02/04/2011 10:16AM

Aqueduct Double Carry, Take Three


9:15 am: Rise and shine. Looks like Aqueduct Race Track is sufficiently de-iced to run a card today after cancellations on Wednesday and Thursday, so the $95,551 carryover from when nobody picked six last Saturday or Sunday is finally up for grabs.

The Friday sequence is no aesthetic masterpiece -- three maiden-claimers, two $7,500 claimers and a featured allowance/optional-claimer with a 2-to-5 dropdown ML favorite -- but after a January that's a blur of travel, snow, flu and cough syrup, it's time to get back in the pool. 

Here's a pre-scratch cheat sheet for a sequence that's currently 8x9x9x9x7x10. The lone early scratch is Galaxy Rush, no longer eligible to run in the 9th after winning a maiden race last Sunday.


After caffeinating, taking a second pass though the races and digesting any late scratches, I'll be back around noon with some thoughts on the card, and then we'll live or die through the sequence here, starting with race 4 at 1:53 pm ET.


11:55 am: Six late scratches, as indicated in the updated cheat-sheet above: Talk to Nick (4th), Lovely Lina (5th), Jetina and Above the Call (6th), Deflationary Fears (8th) and Market Analysis (9th). Not much help, as I dodn;t have any of them rated higher than a C at this point. So it's down to a 7x8x7x9x6x9 -- a mere $381,024 to buy the thing.


12:53 pm: Still have too many horses open -- I've totally x'ed out only 14 of the 47 remaining runners in the sequence -- so it's an hour of whittling and hairsplitting ahead.

Strategically, there are two obvious threshold issues today: How to play the 6th, where three of the seven are first-timers and the four who have run are uninspiring, and how heavily to lean on 2-5 Wishful Tomcat in the 8th.

In the 6th, the firsters from top trainers Chris Englehart and Linda Race, and even from the more obscure Richard Lugovich, don't have to be much to win their debuts. Leaning towards going with three A's in here -- the two well-connected firsters and Lady Alma, probably the best of those who have been out.

In the 8th, you have a seven-time stakes winner running in a N1x because RIck Dutrow is going the optional-claiming route and running Wishful Tomcat for $35k. He tired last time out to be beaten five lengths in a statebred stakes but still earned a Beyer figure 13 points better than anyone else's last race. There aren't many places to go in the race: Fine Flyer looks next best and makes his second start off a layoff. I've got the Fever showed promise in a maiden win last February but now must go nine furlongs in his first start since running 7th in the Gotham.

Here's where my ABCX grades and notes stand with an hour of refinement to go. Especially when I'm rusty from not having played for a while, I find it useful to write out a sheet like this, which makes me look at every horse and articulate a verdict on each:



1:45 pm: Eight minutes to post. Ended up singling Wishful Tomcat on over 90 percent of what turned out to be a pretty cavemannish play: A $1344 all-A's-and-B's, and five 5A/1C tickets totalling another $456. Grand total of $1800:


2:00 pm: Was really regretting downgrading Magic Max from a B to a C after he took a last-flash punch from 4-1 to 3-1 and opened a comfortable three-length lead through a soft half of 46.88, but narrow favorite Idol Image ($5.00) ran him down late and drew clear. Leaves me 3x4x7x1x4 on the big ticket.


2:15 pm: The daily-double probables on races 5 and 6 are the first clue about how the firsters might be bet in the 6th. So far, both the Englehart and Rice trainees are being bet as two of three clear choices in the race. The good news for those who stabbed with them is that they're both taking money; the bad news is that they're not taking much more money than Lady Alma, who is 0-for-14 with a lifetime Beyer top of 42. 


2:30 pm: Second choice No Imagination ($5.60) wore down third choice Soo's Purse, as favored Back to Hurstland was a dismal fourth, knocking out the remaining backups. SO it's 4x7x1x4 on the caveman off a $5.00/$5.60 start. Eh.

Blazin' Blues, the Englehart firster, took the late double and pick-3 money and is clearly favored in both of those pools.


3:00 pm: Ick. Rationalization: I coulda put in twice as much and still wouldn't have used 0-for-11 chronic stopper Soda Kaps ($22.00) who outdueled 3-2 Blazin' Blues early and faced no late challenges. Time for a peek at tomorrow, just in case things go haywire the rest of the way and Wishful Tomcat loses and there's a triple-carry into Saturday.


3:30 pm: No idea why Callmetony was even-money in the 7th, but that blew up the mutuel on top-fig Coaltown Legend to $10.80 and the exacta of the second-choice winner and third-choice runner-up Wadi Suki was a robust $58.50.


4:00 pm: Wishful Tomcat was a comfortable front-end winner at 1-5 but runner-up I've Got the Fever ran a remarkable race to be second while going nine furlongs in his first start since last March. Clearly rank early, IGTF was repeatedly checked and steadied into the first turn, and had every right to pack it in after fighting his rider all the way, but he regathered himself and finished well gaining several lengths through the stretch.

Here are the pick-6 probables for those of you who used Soda Kaps. Good luck in the finale:

4 - $4,267

10 - $7,943

7 - $9,865

1 - $11,911

2 - $20,436

5 - $21,991

6 - $26,009

8 - $71,526

9 - $95,369


4:20 pm: Goodnight Brad ($8.90) finished off the $7,943 Pick-6, a square payoff for a sequence with winners that paid $5.00, $5.60, $22.00, $10.80, $2.60 and $8.90 (a $4,810 parlay). Consos were worth $67 apiece.

The year's second third and fourth Grade 1 races are tomorrow -- the Donn and Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and the Las Virgenes at Santa Anita. Those are the only Grade 1 races this month and the last until the Big 'Cap, Kilroe and Santa Anita Oaks four weeks later on March 4.