By Tony Bada Bing
Since it’s Turkey Day and football shares the day with busted bellies let’s talk a little football. There’s an old adage – play to your strength and you’ll hear it used most often by coaches or analyst during football games. And while it’s fairly straightforward four words, some miss the simplicity of the message. If you’re offense is good at throwing the ball and you come against a good pass defense – screw it, throw the ball and make the other team stop you. Before the era of the spread, empty backfields and shot gun quarterbacks, there was smash face, run orientated offenses of the first 50 years of pro football that dominated the game. No team did it quite as well as Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers. During their heyday, opposing defenses knew the sweep would be coming, but the Packers ran it anyway until the opposing team stopped them. Not many did.
This week’s big $750 weekend tournament on Derby Wars plays right into my strength – graded stakes races. It’s where I’m at my best and hopefully I can provide some insight and help you get a big piece of that prize pie. Don’t forget to sign up, enter and play.
Getting us underway is the rescheduled Go For Wand for fillies and mares. It used to be run at the Spa, but now it’s found its way over to the Big A. A one-mile race going from the shoot with plenty of speed in the race, but oddly no clear pace setter. Quite often the Big A plays like a merry-go-round meet along the inside - meaning the three horses who get to the front first usually stay there throughout the race. I’d look at several that might take the lead: Persuading, Katy Now, All Due Respect and Risky Rachel. Don’t mistake me, I’m not sure any of these will take or get the lead, but they are the most likely candidates. Risky Rachel is the best price and for me, Katy Now is my top choice.
Saturday’s Big A Card stacks up four graded stakes in a row – a quick snapshot of each.
Demoiselle – Grade 2, 1 1/8 miles for 2 YO fillies
There’s not a great deal of experience among these babies. The single greatest factor is what you think of the Todd-Pletcher trainee, Disposablepleasure. If it was earlier in the season and she was coming off sprint win, I’d dismiss her chances coming off a maiden score, but…since she won going a route and did so with ease, leading every step of the way, it’s hard to not give her a serious chance. If you want a price, pick a bomb and hope she lopes along in second.
Remsen – Grade 2, 1 1/8 miles for 2 YO
To Honor and Serve took this rendition last year, so don’t hook your Derby dreamers to the winner of this race. Nobody really stands out for me, so let me keep it as simple as possible. Take a shot with a back-to-back winner, who is trained by an out-of-towner – Done Talking. This son of Broken Vow, may not take all the betting action, but may just reach the winner’s circle. Another worth a look is Managed Account. He’s shown up in each of his first four starts, stretched out for a win, increasing Beyers in each start and most importantly he’s the only starter with a win at the Big A.
Cigar Mile - Grade 1
I’m hoping Haynesfield is a little less-than what he was last year and hoping he still takes most of the bettor’s money will open it up for other choices that could take it all. But with only six enteries, you’re not likely to get a price. That being said, let’s take a stab at a winner. It is likely that To Honor and Serve will find himself in the handicap division next year, as most grade ones are less than 10 furlongs – just like today’s race. He’s got the speed to find the lead and he likes the track. Not sure what his entry mate will do his price, but the last two times Calibrachoa caught a fast track, he tossed triple-digit Beyer wins. He might be grade one material, but why not find out playing a tournament.
Gazelle – Grade 1, 1 1/8 miles for 3 YO fillies
How good is trainer Chad Brown brining Awesome Feather from a year on the shelf to win an overnight stakes? One day he’ll take a Saratoga training title and maybe even a Triple Crown race or two. Awesome Feather is the class, period. Love and Pride should not be rated and if she gets a loose rein and lead, she might just make things interesting in the stretch.
Churchill’s Clark Handicap is devoid of speed and Will’s Wildcat with Calvin Borel aboard will likely go for the lead early and hope to stay on late. His price will be right.
She’ll need racing luck and some pace to run at, but Back Spin’s odds may leap over 20-1 and that’s reason enough to make her my top choice in the Golden Rod Stakes for two-year-olds.
Nothing about Ever So Lucky makes sense to choose him. His trainer rarely brings horses back to the races so quick, his jockey is not really good on the lead and he’s only run one sprint, so of course he’s my top choice.
In Hollywood’s Matriarch take your choice All Star Heart or Never Retreat and in the Citaton take the class Jeranimo.
Didn’t fair too well with last week’s picks. Even though both Tune Me In and Soul of Hollywood ran as expected, neither hit the board or embarrassed themselves.