12/31/2011 12:46PM

New Year's Eve Spot Plays


Let's take a look at some Saturday spot plays:

Aqueduct - Race 6 - Restrainor Stakes:

Ah, the perils of handicapping 48 hours out.  In the drf.com video, I mentioned that I was "dating" my top selection, COALITION, and was going to dump him if he disappointed me one more time.  Instead, a late equipment change to "blinkers on" for LIVE FOR TODAY has me wavering in my devotion to Coalition.  So, Coalition, you're out. 

I'm a cad.  Sue me.

The scratch of the expected speed, FREUDIAN THERAPIST, may leave DISCO ON and Live for Today contesting moderate fractions.  Of the two, I prefer the latter, a New York-bred in name only (by Mineshaft out of a Danzig mare).  The $22,000 yearling buyback raced four wide behind a tepid pace when an even fourth behind Swag Daddy and Disco On in the Damon Runyon Stakes on December 4.  He draws a better post position this time around and switches riders to some guy named Dominguez. 

Now, watch Coalition beat me at a big price.



Aqueduct - Race 8 - Alex M. Robb Stakes

I'll stick with my original opinion in the Robb.  Defending champion ICABAD CRANE makes the third start of the form cycle for Graham Motion and he received a tour of the racetrack in his most recent effort, the Adirondack Holme Stakes at one mile over a speed-favoring main track.  In the Adironack Holme, Icabad Crane raced four wide for the first quarter-mile before being angled to the inside late on the backstretch.  He split rivals on the turn, and altered course to the rail in midstretch only to angle back out three wide in the final eighth of a mile.  He was only beaten a length by GROOMEDFORVICTORY that day and the extra sixteenth of a mile presented to Icabad Crane today may work in his favor. 

The Robb has some other solid contenders.  STORMY'S MAJESTY, the winner of the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap in 2010, hasn't raced since being run down by Icabad Crane in the Evan Shipman Stakes at Saratoga.  He's had some foot issues, but trainer Dominic Gallusico has good numbers with similar layoff runners and Stormy's Majesty may shake loose early from the rail.  INHERIT THE GOLD reeled off five in a row during late 2010/early 2011 including the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes on April 2.  He missed the summer months with an ankle chip, but could be rounding back into his best form.  Groomedforvictory, trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., is razor sharp and can certainly win again.  SPA CITY FEVER should be a big price, but he occasionally runs well enough to crack the exotics and could be more forwardly-placed.  What a fun race!

Selections:  Icabad Crane, Stormy's Majesty, Spa City Fever


Gulfstream - Race 11 - Mr. Prospector Stakes

There are some question marks regarding the fitness of two of the main players so I'll search for a price runner in the Mr. Prospector.  APRIORITY, second in the Grade 1 Carter on April 9, exits the Breeders' Cup Sprint, but he reportedly came out of that race with a grabbed quarter and it took him about a month to get back on the work tab.  Apriority should appreciate today's class relief, but he draws a tricky inside post and it's possible he was simply going off form in the fall after a long, hard campaign. CAPT. CANDYMAN CAN, promoted to first in the Grade 1 King's Bishop in 2009, has raced sparingly over the past two seasons.  After finishing third in the Grade 3 Aristides on June 4, Capt. Candyman returned lame and it was feared that he fractured a shoulder.  Thankfully, that doesn't appear to have been the case.  Capt. Candyman Can has run well off long, injury-induced layoffs in the past, but isn't a great gamble at short-ish odds. 

Instead, I'll take NATHAN'S H Q, shipping down from Aqueduct for trainer Clyde Martin.  Nathan's H Q was taken off the pace and four wide over a speed-favoring surface in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap on November 24 and then had to swerve outward when another rival broke down.  To his credit, Nathan's H Q rallied under 131 lbs. to finish second by only a half-length.  He goes third off the layoff, draws a comfortable outside post position and has sneaky early speed.  He may park himself just off IMMORTAL EYES and THE HUNK on the backstretch, ready to pounce on the turn. 

INDIANO failed to change leads when beaten by Parx-loving ROYAL CURRIER in track record time in the $250,000 Gallant Bob Stakes on September 24, but he ran well over this surface when Grade 2-placed here in April.



Santa Anita - Race 8 - La Brea Stakes

TURBULENT DESCENT is a wonderful filly and is obviously the horse to beat in the Grade 1 La Brea.  A three-time Grade 1 winner, she had trouble when the beaten favorite in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on November 4.  While she should prove especially tough to down, I am concerned that she's only raced twice since June and will face some sharp runners in the La Brea. 

I'll take a shot with HOME SWEET ASPEN, a speedball drawn down on the rail.  An impressive gate-to-wire winner of the Louis R. Rowan Stakes over this surface on October 9, Home Sweet Aspen's recent form is dirtied up by a poor try against elders on grass at Hollywood.  That race was only a prep and she's better on the main track.  I'm hoping she can outfoot some quick ones to the front and still have enough left to hold off Turbulent Descent.  It's a tall order on paper so make sure the price is right. 

MAY DAY ROSE found a mile a furlong too far when an exhausted second in the Grade 2 Chilukki on Breeders' Cup Classic afternoon.  She opened up a clear lead in the stretch that day, but hopped back to her wrong lead and was overtaken late.  This turnback in distance should hit her right between the eyes for Bob Baffert.


More importantly, who do you like today?  I want to know.

Have a safe New Year's Eve.