His first post is 2:09 pm ET.
There's a staggering amount of horse racing action across the country today, and maybe it's the lack of daylight, but it feels a bit like New Year's Eve: if we count opening day at Santa Anita on December 26 as the start of next year, which it really is, then the final two Grade 1 stakes races of 2019 will be run today. Racing will not be dark for the next three weeks -- though we think it should; we think a December break would be good for everyone, both human and equine, who works in this great sport -- but it nevertheless does feel as though today marks the end of the racing year.
Fortunately, there's an eye-popping amount of high-quality racing today, so much, in fact, that we have no chance whatsoever of covering even a small portion of it. Counting the Claiming Crown races at Gulfstream Park, there are 30 stakes races today, which is a staggering number. Like the revelers in Times Square, it seems, the racing world seems to be saying that if this is the end of the year, it's going to go out with a bang. And there's also the International Racing Festival, which is the last major global event of the year, and which is a big (and great) enough deal that we've done a separate post for it. It's really a good day to eschew the malls, and head to your local racetrack or simulcast facility instead.
As usual, we've selected the best races, and the ones with the best wagering potential, to analyze, and they are bicoastal: we have a QUINTET of stakes from Aqueduct on Long Island, and a pair of juvenile stakes at Los Alamitos in California. These are all on dirt, which we expect to be fast in both New York and California. Let's go.
Aqueduct, Race 6, 2:09 pm
Grade 3 Go for Wand Handicap, 1 mile, Dirt, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
The Go for Wand drew a field of six, and we normally pass on races with fields this small, but we like it because of the presence of favored 3-Spiced Perfection, a 4-year-old filly who for some reason is 3/5 on the morning line. We hope she goes off at 1/9, because at either price, she is a mammoth underlay, and a horse we'd wait in line for a week to bet against. This is a case where there's nothing wrong with the filly, or her form, but her odds are vastly out of whack with her chances at winning the race. If she has a 50% chance of winning the race -- and we think her chances are probably less than that -- does taking 3/5 odds make any sense? Put another way: would you take 3/5 on a coin flip?
We like 5-Saguaro Row, a 4-year-old Union Rags filly who starts for trainer Michael Stidham. Like Spiced Perfection, she's a stretch-out sprinter, but we like her prospects of getting the mile distance. We like her outside post, as mile races at Aqueduct are around one turn, from which we see her getting a good stalking trip, and taking the prize with a strong stretch run. We will play against the chalk, and bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 6, $30 to win on 5-Saguaro Row.
Aqueduct, Race 8, 3:13 pm
Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, Dirt, 2-Year-Old Fillies
A full field of twelve fillies will go to the post in the Demoiselle, and they will go long: 9 furlongs for juveniles, even this late in the year, is quite a distance, and we are consequently looking for fillies with stamina, who will be able to last the distance. This is doubly true because of how we see the shape of this race playing out: we see a fast early pace that will compromise the chances of the speed-oriented runners, of which there are quite a few.
All this makes 2-Maedean a strong play. She's 2-for-3 lifetime, with a win in a minor stakes in her last, and while all three of those races were one-turn miles, her breeding (she's by Tapit, out of an Arch mare) suggests that she will take to longer races like a duck takes to water. Her Beyer Speed Figure two back, 84, is the highest fig any runner in the race has earned, and she's got the highest late-pace figure, which means she should be running strongly in the races latter stages. Look for this gray girl to get a good midpack trip, and to seize control of the race at the top of the stretch. We will bet her to win at 7/2. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 8, $40 to win on 2-Maedean.
Aqueduct, Race 9, 3:43 pm
Grade 2 Remsen Stakes, 1 1/8 miles, Dirt, 2-Year-Olds
This is the colt version of the prior race; the field comprises nine juveniles. We like a Todd Pletcher entrant, 8-Alpha Sixty Six, who won a maiden race at Belmont Park in September in his first career start, then was very aggressively entered in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes, where he finished a creditable fifth. We think that experience will help him today; so will the fact that he looks to be a colt who should relish going around two turns. We will bet him to win at 4-1. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 9, $30 to win on 8-Alpha Sixty Six.
Aqueduct, Race 10, 4:16 pm
Grade 1 Cigar Mile, 1 mile, Dirt, 3 & Up
Aqueduct concludes a very good December card with the Cigar Mile, a corker of a Grade 1 that features the return of 5-Maximum Security, who finished first in the Kentucky Derby, but was taken down in the most famous disqualification in racing history. He is 3/2 in here, partly because of how well he ran in the Derby, but also because of his subsequent wins in the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth and the Grade 3 Bold Ruler at Belmont. He won both of those races by dominating on the front end, which is the same way he ran in the Derby.
But the presence of another 3-year-old colt, 5/2 second choice 6-Spun to Run, who won the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile last out, is, we think, going to make life very difficult for Maximum Security today. While Spun to Run won his Breeders Cup race in wire-to-wire fashion, he does not need the lead to win, as he proved winning a minor stakes at Parx two back. This is a case where post positions are hugely important: Maximum Security appears to have a bit more early speed of the two, and will probably get the early lead, but we see a scenario where Spun to Run is right outside of him, pinning him against the rail, and this will prevent Maximum Security from being able to relax, and that is going to make the difference. We normally dislike taking horses in their first start after the Breeders Cup, but this is an exception, as Spun to Run has a pair of sizzling workouts since, which suggests he is ready to deliver a big effort today. Maximum Security beat Spun to Run in the Haskell, but we think the tables get turned this afternoon. We will bet Spun to Run to win at 5/2. The bet: Aqueduct, Race 10,$40 to win on 6-Spun to Run.
Los Alamitos, Race 4, 4:58 pm
Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 2-Year-Olds
This race has in recent years been plagued by short fields, and this year it's as bad as ever, with only four colts entered, half of them trained by Bob Baffert. We're looking at it more from a sporting than a wagering perspective, as it's a poor betting race, but a couple of these may be worth following as the Triple Crown trail heats up early next year. We are particularly intrigued by 8/5 morning line favorite 3-Thousand Words, a Baffert entrant who sold as a yearling for $1,000,000, and who won his debut in a sprint at Santa Anita in October. The 88 Beyer Speed Figure he earned for that effort is exceptionally good for a juvenile, especially in a debut race, and if he moves forward around two turns today, he could move toward the front of the Kentucky Derby field. The other three runners were also expensive purchases, and while they do not appear to be quite as fast as Thousand Words, a win here would move them up as well. We're supposed to post a bet at the end of each race, and we will do so here, if only to satisfy the rules, but this is more a race to watch -- don't be surprised if one of these four turns out to be a star next year. The bet: Los Alamitos, Race 4, $5 to win on 3-Thousand Words.
Los Alamitos, Race 7, 6:28 pm
Grade 1 Los Alamitos Starlet, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 2-Year-Old Fillies
The year's final Grade 1 race in North America will go to the post in Orange County this afternoon. It's another short field, with only five fillies entered, but we like it as a betting race, as we think the headliners, 4/5 favorite 3-Donna Veloce and 7/5 second choice 2-Bast are both vulnerable. Both have been slower going around two turns then they were sprinting, and when horses show this pattern, slowing down as the races get longer, they virtually never reverse it. We think both are underlays, and we are eager to bet against both, especially at very, very short prices.
We like a big long shot in here 1-Roadrunner's Honor. She hasn't run anywhere nearly as fast as either of the two favorites, but the breeding and running style of this Doug O'Neill trainee looks like the kind of filly who will improve as the distances get longer. We see both of the favorites running on fumes down the stretch, and we are betting that Roadrunner's Honor will be able to pick up the pieces, and win the Starlet at a big price. Because she's 15-1, and may actually be a bit higher at post time, we will bet her to win and to place. The bets: Los Alamitos, Race 7, $20 to win and place on 1-Roadrunner's Honor.
That's all for today. We should note that today's posts, this one and a look at the races in Hong Kong that should go up later, will be our last until opening day at Santa Anita. Like horses being turned out after a long campaign, we are going to take a brief freshening, and we will be rested and raring to go when Santa Anita returns the day after Christmas. Until then, as always, good luck at the windows.