04/05/2014 11:20AM

Dave Litfin's Aqueduct handicapping notebook April 5


Friday, April 4 review

Through a misty rain and a blustery crosswind (tailwind far turn), horses with positional speed dominated nine races on a harrowed main track labeled good. All nine winners were either first, second, or third at the first call.

Three shippers posted impressive victories, beginning with Salutos Amigos ($7.20) first time off a private purchase by owner-trainer David Jacobson. Jacobson’s horses don’t tip their hands in the morning. Salutos Amigos, fast enough at 3 to wind up beaten less than two lengths in the Grade 2 Amsterdam, was running for the first time since finishing off the board at Santa Anita on Feb. 15. All he showed was a quartet of slow workouts, capped by three furlongs in 43 seconds – that’s right, 43 seconds. The 97 Beyer Figure he earned was his best since a 98 in the Amsterdam for former trainer Eric Guillot.

Coming off a 364-day layoff for Chad Brown, Fame and Fortune ($3.70), whose only prior start was a second to Grade 2-placed Sweet N Discreet, returned from a winter at Palm Meadows to wire a maiden special through easy fractions. The full sister to 2013 Whitney winner Cross Traffic scored by better than five lengths and received an 80 Beyer.

Parc Monceau ($6.80), also up from Florida, soared to new heights in getting through her first-level allowance condition on the fifth attempt for Mike Hushion. Always prominent while running in blinkers for the second time, she moved past even-money leader Dowager turning for home and drew away while not fully extended. Her 85 Beyer bested her prior top of 79 at Gulfstream, also on a harrowed good track.


Salutos Amigos
Trainer: David Jacobson
Last race: April 4, 4th
Finish: 1st by 6 1/4
Beyer: 97

Back from California and making his first start off a private purchase, this 4-year-old gelding turned in a monster effort running past favored pacesetter Monster Mash to win a starter allowance sprint with complete authority; beaten less than two lengths in the Grade 2 Amsterdam last year, so there’s plenty of back class to work with.

Mei Ling
Trainer: Mike Hushion
Last race: April 4, 7th
Finish: 2nd by 5 1/4
Beyer: 68

After showing little in one start at Gulfstream over the winter, this $500,000 filly by Empire Maker returned from nearly two months off and recaptured her good form at Belmont last fall, racing four wide and steadying in the stretch while odds-on Fame and Fortune set easy fractions.

Saturday, April 5 preview

After some more rain overnight, the main track still has plenty of moisture as this is written toward the end of training hours, but the sun is out, and it will be breezy and much warmer than yesterday’s low 40s, a good recipe for rapid drying. Expect the track to retain some moisture, though, at least through the early races.

With a 12-race card on tap, a pick 6 with a $22,486 carryover begins with race 7 at 4:04 p.m. Eastern.

There are three pick 4s, highlighted by an all-stakes sequence with a $500,000 guaranteed pool on races 8 to 11 – the Bay Shore, Gazelle, Wood Memorial, and Carter Handicap. The early pick 4 is on races 2 to 5 as usual; there is also a late pick 4 on races 9 to 12.

In the Wood, Kid Cruz has already been scratched due to a shoulder strain. Linda Rice hopes to get the Private Terms winner back to the races in the Illinois Derby (April 19). The deep closer’s absence doesn’t affect the pace scenario, other than moving early speeds Kristo (now post 5) Samraat (post 7), Uncle Sigh (post 9) and Social Inclusion (post 10) that much closer in.

It should go without saying, but keep tabs on how the track plays through the first half of the card before firming up strategies for the marquee races. If it’s glib and carrying speed, one of the aforementioned horses will probably win the Wood; but if closers are doing well, and there is a too-fast pace, a closer like Wicked Strong with good back form over the surface may get a good situation.

Quick thoughts on the other stakes:

Bay Shore: Again, wait and see about the track, and tune in to DRF Live later on, because morning-line choice Kobe’s Back is a deep closer. It looks as though he’ll get a favorable race shape with Oliver Zip and Favorite Tale in the mix. The latter is 3 for 3 and a potential key to the race, coming back just 12 days after a first-level allowance romp by 14 lengths with a 101 Beyer.

Gazelle: A pivotal race for Sweet Reason, the Spinaway winner and beaten favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, after a slow 58 Beyer beating four one-time winners in her March 7 return. My Miss Sophia stretches out and looks to be loose on the lead for Todd Pletcher, who has spotted her aggressively after a maiden win. If you can really get 7-2 on Pletcher’s other filly, Got Lucky, it’s worth considering.

Carter: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, watch the track. Sahara Sky is the deepest of deep closers, and for a Grade 1 sprint, there isn’t much early speed in the field other than Dads Caps, who is questionable at seven furlongs. Strapping Groom, who wasn’t at tops due to foot issues but still ran down Dads Caps in the Tom Fool, may get a dream trip as the lone stalker.

Go to school on Central Banker and Clearly Now, who make their 4-year-old debuts from the two inside posts.