The $250,000 Guaranteed Pick 4 at Aqueduct includes three graded stakes this afternoon as it kicks off in Race 7, the GII Remsen. The rest of the sequence will be made up of the GI Gazelle, Race 8, the Cigar Mile, Race 9, and a N2L claimer where a baker’s dozen will scramble for the cash. Click here for my full card analysis for the 10 race card at Aqueduct.
Here’s a closer look at each of the stakes races with my Pick 4 play.
Race 7 - 1. MOUNTAIN TOWN 2. TO HONOR AND SERVE 3. BUFFUM
#3 MOUNTAIN TOWN returns from a brief freshening for trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr. as this son of Cape Town ran into eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Uncle Mo in the Champagne last time out. This colt made a bold move around the far turn to test the heavy favorite turning for home but obviously was no challenge for the heavy favorite. This will be his first start around two turns but two of his siblings have won routing and his 2nd dam dropped 12 winners headed by Belmont and Travers winner Birdstone. If the pace gets a tad warm will all of the horses in here stretching out then this guy will certainly benefit. #5 TO HONOR AND SERVE is a deserving favorite in here as he has scored twice in a row in a MSW event that had been taken off the turf and the Nashua last time out. He capitalized on a great pace setup over a gold rail in the Nashua victory but his final quarter-mile was quite impressive. It appears as if added ground is going to be no issue for him and it’d be foolish to call him a “need the lead” type, so expect him to give a good account of himself in this, the biggest test of his career. #1 BUFFUM scored at first asking for trainer Tom Albertrani as he showed tremendous potential taking over and digging in gamely despite tracking strong early splits. He should be on the engine in here breaking from the inside and the added ground doesn’t look like it will be a big issue. His two workouts since the maiden win are strong and he’ll be treated with Lasix for the first time this afternoon, so don’t be surprised if he runs even better today.
Race 8 - 1. DUBAI DANCER 2. NO SUCH WORD 3. AWESOME MARIA
#5 DUBAI DANCER looks to be the “now” horse as she makes her first foray into Grade I company for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. He sent her down to Monmouth to try stakes company in the Witches Brew and she was victorious but it was a workmanlike victory. This is obviously a tougher race than the one she exits but she should excel with more ground and figures to get a favorable trip pace-wise. #8 NO SUCH WORD has faced the best competition of any horse in this group as she has a couple of graded stakes wins and on the board finishes behind Blind Luck and Acting Happy. Her Remington Oaks win was greatly aided by a wickedly fast pace but this daughter of Canadian Frontier was bet down to 4/5 for a reason. She’s deserving of favoritism in here and will make noise late. #1 AWESOME MARIA has had a disappointing 2010 campaign after picking up a G2 win and narrow miss in a G1 as a juvenile. She is switching surfaces once again after finishing 4th at 6/5 in an overnight stake on the weeds last month. Trainer Todd Pletcher is just 1 for his last 14 with graded stakes horses going turf to dirt, with just a $0.22 ROI, so there are legitimate knocks on this filly, especially given that she’ll be well backed at the windows.
Race 9 - 1. BRIBON 2. FRIEND OR FOE 3. HALF METAL JACKET
The last three times #3 BRIBON has been stretched out to a mile from a sprint race he has been victorious twice and second once, but his Beyer figures in those efforts were 100, 118, and 106. His win in the Bold Ruler last time out was devastatingly easy and he didn’t exactly get a white-hot pace to run at that afternoon. The pace in here appears as if it’s going to be solid as a number of pressers will go postward. Look for him to be in high gear in crunch time and his morning line odds of 3-1 look like value. #6 FRIEND OR FOE extended his record in non-graded stakes to 4 for 4 when he won the Empire Classic last time out on NY Showcase Day. He set an uncontested pace that afternoon and finished up in a very strong 1:46 and 4/5. Jockey Alex Solis put him on the lead and said afterwards that he seems to run better when allowed to run a little bit early, and he won’t have to go considerably faster today than he did last time out. Furthermore, a flat mile looks to be right up his alley as his two defeats upstate both came going two turns. #8 HALF METAL JACKET is going to be a longshot in here but his best efforts have come at Aqueduct with his lone blemish in four starts coming in a N3X optional seller behind graded stakes winner Tizway. This guy made a good late move to snag the show dough behind Bribon last time out and is another who has run well when stretching out to a flat mile from a sprint race.
Race 10 - 1. WINNING TOKEN 2. KILL THE JOKER 3. ROTTEN TO THE CORE
A bit of crafty reading of the PPs of #5 WINNING TOKEN makes him a bit more appealing as his two most recent races on fast dirt make him very competitive in this event. He faced deeper last time out on a wet track as the winner of that event was dropping from a much steeper claiming event. The 3rd place finisher of his last start came back to finish 2nd in a 10k conditioned claimer on Friday, so that event had some quality. There’s a surprisingly small amount of pace in this affair despite the big field but this son of Gold Token should get a decent enough setup to make noise late. #13 KILL THE JOKER is the one to catch in here but will be faced with the daunting task of clearing from the far outside with a baker’s dozen in the gate. He was away somewhat slowly then rushed up to reach contention in his last start and that was a race won by repeat winner Broken Home from off the pace. Jockey Jose Bermudez is going to have to hustle him from the gate to get the lead but it really looks like you want to have him on a Pick 4 ticket that ends here. #1 ROTTEN TO THE CORE sat a nice trip in his last start before angling out to rally and finish in a dead heat for 2nd. He raced on the best part of the track that afternoon before he tipped out but off the pace rallies were few and far between on the 11/6 card. It would seem as if he’s another logical candidate in an extremely contentious race.
In the $250,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 4, let’s play: 1,3,4,5 with 5,8 with 3,6 with 1,4,5,6,10,13 TOTAL: 108
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Best of luck and I’ll be back tomorrow to recap the final Grade I races of the year in New York!