Derek’s Holiday Weekend Picks: Gulfstream Park and Aqueduct

By Derek Simon
Gulfstream Park and Aqueduct

Provided you’re feeling up to snuff after a wild night watching “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” with Ryan Seacrest and Jenny McCarthy (I prefer a nail gun to the groin — it’s quicker and less painful), there are some great races to wager on amongst all the college bowl games on Friday and Saturday. Below is a look at some of the marque events:

Friday, Jan. 1, 2016

Aqueduct
8th race (Lost in the Fog Stakes)
6 furlongs (inner dirt)
Projected Early Pace: Brisk
Projected Late Pace: Fair/Good

KING KRANZ, who is still a maiden, is the morning-line favorite, but I’m intrigued by trainer Ramon Preciado’s duo from Parx — ATIZAPAN (30/1 on the morning line) and PURCELL (20/1). They rank 1-2 in early speed rations (ESRs) and both look like they would relish an uncontested lead.

Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016

Aqueduct
8th race (Jerome Stakes)
1 mile, 70 yards (inner dirt)
Projected Early Pace: Moderate/Brisk
Projected Late Pace: Good/Fair

FLEXIBILTY is improving by leaps and bounds and deserves to be favored here, but keep an eye on BIRD OF TREY, who has been recording some impressive speed figures at Parx Racing and is trained by the same guy (John Servis) who saddled Smarty Jones — another Pennsylvania bred.

Gulfstream Park
3rd race (Hutcheson Stakes)
6 furlongs (dirt)
Projected Early Pace: Moderate/Brisk
Projected Late Pace: Good/Fair

AWESOME BANNER gets Lasix after setting a GP track record for 4 ½ furlongs in his debut. He stretches out today, but has to be respected. FULL SALUTE has the right running style, despite subpar late speed rations (LSRs).

Gulfstream Park
4th race (Old Hat Stakes)
6 furlongs (dirt)
Projected Early Pace: Brisk
Projected Late Pace: Poor/Fair

BALLET DIVA looks like the quickest of the quick in a speed-laden field. If a pace meltdown occurs, CATIRA ROCK, DAD’S KIDDO and LITTLE CATON look poised to take advantage. 

Gulfstream Park
5th race (Ginger Brew Stakes)
7 ½ furlongs (turf)
Projected Early Pace: Soft/Moderate
Projected Late Pace: Excellent/Good

Given the projected soft pace, RECOGNITION, who gets a favorable jock switch to Paco Lopez, is a strong wire-to-wire threat — especially when one considers that his LSRs rank second in the field. And speaking of the late runners, trainer Chad Brown’s PRICEDTOPERFECTION returns after a so-so performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf — both of his previous two efforts are good enough to win this.

Gulfstream Park
7th race (Dania Beach Stakes)
7 ½ furlongs (turf)
Projected Early Pace: Moderate
Projected Late Pace: Excellent

Morning line favorite RAY’S THE BAR looks vulnerable in this spot, so I’d be looking at impressive maiden graduate URBAN BOURBON at the right price. I’m also intrigued by LIFE IMITATES ART, though I’d prefer to see him try dirt. 

Bonus Analysis 

Fair Grounds
6th race (Bonapaw Stakes)
5 ½ furlongs (turf)
Projected Early Pace: Moderate
Projected Late Pace: Good/Excellent

In a highly contentious race, I’d take a long look at ATTAIN, who, after nearly a year on the sidelines, came back to annex an optional claiming event in his turf debut, while recording a 94 Brisnet speed figure and a -3 late speed ration (LSR). I’m also intrigued by EDEN GREY’S KITTEN, who has placed in all eight of his turf tries, albeit against lesser competition, and MARCHMAN, who has been facing much, much better.

Santa Anita Park
6th race (Midnight Lute Stakes)
6 ½ furlongs (dirt)
Projected Early Pace: Moderate
Projected Late Pace: Good/Fair

DISTINCTIV PASSION recorded a contested -12 ESR last time and, not surprisingly, faded badly in the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship on Oct. 3. Today, he’s in a Grade III affair with a projected ESR of -6 and his latest works indicate he’s ready to fire off a brief 91-day freshening. SEATTLE SERENADE looks like something special and should be motoring late.

SpeedRationKey

Derek Simon
Derek Simon is the Senior Editor and Handicapper at US Racing.