Picks & Plays for Sunday, October 17
by David Aragona
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Race 1: 1 - 3 - 5 - 2
Race 2: 5 - 2 - 3 - 11
Race 3: 2 - 7 - 5 - 1
Race 4: 4 - 5 - 2 - 1
Race 5: 9 - 8 - 7 - 4
Race 6: 9 - 4 - 7 - 1
Race 7: 2 - 9 - 3 - 8
Race 8: 8 - 7 - 6 - 9
Race 9: 11 - 7 - 5 - 12
RACE 1: CARTWHEEL (#1)
In the Belmont opener, Pay Grade figures to take all the money due in part to the fact that she’s simply disappointed fewer times than the rest. She had to work harder than expected to win two back after getting a good trip, but she put in a better effort last time when third in the Fleet Indian Stakes. She was on the lead in both of those starts, but I wonder if she’ll get a bit more pace pressure this time from the pair of rivals drawn inside of her. She’s clearly the one to beat, but I prefer another. Cartwheel made her first start off the claim for the underrated Mertkan Kantarmaci barn last time, and nothing went right for her. She was off a step slowly and then got squeezed back soon after the start, putting her in last down the backstretch. She continued to race wide thereafter on a day when the rail was the place to be at Belmont. Her fourth-place finish isn’t nearly as bad as it seems. I expect her to get a much more aggressive ride from Jose Lezcano this time provided that she breaks cleanly and I believe she’s a major threat to the favorite.
Exacta: 1 with 3,5
Trifecta: 1 with 3 with 2,4,5
RACE 2: CONSTITUTIONALRAGE (#5)
None of the expected short prices in this conditioned claiming event scare me much. I suppose Herald Angel is the horse to beat as she drops back down to the claiming ranks. She ran a respectable race at the allowance level last time, chasing the pace before fading through the lane. She appears to have held her form well enough since leavning Mike Maker’s barn and is an obvious contender. I expected better from main rival High School Crush last time when she settled for fourth in a similar spot. However, that was a tougher field and it came up a fast race. She can do better while meeting slightly softer company this time. Zerenia has the speed figure to contend, but she’s coming off a layoff and I’m somewhat skeptical of her overall form. I want to go in a different direction with Constitutionalrage. She’s turning back from a series of route races, but I actually like this filly going a little shorter. She ran well going 7 furlongs earlier in her career, so I’m not bothered by her cutting back to sprints. She got the wrong trip last time when she was rank early and sent forward to the lead in a race that collapsed. That winning effort two back was legitimate and I think she can bounce back here if Junior Alvarado can get her to relax early.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 2,3,6,11
RACE 5: BUCKORTWO (#9)
Devil Or Angel figures to go favored here after running well in both starts. However, he’s gotten great trips each time and just hasn’t quite been able to get it done. He couldn’t reel in the leader in his debut after saving all the ground on the hedge. While he did have some trouble in deep stretch last time and may have been best, he also got another fantastic trip up until that point. He can win, but I prefer some others. I also don’t want Hezastonecoldfox, who got to set a moderate pace last time while riding the rail, which may have been a slight advantage. Plus he was 53-1 then and he’ll be a fraction of that price here. I’m interested in a couple of others. Sandrone arguably ran just as well as Devil Or Angel in his debut. He didn’t break that sharply and then made an eye-catching wide move into contention on the far turn before flattening out. That was a deceptively strong performance and he can improve second time out. My top pick is Buckortwo. I had tried this horse in his debut and he just ran like one that needed a race. Michelle Nevin doesn’t always have them cranked up for their first starts, and he was wide most of the way in a race dominated by horses that had inside position. He’s bred to have some ability as a half-brother to good turf sprinter Dancing Buck, and I think we’re going to see a better effort out of him this time.
Exacta Key Box: 9 with 4,7,8,11
RACE 7: MANIFEST DESTINY (#2)
I don’t trust the likely favorites in this spot. More Graytful may attract support on the class drop, but I’m skeptical of this guy as he returns from an extended layoff. He was a vet-voided claim when last seen in March, and he was extremely disappointing that day as he dropped out of open company. The connections could have brought him back at the same level and protected him, but instead they’re begging for someone to take him off their hands for $25k. The problem with this race is that the most logical alternative is Durkin’s Call. This 5-year-old was visually impressive in victory last time, but he got an absolutely perfect setup in a race that fell apart late. He was never a winning machine, and I’m skeptical that he can run back to that performance as he returns just 16 days later. I suppose one could consider horses like Dugout or Just Right, who both make some sense, but I want to get more creative. Manifest Destiny has the back races to be competitive at this level, but his recent form leaves something to be desired. Yet I don’t want to be too hard on him because now he’s getting a massive rider upgrade to Kendrick Carmouche. He has more tactical speed than he’s displayed in recent starts and I think Kendrick will get him a little more involved in the early going this time. If he runs as well as he did on June 27, when he arguably should have won after encountering traffic late, he has a real chance to win this race at a price.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 3,8,9
RACE 8: INTRODUCED (#8)
Robin Sparkles is obviously the horse to beat in this spot, but she’s been short prices against stakes company a few times this year and has yet to win a stakes on the turf. She did perhaps go a little too fast in the early going of that Caress, which helped set things up for the very talented Caravel. And she had a right not to like the yielding turf two back in the Smart N Fancy. She bounced back with a solid effort last time at Laurel and a repeat of that performance may be good enough here. Yet she has to deal with some other speed and there is a bit of rain in the forecast. I think she probably deserves to be favored, but I wouldn’t want to take too short a price on her. I believe Too Sexy is dangerous. Is it possible that she’s just turned a corner at the end of her 4-year-old season? She’s pretty hard to support based on her form prior to the last race, but she took a huge step forward that day. She sat off a moderate pace and just rocketed home through the stretch. I would hardly be surprised if she stepped right up to beat stakes foes off that performane. My top pick is Introduced. This mare’s form to start the year was a little spotty. She returned from the layoff with a good effort in the License Fee, finishing just a length behind Robin Sparkles. Although she then disappointed twice out of town, she appeared to get back on track this summer at Monmouth, winning her last two starts in gritty fashion. She is stepping up to face a tougher field this time, but Jorge Duarte is on a roll this year. Over the past 4 months, Duarte is 9 for 23 (39%, $5.27 ROI) with all of his turf starters, and he’s won with a couple of runners at NYRA during that time. Introduced also has the right running style, in that she can sit just off the pace but won’t be left with too much to do.
Exacta Key Box: 8 with 6,7,9
Trifecta: 8 with 6,7 with 1,2,6,7,9