he’s not a turf horse despite having a strong pedigree for that surface. His prior two dirt efforts for Rice make him the obvious horse to beat, especially that victory against the speedy Win for Gold on July 15. However, he did get a very good trip that day, and now he’s dropping. In looking for an alternative, some may land on Kupp (#3), who shows a competitive series of speed figures. Yet he was a little flat and one-paced in his NYRA debut last time, and might be catching a slightly tougher field here despite racing for a lower tag. That said, he is making his first start off the claim for a dangerous trainer. I prefer Rice’s other runner Jester’s Song (#7). He was away from the gate awkwardly before riding a dead rail for much of his last start. He also ran into a pretty tough rival that day, as winner Implemention was in the midst of a winning streak for Saffie Joseph. This gelding’s recent form leaves something to be desired, but he’s run well at Aqueduct in the past and may respond well to finally drawing an outside post position.
#7 JESTER'S SONG, at 4-1 or greater
She’s Mo Bubbly (#8) might go favored here off her near-11 length maiden break score last time. That performance came over the dirt, but she’s handled turf well in the past. I’m just a little concerned that she’ll be overbet on the perception that she’s improved in the overall sense when her turf form doesn’t exactly make her any kind of standout. It’s certainly possible that she is simply improving, but I foresee her being an underlay with Irad Ortiz up. Tangential (#1A) also comes off a maiden victory, but she worked out an absolutely perfect trip. She still has upside in her second start off the layoff, but she figures to get bet down as part of an entry. I’m actually more intrigued by her entrymate Virtual Reality (#1A), who does have pedigree for turf and has a turf look to her. She’s just not going to offer any value as part of this pair. Avenue Niel (#6) is probably capable of better in her second North American start. Joel Rosario elected to make a very early move up the rail on the backstretch last time. It just didn’t work out, as the pace ultimately came apart and she didn’t have enough left to kick again in the stretch. She should be more effective with a more patient ride, and she did have some decent form in France last year. My top pick is Pentagon (#4). She’s had more chances than some others in here, but she really seems to have turned a corner in recent months. She closed with a rush two back at Monmouth after getting mildly steadied on the turn, slicing through between horses when she found a seam. The runbacks from that race have been quite strong, including 2 next-out winners and 7 horses who subsequently ran improved TimeformUS Speed Figures on turf. I don’t mind her going this longer distance, and she figures to be a fair price.
#4 PENTAGON, at 3-1 or greater
The four main players in this John Hettinger all exit the Yaddo Stakes at Saratoga, making this an interesting trip handicapping exercise. New Ginya (#2) was the upset winner of the Yaddo at 8-1, and her decisive margin of victory should ensure that she goes off at a much shorter price this time. Some may regard her as a horse who is simply improving as a 4-year-old, which is certainly possible. She’s won 3 of her 4 turf starts this year, and was compromised by a slow pace in the only loss. Yet she was so much with the flow of the way the Yaddo unfolded. The Mellon turf course was generally favoring outside paths during the final few weeks at Saratoga, and she made a wide move out in the clear as the race was collapsing to her inside. I don’t think she’s going to get as strong a setup this time, especially with less pace signed on. Whatlovelookslike (#1) was right on top of the pace that ultimately fell apart that day. She was overbet as the 6-5 favorite, but might have had a valid excuse with the race flow so against her. Her prior form was solid, though she did benefit from favorable circumstances both in her Port Washington and optional claiming victories two and three back. She figures to run better today, but I would need a more generous price. My top pick is Spungie (#5). She’s the one who was really compromised in the Yaddo. With the outside paths being preferred, she spent almost the entire race on the rail. She got steadied inside heading into the clubhouse turn after Junior Alvarado had sent for early position and was forced to abandon that plan. She ultimately got through along the inside to make a run in the lane and finished well. Yet the race was otherwise dominated by outside movers, and I think the nature of the course compromised her. That was her first start off an extended layoff, and she figures to be set for a better effort this time.
#5 SPUNGIE, at 2-1 or greater
Reverend Moon (#5) could go favored here off a pair of decent turf performances at Saratoga. He narrowly lost last time, but was beaten by a longshot in a race that might not have been so tough for the level. He also got the right kind of trip staying outside most of the way in a race that collapse. That wasn’t the case for Irish Gent (#8), who was stuck inside early and only angled out once into the lane. I felt outside paths were preferred on the Mellon turf course at that time, and Irish Gent might be capable of better here in his second start. Yet there are some intriguing first time starters and horses trying the surface for the first time. Among the debuting runners, Prospero (#10) certainly has a pedigree to excel in this spot. This $240k yearling RNA is by excellent turf sprint sire No Nay Never out of a full-sister to multiple Group 1 winner Midday. My top pick is Apollo Ten (#3), who seems like a horse who has to improve on this surface. He found himself in a pretty tough maiden heat on debut behind the highly impressive Fierceness. He had trained well enough to get a chance on dirt that day, but he looks like more of a turf horse, and is bred to relish this surface. He’s out of a turf stakes-winning dam who also produced G2 turf sprint winner Bay Storm. Christophe Clement is 7 for 24 (29%, $3.15 ROI) with second time starters going from dirt to turf sprints over 5 years. Yet I also think the horse just to his outside can improve on grass. Ridgewood Runner (#4) didn’t run that badly in his first two starts on dirt, but he looks more turf meant. Klimt isn’t much of an influence, but the dam is a full-sister to turf stakes winners Recepta and Defiant Honor, hailing from a strong Philips Racing family tracing back to Wings of Grace, the dam of Soaring Softly and Plenty of Grace. Kendrick Carmouche has been riding the turf well and the price should be fair in this competitive heat.
#3 APOLLO TEN, at 5-1 or greater
#4 RIDGEWOOD RUNNER, at 6-1 or greater