11/25/2009 12:00AM

Aqueduct roundup



Enrique Arroyo

After going 0 for 11 at Saratoga and 1 for 27 at Belmont's fall meet, Arroyo was 5-1-3 with 19 starters heading into the last week of Aqueduct's fall session: Volos, Captain Sword, Bebob, Elena's Princess, and Chief Export all won claiming races in the $10,000-16,000 range. Chief Export ($8.10) had been legged up in a pair of 1 1/8-mile routes after being reclaimed and was the closest fit date-wise in a restricted claiming sprint Nov. 20.

Expect the momentum to continue: Arroyo won 10 races from 69 starters on the inner track last winter, with a $2.39 return on investment.

Keriann Mcgillycuddy

A former assistant to Rusty Arnold, the 28-year-old Mcgillycuddy recorded her first career victory as a trainer last Sunday with Jabbar ($16.80), a horse she bred, in an off-the-turf maiden special-weight. An extra 20 percent was added to the purse because of off-the-turf incentives, so the race was worth $50,400.


Two weeks ago, Midwatch, a gelding who will turn 11 in just a few weeks, had made 68 career starts and won one dirt race, on a wet-fast track at Tampa Bay Downs in 2003.

He proceeded to win two races on the main track in the span of five racing days for David Jacobson, wiring a $7,500 basement-claimer in the slop Nov. 14 and a $12,500 event Nov. 20 over a drying-out surface labeled good. The latter score transformed meet-leading apprentice Angel Serpa from a double (seven-pound) bug to a single (five-pound) bug, though the $8.40 win mutuel knocked Serpa's average payoff down to $19.90.


After winning an overnight stakes at Belmont on May 7, 2008, the New York-bred gelding lost nine straight races over the next 15 months, including six as the favorite.

Suddenly, however, all systems are go. He won back-to-back starts in second-level optional claimers and made it three straight scores by taking last Sunday's Study Hard overnight stakes for Barclay Tagg.


Limited to eight races during the racing week of Nov. 18-22, the turf course nevertheless produced two wire-to-wire winners; by contrast, there were three such winners during the first three weeks combined.

On the main track, horses with tactical speed had the advantage Nov. 18-19, with 10 of 14 dirt races won by horses that were no worse than second at any point, including eight wire-to-wire winners.

The speed-favoring trend evaporated Nov. 20: Though Midwatch and Came East led at every call, Midwatch was second choice and Came East was a 1-2 shot. Among the day's seven other dirt winners, five made up deficits ranging from five to 13 lengths.

Stalkers swept the seven dirt races Nov. 21. A mix of all running styles proved successful to conclude the week Nov. 22.


Saturday's quartet of the Hill 'n' Dale Cigar Mile, Gazelle, Remsen, and Demoiselle are the last stakes of the Grade 1 and Grade 2 variety in New York until next spring. The only graded stakes remaining on the schedule for 2009 is the Queens County, a Grade 3 for 3-year-olds and up at 1 3/16 miles on Dec. 12.

Here are the Beyer Speed Figure pars for Saturday's stakes, based on the average figures listed in the "American Racing Manual":

* Cigar Mile - 113 (range since 1990 is 106-124)

* Gazelle - 100 (range since 1990 is 95-112)

* Remsen - 93 (range since 1991 is 76-105)

* Demoiselle - 85 (range since 1990 is 68-94)

The inner-dirt track opens for business Wednesday for a four-month-long run. It's a unique, winterized one-mile oval that features sharp turns and the longest stretch run among the four dirt tracks on the NYRA circuit. The soil composition is much different from that of the main track, and many horses will not transfer their form from one to the other; one notable exception is Haynesfield, last week's Discovery winner, who came to prominence by winning the Damon Runyon, Count Fleet, and Whirlaway by open lengths last winter.

Tiebreakers in the contender selection process should favor horses with back form on the surface, particularly those that were given one or two prep runs following a layoff.

With the exception of a handful of races at 5 1/2 furlongs, all sprint races on the inner track are at six furlongs. The vast majority of two-turn routes are carded at a mile and 70 yards and 1 1/16 miles. Short or long, saving ground is vital around the turns; any horse drawn from post 8 and farther out has to be tons the best or very lucky to win.

Though the inner track has a speed-favoring reputation, the real key is saving ground. Off-the-pace runners can and do win when given favorable "inside-out" trips; in fact, the 2008-09 winter meet was punctuated by a large handful of days when stretch-running types had a demonstrable advantage: From Jan. 1 through March 29, the Racing Flow bias rating (150 or higher favors closers) exceeded 150 on 13 racing days and exceeded 200 seven times; in that span, there was not a single rating (-150 or lower) that denoted a speed bias.


Academy Run ($3.50) was hardly a "value" play in last Saturday's nightcap, but those who managed to anchor their late pick-four tickets with the Barclay Tagg-trained maiden winner and Citizen's Arrest ($14.40, a $500,000 second-time starter from Todd Pletcher), Codeword ($40.80, announced as a gelding first time back from a 15-month layoff), and Haynesfield ($9.90) in the Discovery collected a $4,547 payoff (for $2) that was nearly twice the win parlay.

Wagering considerations aside, this 3-year-old gelding has some major talent. He set the pace in his debut going seven furlongs on the Widener turf at Belmont on Sept. 26, and after cutting a six-furlong split of 1:07.84, he was run down in the final strides and lost by a neck to Strong Commitment, whose time of 1:20.29 narrowly missed the course record.

After dueling inside and coming up second-best again in a field of 11 on Polytrack at Keeneland, Academy Run stretched out to a mile and took no prisoners, shaking loose early and widening to win by eight lengths - an unheard of margin on this turf course, where 21 of 39 races heading into the last week had been won by less than a length and the next-biggest margin was three lengths.

Academy Run earned a 96 Beyer for the effort (one point less than Expansion's 97 for winning the Grade 2 Red Smith two weeks earlier) and upped Tagg's synthetic-to-turf record to four wins from seven starters in 2008-09.

Put him on your horses-to-watch list at Gulfstream Park.


Endless Circle

Trainer: Charlton Baker

Last race: Nov. 13, 1st

Finish: 4th by 5

Making just his third start of the year, the 5-year-old set the pace under pressure from the eventual 2-5 winner and lost the place late on a track favoring closers.

Financially Secure

Trainer: Chad Brown

Last race: Nov. 11, 4th

Finish: 2nd by 1/2

In his first start, he trailed by 14 lengths after the first quarter-mile, cut 10 lengths off the margin after three-quarters, rallied into traffic in the upper stretch, then split horses late and finished fastest before galloping out strongly.

Great Gracie Dane

Trainer: Derek Ryan

Last race: Nov. 12, 9th

Finish: 1st by 2 1/4

After a couple of mild rallies in off-the-turf races at Belmont, this 2-year-old daughter of Royal Academy finally had a grass race stay on. She lagged in next-to-last position for the opening half-mile, moved quickly along the inside on the far turn, then swung out and unleashed a strong late run to win a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight as much the best.


Trainer: Shug McGaughey

Last race: Nov. 15, 6th

Finish: 4th by 5 1/2

Half-sister to Remsen winner Saarland was unveiled in a sprint, trailed early in a field of 11, and found her best stride belatedly to wind up fourth in a promising debut. Empire Maker filly should only improve stretching out.

Very Sweet

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin

Last race: Nov. 15, 6th

Finish: 2nd by neck

Reserved through the opening stages, this 2-year-old daughter of Gone West rallied wide and finished fastest to miss by a diminishing neck in her debut.