11/12/2009 12:00AM

Aqueduct roundup



Chad Brown

Though he won't turn 31 until the inner track opens next month, Chad Brown, the former assistant to Bobby Frankel, is winning at well over 20 percent this year and won with four of his first five starters at Aqueduct's fall meet, including all three of his starters on grass. Among those, the highlight was Expansion ($27.60), who went last to first in the Grade 2 Red Smith while making his first start for the trainer and first in a stakes race.

Tony Dutrow

Tony Dutrow was tied atop the standings with Brown after the first fortnight, and all four of his winners were favored, including Bon Marie and Solar Flare on the Nov. 4 program.

Bon Marie, an 8-year-old gelding, won his fourth straight turf route. Solar Flare, a 5-year-old formerly trained by Larry Jones, returned from a four-month absence to win the Half High overnight stakes with a 101 Beyer Speed Figure.

"We're hoping he will take to the inner track," Dutrow said.

Angel Serpa

Sure, Ramon Dominguez posted another five-win day last week and was comfortably in front with a 16-for-51 record heading into Week 3. But his 31.3 percent win rate was only second best, because seven-pound apprentice Angel Serpa guided home three winners from his first nine mounts - at an average mutuel of $20.70 that was highest among the top 12 riders and nearly four times the average price of a Dominguez winner. Serpa's wins included a double aboard Decorated Court ($21.40) and King Bo Bo ($28.80) on Nov. 5.


Through two weeks, the most noteworthy trend has been on the turf course, where, because of its hairpin turns, one might intuitively think speed horses have an advantage.

In actuality, it has been just the opposite. From the first 22 races, only two winners were able to lead all the way, and both - Marquet Cat and Elena's Princess - were favorites. Criticism, the next-closest thing to a wire-to-wire winner, was second at the first call before taking over to win the Long Island for the second straight year at odds of 1-2.

Otherwise, it has been off-the-pace types on the grass: 16 of the 22 winners were fifth or farther back in the early stages. The key is saving at least some ground on the turns with an "inside-out" kind of trip.

The main track has been relatively bias-free for the most part, though horses racing in outside paths appeared to have the edge over a sloppy and slow surface opening day (Oct. 28), and closers seemed to fare especially well on the Nov. 5 card, including both of the aforementioned Serpa-guided winners and Ask Ommadon ($11.80), who rallied from next-to-last. Also worth noting that later on the card, Fiddlers Patriot couldn't hold a clear early lead and faded to fourth at 7-5.

After some overnight rain, the main track was particularly slow for the Nov. 1 program.


This weekend, approximately $80,000 is up for grabs (based on 200 entrants) in the Aqueduct Handicapping Challenge, a two-day event where the top three finishers will earn spots in the 2010 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas on Jan. 29-30. The top three fly and stay courtesy of the New York Racing Association.

Saturday's feature is the Grade 3, $100,000 Stuyvesant, and since we didn't run enough restricted stakes in New York with the Showcase Day races on closing weekend at Belmont, six more New York Stallion Series events are on tap for Sunday.

Next Saturday, Gone Astray is expected to try and stretch his winning streak to three in the Grade 3, $100,000 Discovery for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

"He's changed since we started running him at two turns," trainer Shug McGaughey said, referring to the colt's back-to-back wins in the Pennsylvania and Ohio derbies. "He ran second at Monmouth, and then second to Blame, and his last two races have been great."

Also under consideration for the Discovery is Haynesfield, who won the Empire Classic in his second start back from a layoff for Steve Asmussen Inc.

Haynesfield won the Damon Runyon, Count Fleet, and Whirlaway stakes at Aqueduct last winter.


Besides the Triple Crown races, nothing gets overanalyzed more than the Breeders' Cup. And after what happened this year, I resolve, at least from a personal for-the-pocket standpoint, to at least throw in a saver on the upper-crust Beyer Speed Figure horses in each of the super-chaotic events.

We were evaluating past histories in the Cup, trainer patterns, workout reports, and off-the-cuff stable comments for weeks on end, and meanwhile, to paraphrase Damon Runyon, the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet.

How about the following:

* Cloudy's Knight, with a figure 1 point below Nite Light's latest effort, was nosed in the Marathon at better than 7-1.

* California Flag ($8.80), who had the top last-out fig, wired the Turf Sprint in what was a slower-paced matchup than last year.

* Dancing in Silks ($52.60) owned the top last-out fig in the Sprint, plain and simple - and on a synthetic track to boot. That's 25-1, folks.

* Furthest Land ($44.60) had the top last-out fig in the Dirt Mile (which hasn't been a "dirt mile" in any of its first three editions, but don't get me started). "Only" 21-1 for the top-fig horse.

Yo, anyone seen my copy of "Beyer On Speed"?


Buddy's Saint

Trainer: Bruce Levine

Last race: Nov. 7, 4th

Finish: 1st by 12

After being disqualified from a first-place finish in his maiden debut at Belmont, he was first-time Lasix in the Grade 2 Nashua and turned the one-mile stakes into an exhibition, winning off by a dozen lengths and earning a 101 Beyer Figure - among the fastest races by a 2-year-old this season. He is targeting the 1 1/8-mile Remsen on Nov. 28.

Mambo Fever

Trainer: Anthony Dutrow

Last race: Nov. 7, 7th

Finish: 2nd by 1 1/4

Ned Evans homebred improved 21 Beyer points for a maiden win at Saratoga second time out, and then improved another 17 points when brought back from a two-month layoff for a placing in the Grade 3 Tempted, in which she was better than six lengths clear of the third finisher.


Trainer: Dan Peitz

Last race: Oct. 31, 7th

Finish: 1st by 4

Purchased as a weanling for $200,000 by Shadwell Stable, this 2-year-old colt by Smarty Jones lagged in eighth position early, altered course to the outside, and finished powerfully to win his debut going away. He was taken in hand through the final stages and recorded an 86 Beyer for the effort.

Sean Avery

Trainer: Mike Hushion

Last race: Nov. 8, 3rd

Finish: 1st by 2

Returned from a yearlong absence to win maiden sprint in hand at Saratoga, then came back to run a close third in the fastest first-level allowance of the season later at that meet. Freshened up for two months, he got through that condition with a sharp on-the-pace score and earned a career-best 96 Beyer.