Happy new year.
There's a lot of action around the country, as is fitting for a big holiday. And it looks like the weather is going to cooperate: it will be warm for January on the East Coast, it will be tourist weather in Florida, and out West at Santa Anita, they're expecting some sun and highs around 70.
The biggest race of the day is the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct, which has a post time just before 4:00 pm. For fun, we've handicapped a quintet of races, each from a different track, that will go off in about an hour's time this afternoon, and which culminate with the Jerome.
We are expecting fast dirt and firm turf everywhere; let's go.
Laurel Park, Race 6, 2:51 pm ETAllowance, 6 1/2 furlongs, dirt, Maryland-bred fillies & Mares 4 & Up
This allowance race for state-bred females drew a field of eight. The hot favorite is on the outside, 8-Bunting, who comes into this race after a speed-and-fade effort in a minor stakes at Laurel. We think she is a very vulnerable favorite, as she probably needs the lead to win, and we think she's going to have some company up front.
We like 4-You Made It, who starts for trainer Kieron Magee. This 4-year-old mare (who was a 3-year-old yesterday; like all racing Thoroughbreds, she turns a year older today) is in razor-sharp form, having won two in a row, and while those were claiming races, we think she looks good enough to step up to the allowance level. We also think her stalking running style is a fit for the expected race shape, which should see a fast early pace, and a winner coming from just off it. We will bet her to win at 4-1. The bet: Laurel Park, Race 6, $25 to win on 4-You Made It.
Tampa Bay Downs, Race 6, 3:13 pm ETAllowance/Optional Claiming, 7 furlongs, dirt, Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
Seven female horses go in this one. The horse on the outside, 7-Tolly Ho, is a strong pick: she's been away since the spring, but her speed figures in her races then are superior to what the other horses have earned, and she should be even better with some additional physical maturity under her belt. She has by far the most early speed in the race; we see her getting the lead rather easily, and not looking back. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Tampa Bay Downs, Race 6, $40 to win on 7-Tolly Ho.
Gulfstream Park, Race 7, 3:30 pm ETAllowance/Optional Claming, 1 1/8 miles, turf, 4 & Up
This race drew a full field of 12, and it's a fascinating race to handicap, as there are some quality horses entered. We like a horse at a price, 4-Shore Magic, who starts for trainer Christophe Clement. This 4-year-old colt is as well-bred a horse as you'll see, out of top sire Medaglia d'Oro and an Arch mare, and he's really done nothing wrong in his three career starts. He finished fifth in a similar allowance spot at Churchill Downs in November, but we are expecting him to run much better today. We think 8-1 is a very, very good price on a horse of this quality, so we will bet him to win. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 7, $35 to win on 4-Shore Magic.
Santa Anita Park, Race 3, 3:30 pm ETAllowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, dirt, 4 & Up
A field of six drew into this race, but it's an interesting race to handicap despite the small field size. We like the horse on the outside here, 6-Instagrand, who is now 4, and who was a top 3-year-old last spring, a leading Kentucky Derby contender until he finished third in the Santa Anita Derby in April.
We think that at races up to a mile, Instagrand is still a top-notch horse. His last race, a dismal effort in a sprint at Santa Anita in which he finished last, was unquestionably bad, but that was his first race off a layoff, and we are expecting a big improvement today. Because of the dud he ran last time, we're getting a very square price of 4-1, and we'll take it. Look for him to be forwardly placed early, and to control the race from the jump. We will bet him to win. The bet: Santa Anita Park, Race 3, $40 to win on 6-Instagrand.
Aqueduct, Race 7. 3:55 pm ET$150,000 Jerome Stakes, 1 mile, dirt, 3-year-olds
The Jerome drew a field of eight, and it features the biggest favorite of the day, 3-Independence Hall, who's 1/5 on the morning line after winning both of his career starts in dominating fashion, and earning big speed figures in both. On form, it looks like he will have to fall down to lose.
But at post-time odds around 1/9 -- he may be the biggest favorite of the month at the Big A -- we are going to take a shot against him. Make that two shots: we're going with 7-Bourbon Bay, a Mark Hennig trainee, to win the race, and we are also going to bet him to show. We are expecting a negative show pool in this race, which means that if Independence Hall hits the board, Aqueduct will pay out more money in show bets than were bet in the pool. When a favorite of this magnitude runs out -- out of the money, that is -- the show payoffs can be astronomical. We will take a flier that Bourbon Bay can win the race, and that somehow Independence Hall finishes fourth or worse. The bets: Aqueduct, Race 7, $20 to win and $50 to show on 7-Bourbon Bay.
That's all for today. Good luck at the windows.