12/16/2011 11:39AM

How to bet Saturday's Gravesend Stakes $250K guaranteed Aqueduct Pick 4

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Here's my race-by-race rundown of Saturday's Guaranteed $250K Pick 4 at Aqueduct. I'm building my wager with TicketMaker, found exclusively on DRF.com.

Race 6: Maiden Special Weight ($40,000)

The late Pick 4 at Aqueduct begins with a challenge race to handicap -- a full field of lightly raced 2-year-old New York-bred straight maidens in the sixth race. KID BLAST (#8), a son of promising Kentucky stallion Posse, ran a closing second in his debut Nov. 20 on the outer track, and is the most likely winner. But the relatively modest 56 Beyer he ran in his debut suggests there is little margin for error without a large move forward second-time out. Bear in mind that OFFICERANDAFOOSE (#9), who ran third in that same Nov. 20 race, is another jump-up candidate, making his second start off a layoff and coming off a bullet half-mile workout over the Belmont training track. The others with starts fail to inspire -– so inclined to also toss a couple first timers into the Pick 4 -- QUIET EYES (#3) and VICARIOUSLYUTOPIAN (#1). The former is slightly preferred over the latter, showing longer works in preparation for his first start and starting for the red-hot Rick Dutrow Stable. VICARIOUSLYUTOPIAN also breaks from the fence, an intimidating post that lead to slow starts from inexperienced horses.


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Race 7: Claiming ($7,500)

The second leg in the Pick 4 sequence looks fairly safely played two deep, using PERFECTION PLUS (#4) and COOL OPERATOR (#6) -- that is, if any $7,500 nonwinners-of-two claimer can ever be considered safely played. Form reversals are almost the norm in low-end races like these. That noted, PERFECTION PLUS and to a lesser extent, COOL OPERATOR, stand out on paper as clearly better than the rest. PLUS, dropping to the lowest claiming level of his career, should benefit from a return to racing on dirt, where his better races have come. Prior to his last race on turf, in which he faded to ninth, he was second on two consecutive occasions, earning Beyer Speed Figures in the mid 60s. COOL OPERATOR has run numbers competitive with those of the top choice, posting a 61 and 65 in two races in November at Finger Lakes, before running a lackluster fifth in an allowance there Dec. 5 when sprinting. He is better suited to this route. For those that want to go even deeper on tickets, STORIESINTHEDARK and GRAMERCY are the next best options – though they seem much less likely to win than the top two.


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Race 8: Gravesend Stakes ($65,000)

The classy RULE BY NIGHT (#4) underachieved in two races this summer, but has returned to form in his last two starts, winning the Duck dance at Belmont Oct. 9 before running a close fourth in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler after setting the pace. That was a much tougher race, one that had Cigar Mile competitors like Calibrachoa, Sangaree, and Caixa Eletronica in the lineup. A steady worktab from this colt further indicates he is ready for a top effort. THIS ONES FOR PHIL (#5) can run freaky fast on occasion, and though he was a distant fourth in the Oct. 9 Duck Dance behind RULE BY NIGHT, he needs to be used in the Pick 4 simply because his ‘top,’ or highest figure, is so far superior to those of his opponents. Dutrow also does very well with fresh horses, and has been on fire over the past month and a half. FRAZIL is 7 for 12 this year, but all of those wins came in easier starter races. He is an honest, versatile horse that can handle a variety of distances, but coming off a surprisingly hard-fought win at short odds Nov. 5, doubt he can keep up with RULE BY NIGHT and THIS ONES FOR PHIL if they run to their potential. As for the others, PRETTY BOY FREUD has surprised over the second half of this on dirt after being mostly a turf horse over the early part of his career. This six-furlong race seems short for him, however. Therefore inclined to use just two horses: RULE BY NIGHT and THIS ONES FOR PHIL.


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Race 9: Maiden Claiming ($16,000)

Can't blame anyone for taking a quick glance at the nightcap, a maiden $16,000 claimer for New York-breds, and wanting to hit the "All" button in the final leg of the Pick 4 sequence. Virtually all of the entrants have faults to some degree of another. Will go four-deep and give a slight edge to SALT WATER LULLABY (#8), a 3-year-old filly with the capability to win this if she is cranked for her first start since a poor performance routing at Saratoga Aug. 29. Looking past that effort, which came in a straight maiden race, two of her three prior efforts in maiden claiming company resulted in on-the-board finishes that earned her Beyers of 49 and 51. If able to run that quickly again, she likely wins. Of course, that is a clear ‘if’ with a fairly limited worktab and given her overall inconsistency. Another 3-year-old, ELDER’S PRIDE (#6), rates as second best, having run third and second in two starts July 17 and Oct. 29, respectively. Her form is better than most, but she shows just one published drill since her last race, leaving fitness a concern, particularly starting for a cold barn. CITY VICE (#1) is a mare that does her best work sprinting on the grass, suggesting regression is possible, if not likely, from her with the move to the Aqueduct inner track. But looking at her form on a whole, she still looks better than a number of others. She at least has speed and is fit, having raced Dec. 4. Also coming off a recent start is ELABORATE GEENA (#9), who ran third Dec. 11 in what was the best effort of her career. Her top Beyer is just a 31, but at least she’s a lightly raced horse on the upswing.


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