Picks & Plays for Sunday, July 9
by David Aragona
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Race 1: 6 - 8 - 5 - 7
Race 2: 3 - 2 - 1 - 5
Race 3: 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
Race 4: 3 - 2 - 7 - 4
Race 5: 9 - 4 - 10 - 7
Race 6: 4 - 1 - 8 - 9
Race 7: 7 - 3 - 8 - 2
Race 8: 2 - 1 - 7 - 10
Race 9: 5 - 3 - 6 - 10
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.)
Grab the Glory (#8) was part of a heavily favored entry on debut, and it’s not quite clear which half of the pair was attracting more of that support. She showed some speed from the gate but was taken in hand soon after. She appeared to be traveling well into the lane and only produced a mild stretch kick. Now she returns with that start under her belt for Linda Rice, who is 8 for 37 (22%, $2.01 ROI) with maiden second time starters in turf sprints over 5 years. She would be no surprise if she took a step forward, and is probably the horse to beat as she goes out for the meet’s leading barn. Nicky Jolene (#3) finished a half-length ahead of Grab the Glory last time and I didn’t think she had a major excuse. She got first run on that rival and was just making up mild ground at the very end as the winner was coming back to the field. I was more interested in some fresher faces as alternatives. I wouldn’t fault anyone for giving a look to first time starters in here. Tough Love Torres (#4) obviously makes sense based on pedigree for Mike Maker, though that barn doesn’t have the best numbers with juvenile debut runners in turf sprints. Find Your Joy (#5) is another one who is bred to handle turf sprinting, and Tom Morley and Javier Castellano did team up for a two-year-old debut winner on grass earlier in the meet. My top pick is a horse switching to this surface for the first time. Play Free Bird (#6) lacked early speed in the debut and raced a bit greenly towards the back of the pack, bearing out on the turn in a reaction to kickback. She stayed on at one pace through the lane even as the leader was tiring late. New sire Maximus Mischief has yet to compile much of a record on turf, but Into Mischief is a solid influence. The dam was 0 for 6 and lost her only turf attempt. She’s produced one winner from 3 foals to race, none winning on grass. There is sneaky turf pedigree in this female family. The dam is a full-sister to Icy Atlantic, a Grade 2 stakes winner on turf who nearly $1 million, and is a half-sister to Wild Promises, another multiple stakes winner on grass. It’s interesting that Rosario gets aboard this time, and she’ll be a price.
#6 PLAY FREE BIRD, at 5-1 or greater
The favorites look pretty suspect to me in this conditioned claimer. Liberty Flame (#2) is probably a more deserving favorite as she drops and turns back to a more appropriate distance. But she’s also a little tough to trust as she switches back to the apprentice. I want to look at the bigger prices. Simple Sugar (#1) exits the same race as Liberty Flame, and was ridden aggressively to chase that foe early before fading. Turning back will also suit her, and she has some upside second off the layoff. My top pick is Sweet as Sugar (#3). Lolita Shivmangal is an underrated trainer who can surprise with longshots on this circuit. The filly had displayed decent form for Jeremiah Englehart last year before going the wrong way. She didn’t get the right trip first off the claim for this back in March, and then was again shuffled back in the early stages last time before launching a strong late rally. She now returns from a layoff, but is catching a soft field and may be capable of better if she can regain her tactical speed.
#3 SWEET AS SUGAR, at 3-1 or greater
I’ll keep this simple. There is absolutely no one in this race that I would want to bet outside of Idea Generation (#2). Her rivals have all had their chances and appear to have limited upside at this point. They also lack early speed, and she looks like she has a huge tactical advantage. I know her speed figures look a little lower due to the fact that she only raced as a 2-year-old, but she’s supposed to be awfully tough for this field to handle with any kind of routine improvement. She would be a key horse in multi-race wagers.
#2 IDEA GENERATION, at 1-1 or greater
Luna Warrior (#7) looks pretty formidable on paper off his runner-up finish at this level last time. He chased an honest pace and just got run down going 7 furlongs, so this turnback to 6 furlongs figures to suit him. There’s no doubt that he comes in with the best speed figures and will be tough if able to repeat that last performance. However, he’s lost some races that he was supposed to win before, and tends to shorten stride approaching the wire regardless of distance. He also could find himself having to chase the quick Kasimba (#4), who tries turf for the first time. That one has a bit of grass pedigree, but I was still more interested in some others. Lawful (#3) finished well behind Luna Warrior last time, but I didn’t think he got the best ride from Flavien Prat. This horse didn’t break that badly but then was taken far out of contention early. He followed some bigger prices into the far turn showing no urgency until the field got into the lane. When Lawful was finally asked for run, he actually made up a lot of ground to get up for fourth, but the two leaders had gotten too far away. I expect he’s not going to be as far back this time as he cuts back in distance and Prat retains the mount. I liked some of his races at Gulfstream, and this feels like a more appropriate distance. I also wouldn’t totally discount Bill of Rights (#2), who exits that same race. He, too, was pretty far back in the early stages. He didn’t make up nearly as much ground as Lawful in the stretch, but he was also ridden pretty conservatively that day, like a horse who might have needed the start. There appears to be some substance to this gelding and I would expect him to show up with a better effort this time.
#3 LAWFUL, at 5-2 or greater
#2 BILL OF RIGHTS, at 11-1 or greater
Paratus (#7) will probably go favored again after just missing at this level last time. However, I thought he was really supposed to win that race. The pace wasn’t exactly quick, but the race played fairly and he had every chance to get there in the stretch. Like in his start two back, he just seemed to stall a bit in the last eighth of a mile, and that’s a concern with a runner who will be a short price again. General’s Duty (#8) finished just behind Paratus in that tougher spot two back and seems like a candidate to move forward second off the layoff. However, he possesses that same plodding running style and I’m not totally convinced he possesses the turn of foot to run them all down. Ghostlyprince (#1) finished behind Paratus in that June 15 affair, but his trip is worth watching. He seemingly had plenty of run at the quarter pole after saving ground, but his rider made little effort to get him into the clear, just sitting like a statue until the eighth pole. He finally asked him for run and the horse responded but simply ran out of real estate. He’s better than that result and I think he’s dangerous, likely to work out another ground-saving trip. My top pick is Mighty Atlas (#4), who might just be dropping to the right level for the first time. His turf debut might not look like much on paper, but I thought he showed some affinity for the surface that day. He was taken well off the pace early and got a pretty good ground-saving trip until the top of the stretch. While he was only passing tired runners late, I thought he lengthened his stride nicely through the lane, and did well to only finish 4 lengths behind second-place in a race dominated by a runaway winner. Now he gets blinkers, so hopefully he can stay a bit more engaged early.
#4 MIGHTY ATLAS, at 5-1 or greater
#1 GHOSTLYPRINCE, at 6-1 or greater
You’re My Girl (#3) is a class standout as she returns from the layoff in this New York-bred allowance affair. She proved that her 14-length debut win was no fluke when her connections ambitiously stepped her up into the Grade 1 Frizette last year. She set the pace that day and gamely battled winner Chocolate Gelato all the way to the wire. Althought she failed to hit the board in the Breeders' Cup, it's not like she was disgraced against a competitive field. She has to cut back to 6 furlongs off the layoff, but she appears to be working well for the return. John Terranova is 10 for 28 (36%, $3.70 ROI) off 180+ day layoffs on dirt over the past 5 years. She gets Lasix for the first time and doesn’t need the lead to be successful. That’s good news, because there is plenty of early speed in this field. Miss Stones (#1) and Tosconova Beauty (#2)should have intentions to make the front, and there are even others who could press the issue early. The only true deep closer in the field is Fancy Feline (#8), and she is one that I would want to use, especially underneath if this pace comes apart. Fancy Feline was allowed to lose contact with the field last time, but she’s generally better when she can stay a bit more engaged early. She’s had excuses and should get the right setup. My top pick is I’mhavingamoment (#7), who isn’t as obvious of an off-the-pace type. Yet I do think that John Velazquez will just be forced to adopt a mid-pack position given all the speed in here. I don’t care too much about her turf races, as she did show ability on dirt early in her career. She had to deal with some greenness issues through her early races, lugging in a couple of times. Yet I thought she ran especially well in that Mar. 17 race, and then was against a dead rail when glued to the inside on Apr. 16. Her overall dirt form is better than it looks, and I don’t mind her turning back.
#7 I'MHAVINGAMOMENT, at 4-1 or greater
A few runners in this field exit the June 11 race at this level won by Peg’s A. K. Girl. Dontmesswithtess (#10) did put in a solid late run that day considering that the pace was on the slow side, bouncing back from a disappointing performance two back. However, now she draws the far outside post and picks up Irad Ortiz, so she’s unlikely to be much of a price. I’m more interested in others from that affair. Except Temptation (#7) closed decently for third, pairing up solid efforts at the level. She’s not really a winning type at 1 for 23 lifetime, but there isn’t much to knock about her current form. Though the most interesting horse from that June 11 affair is probably Cumberland Falls (#1). She got pretty keen around the clubhouse turn and into the backstretch, forcing Flavien Prat to angle her outside, and then to inevitably make an early move. She raced without cover from there and predictably flattened out late after briefly challenging. She figures to get a better trip this time breaking from the rail, and the slight turnback should suit this 3-year-old filly. Yet I want to go in a different direction for my top pick. Some might dismiss Stella Mars (#2) off the claim for connections that aren’t known for winning on this circuit, especially on turf. Yet this 5-year-old certainly fits on form. She ran well at this level last year, clearly needed a start sprinting off the layoff, and moved forward to break through against conditioned claimers last time. She only won by a neck, but she was much the best after getting held up in traffic until the top of the lane. As for this trainer switch, Naipaul Chatterpaul’s runners do tend to outrun their odds even if they don’t win that often. Stella Mars draws well, gets a capable rider, and figures to be the right price.
#2 STELLA MARS, at 6-1 or greater