It's Black Friday, and to our way of thinking, the best way to celebrate it is to eschew the malls and head to the track. We have focused on a quintet of stakes racing at Aqueduct and Churchill Downs. We're expecting fast dirt in both New York and Kentucky; we discuss the turf conditions below. Let's get right to it.
Aqueduct, Race 5, 1:48 pm ET
$150,000 Forever Together Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
A field of eight will go to the post in the Forever Together. The turf at Aqueduct was rated good on Friday morning, and we are expecting it to stay that way through the day's racing. We mention this because 11-Sweet Bye and Bye is a deserving 6/5 morning line favorite, but we think she is vulnerable on grass with a bit of give to it. We think that makes 9-Andina Del Sur is a strong play: she is in razor-sharp form, and has proven in the past that she can handle softer turf. We expect Andina Del Sur to get a mid-pack, stalking trip, and to hit the line first with a strong stretch move. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 5, $30 to win on 9-Andina Del Sur.
Aqueduct, Race 8, 3:15 pm ET
Grade 3 Comely Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies
A field of eight drew into the Comely, and it's a good field and a good race. We like the horse on the inside, 1-Stand for the Flag, who goes to the post for Jason Servis. She is lightly raced, with only four career starts, but she's won the last two of them, and it looks like she has a lot of upside, that her fastest races are still in front of her. We will bet that one of them will be today, and will gladly take 6-1 at the prospect. We will bet her to win. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $30 to win on 1-Stand for the Flag.
Aqueduct, Race 9, 3:44 pm ET
$200,000 Gio Ponti Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3-Year-Olds
The Gio Ponti drew nine entrants, and the headliner here is 5-Halladay, who's trained by Todd Pletcher, and has earned his status as 8/5 favorite off a string of consistent and consistently fast races. But we are looking elsewhere here, and it's to a big price, 3-Backtohisroots, who is coming off a long layoff, having last raced a year ago. We like him for a couple of reasons: one is that he's shown that he can handle conditions like those he will face today -- the best race of his life was a good turf course at Belmont Park -- and we also like the fact that trainer John Terranova has an incredible 36% win rate with horses coming off layoffs of 180 days or longer. He has the kind of workout pattern we like to see in horses coming back, a long, steady string of stamina-building works, with the occasional fast one mixed in, and we think he has a big chance today at a giant price. He's 15-1 on the morning line, and because of that, we will bet him to win and to place. The bets: Aqueduct, Race 9, $25 to win and $15 to place on 3-Backtohisroots.
Churchill Downs, Race 8, 4:27 pm ET
Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3-Year-Old Fillies
We're expecting the turf course at Churchill to be good today.
A full field of 14 will go in the Mrs. Revere. This is a sensationally good late-season turf race, from both sporting and wagering standpoints. We like 12-New and Improved, who starts for Chad Brown, and we like her quite a bit: her late-running style is nothing short of sensational, and we think that this race will set up almost perfectly for her. She has two wins in three career starts, and while it may seem a point of concern that her lone career defeat came on an off turf course, we think the turf today will be much, much firmer than the bog she faced in the Riskaverse. We are expecting New and Improved to be a star in the female turf division next year, and we are expecting her to announce it with an emphatic win in the Mrs. Revere today. We will bet her to win at 3-1, we will do so enthusiastically, and we will watch for her to unleash a thrilling run down the Churchill Downs stretch. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 8, $50 to win on 12-New and Improved.
Churchill Downs, Race 11, 5:56 pm ET
Grade 1 Clark Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, Dirt, 3 & Up
Eleven older horses and one 3-year-old will go to the post in the Clark, a terrific late-season Grade 1 race. We are all over the 8/5 favorite, 2-Tom's d'Etat: he's an admirably consistent horse who has run five consecutive very strong races against some of the best handicap horses in training. We think he can handle this group very comfortably: most of the top horses in this division have been retired or are being rested right now, and we are assuming that Tom's d'Etat is still in training because he is doing so well. We think he becomes a Grade 1 winner today; we will bet him to win. The bet: Churchill Downs, Race 11, $50 to win on 2-Tom's d'Etat.
That's all for today. As always, good luck at the windows.