HRN Original Blog:
A New York State of Racing
Posted Tuesday, March 19, 2019
The NTRA Top 10 Thoroughbred Poll continues to make the transition from City of Light, Battle of Midway and Accelerate to the horses aiming to campaign the rest of this year. In this week's consensus poll, City of Light still received 28 first-place votes but dropped to third place overall. The ill-fated Battle of Midway has dropped out of the Top 10, while Accelerate is hanging around in a tie for ninth.

With 11 first-place votes, Monomoy Girl took hold of the top spot with the highest total points. I have the utmost respect for last year’s champion, but it’s March, and I am not inclined to put an un-raced horse in that high of a position. For now, I slotted her in seventh behind horses who have earned their spots by racing in 2019.

Among them is Midnight Bisou, whose victory Saturday in the Azeri Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park against a strong field that included 2018 graded stakes winners Elate and Eskimo Kisses and the Champion Female Sprinter Shamrock Rose earned my sixth-place vote. Midnight Bisou is a rare runner with two graded stakes victories already this year, with the Azeri adding to her Houston Ladies Classic (G3) score in January.

Midnight Bisou's 99 Beyer Speed Figure marked the second highest of the ultra consistent runner's career. The 4-year-old has set the bar high for Monomoy Girl when she makes her 2019 debut, which is expected to be on April 14 in the Apple Blossom (G1) at Oaklawn Park.

Losses in both divisions of the Rebel Stakes (G2) by previously unbeaten Bob Baffert trainees Game Winner and Improbable prompted me to remove them from the overall Top 10, leaving War of Will as my only sophomore ranked alongside of the older horses. With his two graded stakes wins at the Fair Grounds, the Mark Casse runner sits on top of the Kentucky Derby points standings heading into Saturday's Louisiana Derby (G2).

Consensus Top 10

Matt Shifman's Top 10

1. Monomoy Girl

1. City of Light

2. Roy H

2. Battle of Midway

3. City of Light

3. Bricks and Mortar

4. Bricks and Mortar

4. Roy H

5. McKinzie

5. McKinzie

6. Midnight Bisou

6. Midnight Bisou

7. Seeking the Soul

7. Monomoy Girl

8. Sistercharlie

8. War of Will

9. Marley’s Freedom

9. Zulu Alpha

10. Accelerate

10. Vino Rosso 

Posted Tuesday, March 12, 2019
With a victory Saturday, Vino Rosso looks like one of the best in training, argues Matt Shifman.
Posted Tuesday, March 05, 2019
See how Matt Shifman's ballot compares to this week's consensus Top 10.
Posted Friday, March 01, 2019

New York's much-maligned small fields during the winter have had no effect on the quality of the daily Aqueduct survivor contests at With an entry only costing $5.75, there is plenty of challenge to your handicapping skills with the chance of a nice payoff.

For example, in Thursday's Aqueduct Survivor Contest
, only one player made it through all seven races selecting a horse to finish in the Top 3 and thus earned the top prize of $354 plus the $100 jackpot bonus. This was on a day when the field sizes during the contest were: 5, 5, 5, 6, 7, 6, and 8.

Three favorites failed to hit the board, paving the way for the bonus-winning sole survivor. In race 3, the 1.90-1 favorite finished last, and 37 entries were eliminated. The 1.20-1 top choice was eased in the next race, counting out 24 more. Then in race 6, the 5-2 betting choice came in sixth, and 10 players more were dashed, leaving only four remaining for the final two races.

Get in the Game!  $1,000 AQ Survivor - only $5.75 to Play!

Want to contend when the stakes are raised for 
Saturday’s $1,000 Aqueduct Survivor contest? Here are five tips:

1) You need to play more than one entry to survive the races that are more challenging to handicap and have less predictable outcomes. You may buy between 1 and 12 entries, and most competitive players do use several.

2) On most days, Aqueduct plays fairly, not favoring either the off the pace runners or the speed horses. However, there were a few days when there was a noticeable speed bias. In the aforementioned Thursday contest, closers and stalkers were doing very well. Generally, I prefer that running style in survivor contests because they get to pass tiring horses and hit the board.

3) The contest kicks off in Race 2 with a vulnerable 8-5 morning line favorite. Volodina ships up to Aqueduct for the first time from Parx after a layoff from November. I prefer
Mo Flash, who scratched out of a similar starter allowance on Thursday to opt for this six-furlong distance. He has an impressive 6: 3-0-2 record at Aqueduct and a stalking style.

4) Race 4 features 6-5 morning line favorite in Bel Cuore who has hit the board in three of four starts. She draws the rail in a field of nine that contains three debut runners. Michelle Nevin puts blinkers on a horse that has shown a tendency to tire. I prefer
Vinda Machine in here. In her last start, she ran third, just a half-length behind Rose of Dublin, who is listed as the 8-5 favorite in Race 6.

5) A field of seven in Race 7 presents a big challenge as a contentious first-level New York-bred allowance. This is a race that seems to require playing multiple horses. Miss Hot Stones returns from more than a year off with 9-5 morning line odds. Spring Drama won her maiden special weight by more than eight lengths last time for Kiaran McLaughlin in her ninth career start as a 5-year-old. Both seem vulnerable, so I prefer
Orchid Party who has hit the board at Aqueduct in 9 of 10 starts. To survive, it may make sense to use all three.

Get in the Game!  $1,000 AQ Survivor - only $5.75 to Play!

Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Battle of Midway remained a prominent part of Matt Shifman's NTRA ballot.
Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2019
HRN's Matt Shifman details his latest NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll ballot.
Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2019
HRN's Matt Shifman agrees with pollsters that City of Light should remain No. 1.
Posted Wednesday, February 06, 2019
HRN's Matt Shifman looks at top Derby prospects in the East led by Hidden Scroll.
Posted Tuesday, February 05, 2019
Matt Shifman lists his NTRA Top 10 in a new weekly HRN feature.
Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Meet seven contenders in Saturday's Derby prep in New York.
Page 1 of 63
Meet Matt Shifman

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs, Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.

Since 2012, Matt has been a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.

Recently, Matt helped launch Derby Day Racing, a new 2-year-old racing partnership, that just purchased a promising Lookin At Lucky filly named Sooner Schooner.

You may also know Matt by his Twitter, Facebook, and HRN screen nameAndyScoggin.

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