Picks & Plays for Friday, July 1
by David Aragona
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Race 1: 1 - 7 - 4 - 6
Race 2: 5 - 7 - 6 - 4
Race 3: 3 - 4 - 5 - 2
Race 4: 5 - 10 - 1/1A - 6
Race 5: 6 - 3 - 4 - 10
Race 6: 6 - 4 - 7 - 3
Race 7: 2 - 6 - 5 - 1A
Race 8: 3 - 5 - 4 - 2
Race 9: 8 - 11 - 12 - 1
(Guide - WIN: recommended win/key horse at fair odds; UPGRADE: value horses I picked underneath to consider upgrading in vertical/horizontal wagers; USE: runners to include in vertical exotic wagers with Win horse)
RACE 2: LUCKY PERIDOT (#4)
If I could be confident that #7 Juxtapose would get back to her best races from last season, she would be an easy selection in this race. She was meeting some pretty good rivals at Woodbine last summer and fall, and she actually ran pretty well in a few of those spots on both turf and Tapeta. There’s been a trainer change since then, for the same owner, and she resurfaced at Belterra sprinting 5 furlongs last time. I didn’t love that effort, but she had a right to need a race and should appreciate more ground. It’s hard to completely trust her as she drops in for a tag now for William Morey, but she is the one to beat. I’m not thrilled with the other horse that could take money, #4 Blue Atras. She has run well fresh before, but I thought she was beating weaker company when she won here last October. She’s somewhat pace dependent and has run best against cheaper. I prefer #5 Lucky Peridot. This mare has plenty of back class, having run competitively against stakes company in California earlier in her career. She’s clearly not in that kind of form anymore, but I think she’s done well when realistically spotted. She was a visually impressive winner three back, and then had no chance against tougher in the Monroe, a race that didn’t feature much pace. I don’t want to get too caught up in her dirt race last time, but she got a poor ride that day, as she made a middle move to go from last to second at the half-mile before fading. This barn hasn’t sent too many runners to NYRA, but has done well out of town.
WIN: #5 Lucky Peridot, at 5-2 or greater
RACE 3: NORDIC LIGHT (#3)
I’m not way against #4 No Code, who figures to go favored here. He obviously appreciated the added ground last time, and he gets an extra sixteenth to work with here. However, he was never a serious threat to winner Endowed, and the ground he made up in the late stages was primarily a function of the winner being geared down over the last furlong. I’m hoping that he loses to a similar kind of runner here, as Christophe Clement sends out #3 Nordic Light, who will try to emulate stablemate Endowed. Both horses made their debuts routing on turf and Clement has outstanding numbers with this specific move. Over the past 5 years, he is 5 for 6 (83%, $4.45 ROI) going from turf maiden special weight to dirt maiden claiming. This horse doesn’t have much turf pedigree, and there’s plenty of dirt breeding on the dam’s side. He finished far back in his debut, but he was conservatively ridden that day. Blinkers go on as he switches to Dylan Davis, and I think we’re going to see a better effort.
WIN: #3 Nordic Light, at 5-2 or greater
RACE 4: CATCH THAT PARTY (#5)
I acknowledge that both halves of this Jordan Wycoff entry can win, but I’m not thrilled with either of them. #1 Practice Squad has been in strong form since getting claimed by Joe Sharp, and he’s coming off an effort that makes him competitive here. However, he got a great trip setting a moderate pace that day in a race that was dominated by horses who stayed inside. It’s hard to see him getting as lucky this time, especially with the speedy Nicholas James in the field. #1A Ricochet also wants to be forwardly placed as he makes his first start off a trainer switch to Mike Maker. I didn’t think he had much of an excuse to lose at Monmouth last time, but he has other races that make him competitive. They’re both contenders, but entries like this are almost always underlays. I much prefer Mike Maker’s other runner #5 Catch That Party. This horse had shown ability when previously in Jeremiah Englehart’s barn last year, running competitively against New York-bred allowance company. Claimed by low-profile connections at Gulfstream, he subsequently made two starts against tougher company this winter and didn’t even run that badly when a huge price on Jan. 30. He dropped to a realistic level last time and surprised a field at 17-1, flying up the rail to win going away at the end. He was an astute claim that day by Mike Maker and Michael Dubb. That pair is 5 for 12 (42%, $2.26 ROI) first off the claim together on turf over the past 2 years. I like that he’s being moved up into a protected spot and Joel Rosario should fit this horse perfectly given the way he ran last time. The other horse that I would also want to throw into the mix is #10 Reckless Spirit. He was inside last time in that June 5 race that Practice Squad also exits. However, he got a very tentative ride and was in traffic for much of the way until getting free late.
WIN: #5 Catch That Party, at 8-5 or greater
RACE 6: TWILIGHT DREAMS (#6)
#4 Hoodooland, an expensive Medaglia d'Oro-sired half-sister to G1 La Troienne winner Salty, made her debut in a small field at Aqueduct back in April where she put in a solid effort to be second behind dominant winner Speaks for Itself. The ground she gained at the end is a little misleading, as the winner was geared down a long way out. The third-place finisher from that affair returned to win her next start, though didn’t earn much of a speed figure. Shug McGaughey is 6 for 38 (16%, $1.12 ROI) with maiden second time starters in dirt sprints over 5 years, so these types are sometimes overbet. I’m a little surprised that McGaughey keeps her sprinting rather than stretching out, and she does face some intriguing first time starters. Chad Brown has a pair of runners in here who both could attract some attention. #3 Empire Hope is a half-sister to Grade 1 Humana Distaff winner Sassy Image, and #1 Emmylou is a half-sister to G1 Spinster winner Valiance. Neither one would be a surprise, but I’m more intrigued by some firsters drawn outside. #7 Tizzy in the Sky is a little interesting even though she lacks star power in her pedigree. Ray Handal has done well with firsters over the past two years, but she sports some quick workouts for her debut and Rosario climbs aboard. My top pick is #6 Twilight Dreams, who is one of two in here for trainer Bill Mott. This homebred daughter of 12% debut sire Curlin is out of a Grade 2-placed mare who has produced 4 winners from 6 foals to race. The best of those is this one’s full sibling Curalina (13-6-3-2, $1.5 million, 105 Beyer), a two-time Grade 1 winner routing on dirt. Bill Mott is 9 for 36 (25%, $3.16 ROI) with 3YO+ female first time starters in dirt sprints over the past 5 years. She’s done all of her prep work up in Saratoga, logging a few fast workout times. That bullet 5-furlong drill on May 20 matches this barn’s G1-placed 4YO colt Nova Rags, and the recent drill on June 21 matches G2 Gazelle winner Nostalgic. This one might be a runner and could be ready to fire even though she's bred to go farther than this.
WIN: #6 Twilight Dreams, at 3-1 or greater
RACE 8: KINENOS (#3)
Likely favorite #4 Kuramata has lost twice at this level at odds of even-money and 3-5, the latter time when part of an entry. This Irish-bred 5-year-old obviously has some talent, but he’s had trouble putting races together and still looks like a work in progress. He has a tendency to lug in and race greenly during his races, so he’s not the easiest horse to ride. He’s faced some pretty good rivals so far this year, and is arguably getting class relief against today’s field. Yet he has to stretch out to 1 1/4 miles for the first time and will almost surely be a short price for connections that always take money. I’m going with logical alternative #3 Kinenos. That last start had the feel of a prep. Running for his available allowance condition, he was closing mildly late in a race that featured a pretty honest pace up front. He just couldn't quite reel in the leaders, who had snuck away on the front end. That 8.5-furlong distance is on the short side for a horse that wants to go much farther, so he’ll appreciate the stretch-out to 1 1/4 mile here. He has finished in the exacta twice at this distance before, including a victory at today’s level over this track in April of 2021. I’m not too bothered that he’s risked for the $62,500 tag, as this is just a realistic placement. He needs some pace up front but should be charging late if Javier Castellano can work out a trip. I also want to use #5 Offlee Naughty, who should be a bigger price. This 4-year-old put in some nice efforts in California last year, winning a N1X allowance event over 1 3/8 miles to close out his season. Obviously distance is no issue for this guy, and he ran a competitive race at this level back in February at Santa Anita. He didn’t run well at Churchill last time, but I don’t want to put too much stock in that race given the way the course has played and the shorter distance. Trainer Michael McCarthy is 0 for 8 at NYRA over the past 5 years, though 4 of those did hit the board, all in graded stakes.
WIN: #3 Kinenos, at 3-1 or greater
UPGRADE: #5 Offlee Naughty, at 8-1 or greater
RACE 9: CHARGER (#8)
The favorites in here don’t do a whole lot for me. I especially don’t want #6 Fast N Fearious if he takes money again. He got bet down to 8-5 against a tougher starter allowance field last time and readily gave up after setting the pace. He had handled turf in his prior start when facing a field similar to this one, but it just feels like the connections got the best out of him that day. #12 Boom Boom Kaboom has run well in each of his last two turf starts, and arguably should have won both of them, as he was buried in traffic until deep stretch last time. He’s never been the most reliable win candidate, but it does seem like he’s turned a corner for George Weaver. I’m more interested in a couple of alternatives. #11 Standup has simply faced tougher company in each of his starts since getting claimed by James Ferraro. He didn’t even run that badly either time, and he figures to appreciate the slight turnback to 6 furlongs. He makes plenty of sense and arguably should be favored, though I doubt he will. My top pick is #8 Charger. He’s primarily raced on dirt, but this horse has a couple of prior turf races that aren’t so bad. Among those is a narrow loss to Never Explain at Indiana last year, and that one returned from that race to just miss against much tougher at Saratoga. His only turf start since then came going 1 3/16 miles, which is just too far. He’s since run his best races going sprint distances, and it feels like Linda Rice claimed him with the intention of switching over to turf. He certainly has the pedigree to be a grass horse, by Point of Entry from a Phipps female family.
WIN: #8 Charger, at 9-2 or greater