Brian’s Aqueduct Preview: Cigar Mile weekend

At the risk of scratching Teresa’s Aqueduct itch the wrong way, the Saturday after Thanksgiving usually signals the end of meaningful racing in New York until the Gotham rolls around the following March. The good news is that it always goes out with a bang, and this Saturday is no different. The traditional Aqueduct fixtures, the Demoiselle, Remsen and Cigar Mile, have been joined this year by the Grade I Gazelle, formerly run early during Belmont’s Fall Championship Meet. NYRA failed to take advantage of a neat little all-stakes Pick4, but let’s go ahead and preview each one and see what we can come up with. Enjoy, good luck and Happy Holidays to everyone!

Race 6: The Grade II, $200,000 Demoiselle for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles.

2. Fuzzy Britches: Tries two turns for the first time and her breeding suggests it’s within her scope. Though she might have been viewed skeptically after that maiden-claiming score, she’s shown in her last two stakes that she needs to be taken seriously. Drew the inside, a huge edge in these 9-furlong races at Aqueduct, and has the speed to set the pace if no one shows any initiative early. Ramon is a master on the engine and this miss appears quite capable of taking them on a merry chase around the oval. Taking a favorable view.

3. Miss Afleet Alex: Fresh off a maiden score at Remington Park, but at least it was done with ease in a breakthrough performance. No doubt the waters get deeper here, but just how much? Take a look and you notice this is nothing more than an entry-level allowance. Point being, don’t be discouraged just because her lone score came from a minor track halfway across the country. Not the worst price play in the world.

1. In The Rough: Looked good running off with a maiden score at the Meadowlands in her two-turn debut, though you wonder if it was aided by the slop. Not out of the question that she gets another track loaded with moisture, so that’s worth noting prior to post. Not at the top of the list, but not without hope either.

1a. Profiteroles: Like her stablemate next door, she brings basically the identical resume to the table; a so-so sprint debut followed by a convincing score in start number two on the stretchout. The neat thing is that she did it over dry ground and there were some big gaps between the rest of the field, which is always a good sign. Nothing wrong with Jersey Joe stringing along either, so the only downer is the reduced price based on the 2-for-1 angle.

4. Tizahit: She’s got that fast race/slow race pattern going and that means there’s a big run coming today. And being by Tiznow, it’s no small coincidence that her fastest lifetime run was the lone time she tried two turns. She’s shown she can rally into moderate splits as well, and the pace in here should be honest, so there’s a good chance she’ll be in with a stretch chance. Expecting a lifetime best run for the top choice.

5. Protesting: Had to go to the fake stuff at Keeneland to get her diploma, though she did it in a 5-length romp and had been knocking at the door for a few months. That was her first two-turn start with blinkers on so it was no doubt a career top, and with the hood added, she figures to be among the early flight in this spot. Typical blueblood Phipps homebred (her dam is a daughter of My Flag) rates as a major player, but thinking she’ll be a big underlay on the board.

6. Oh Diane: Didn’t exactly break any stopwatches when she beat maiden-claimers in her last, but at least she was game in that two-turn score. Contessa saw enough beforehand to claim her and now he immediately shows up here, a big sign of confidence. She should improve in his care, but with this draw and her early foot, it’s tough to see her getting anything more than a minor award.

Race 7: The Grade II, $200,000 Remsen for 2-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles.

1. Fudge Truffle: While the Demoiselle seems up for grabs, this spot is a bit more defined, and sadly that means this maiden is in deep. Winless in four starts at smaller venues and it looks like he’s here only because stablemate Miss Afleet Alex made the trip for the Demoiselle.

2. Peppi Knows: Two-time winner showed some guts in the Finger Lakes Juvenile, but that minor score isn’t scaring anyone off in this spot. His early speed, coupled with the fact that he’s never been past 6 furlongs, means he’ll be on or near the lead and that could spell trouble for Buddy’s Saint. Seems destined for a pop and stop type of run.

3. Grand Rapport: Showed nothing when well behind D’Funnybone in the Futurity, though he did have an eventful start. Nice to see Contessa regroup and then pick out this tough spot for his return, as well as get the Mig back (he piloted him to the maiden score). Stretches out, which should help, but he still looks a cut below the top choices.

4. Buddy’s Saint: Speaking of top choices, this guy looked like a future star when he ran off with the Nashua, the local prep, three weeks ago. Granted, that was a one-turn mile, but when he leveled off in the lane and just took off, it was a sight to behold. We’ve already mentioned the potential speed of Peppi Knows, but there’s also a chance this colt is too fast and talented to be bothered early by that rival. The hurdles are no doubt bigger this time around, but they’ll need to have their running shoes on to beat this guy.

5. Homeboykris: Backed up Dutrow’s prerace thoughts in the GI Champagne when he ran away late from a field that has since come into question; Dublin has done nothing since the Hopeful, Aspire was up the track in the BC Juvenile and runner-up Discreetly Mine isn’t exactly making friends at the betting window. With all that being said, this guy did nothing wrong and looked good striding away in the lane. Meets a formidable speed threat in Buddy’s Saint, but he has the tactical speed and outside draw to keep that one in his sights the entire way before making his move. Based on those positives, he gets the tepid call for the win.

6. Citrus Kid: Perfect in two, two-turn main track runs and anytime you go from a maiden win to a 5-length stakes score in your next start, you’ve got talent. Steps up and drew poorly, but it’s a compact field so he might not lose too much ground on the run into the first turn. And if the favorites hook up on the far turn, this is the runner who would benefit the most. He’s third best on paper, but when those gates spring and the real running starts, that might all change in a hurry. Not without hope for the top spot.

Race 8: The Grade I Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles.

1. Me Love: Allowance winner at Penn National drew well and gets Ramon, but the positives end right there as she steps up into a stakes for the first time in her career. Well-bred miss seems outclassed in this spot.

2. Flashing: What an odd sort; she looks good winning the GI Test this summer, runs well against older in the Presque Isle Masters and then returns against her age group and runs a clunker in the GII Raven Run at Keeneland. On the face of it, the Godolphin boys might just be throwing her out there for one more 2009 start in the hopes of some black-type going two turns at the GI level because her recent form–all sprinting around one-turn–says she’s not much of a threat on the win end.

3. Milwaukee Appeal: The beaten Alabama favorite caught the upset bug in her last two in Canada and now heads back to the States to try and bag a big one. You could argue that the main track is her preferred surface, as she just missed to males in the Prince of Wales and then was a clear second behind the gray monster that is Careless Jewel in the Alabama. No doubt she gets the trip and also the jump on Stardom Bound; major player for top honors.

4. Unrivaled Belle: Fast, talented and untested, but surely not for long. Homebred streaks to her graded stakes debut on the heels of three easy wins and takes the next logical step up the class ladder. Her speed makes her a legitimate threat to wire this field and it’s also nice to know that if anyone else is hell-bent on the lead, she’s just as comfortable stalking and pouncing. And based on some other well-known runners, she’ll also be an honest price at the windows. No doubt she needs to keep improving, but there are a lot of question marks attached to her contemporaries and you’ll get fair value to find out if she’s up to the task. Here’s hoping she is, as we’ll tab her for the top spot.

5. Bon Jovi Girl: Hope no one was out there taking a swim after the Real Prize at Belmont, because the bridge jumpers were out in droves after she was last of five at 3-5. If you’re willing to draw a line through that one-turn stakes, then she’s in with a shot here based on her previous runs. And if the rains come? Well, you’ve got a lifetime best and huge Beyer (103) staring at you from that 8-length romp in the sloppy Susan’s Girl at Del Park. Still, she’s got to prove she can rebound before backing.

6. Multipass: Makes her graded stakes debut after running second in the Remington Park Oaks, and while she’s a useful sort, this is a big step up in class. Has the tactical speed to negotiate a decent trip, but it’s tough to envision her being in the mix when the real running starts.

7. Peach Brew: Took the GIII Arlington Oaks over the Polytrack this summer, but she is 4-for-12 on the main track (albeit in softer spots). Versatile runner was nosed out by Multipass in Oklahoma prior to winning an optional-claimer at 7-10 in a prep for this. Minor award appears to be her ceiling.

8. Stardom Bound: The 2008 2-year-old filly champ returns for the first time since running third in the Ashland in April. Tread lightly here, though, folks, because this doesn’t appear to be the same miss that was so dominant last year. First off, she tries the main track today after doing all her previous running over synthetics; second, she appeared to be over the top even before the disappointing Ashland run and third, you’ll be taking an underlaid price on a filly that could very well be the typical juvenile that never bridged the gap from 2 to 3. She’s been working well and seems to be fit enough, but with all the question marks and this terrible post, there will never be a better time to try and beat her.

Race 9: The Grade I, $300,000 Cigar Mile for 3-year-olds and up.

2. Driven By Success: Speedy state-bred can run a big one on his best and with this rail draw and his running style, it’s simply catch him to cash. And in this compact field, there’s really only one other speed horse signed on and as fast as Vineyard Haven is, it’s not like he’s a need-the-lead type. And while this gelding gets labeled as a sprinter, don’t forget he ran a blinder in the Met Mile this May. There’s a big chance he turns for home with Vineyard Haven just off him and about 4 lengths clear of the rest. From there it’s a question of just how good he is, and at 8-1 in a small field I’ll take a chance that he’s good enough to put his nose on the wire first.

3. Kodiak Kowboy: He didn’t run in the BC Sprint, but you could make a case that he was the biggest winner because now he comes here a win away from a probable championship. Looked great running down Fabulous Strike in the Vosburgh at 6 furlongs, which is one short of his best trip. A mile might be one furlong too far, but you know he’ll be running late and he likes the track, based on the GI Carter win in April. If ‘Driven and Vineyard Haven go nuts early, this is clearly the runner to fear late but willing to try and beat him on the win end while respecting his chances.

1. Pyro: You can toss the BC Dirt Mile as we all know he hates the fake stuff, so he comes here coupled with Vineyard Haven and a major player in his own right. Got the better of Kodiak Kowboy in the Forego when that rival had to go wide and he snuck through on the inside. Dead closer will need a bunch of pace up front to aid his late rally, but he certainly leaves you with a nice contingency plan should Vineyard Haven not fire his best shot.

4. Bribon: So the turf experiment didn’t work out in Canada, no big deal because the Met Mile winner is more comfortable on the main track anyway. Enters with a 2-for-3 local record as well, which is a big bonus because this is not a strip everyone handles. Owns enough speed to keep the leaders in his sights early before making that powerful move on the far turn. Pretty much shows up every time and there’s no reason to think that will be any different here; rates as the one to deny.

1a. Vineyard Haven: If you didn’t see his De Francis win, go back and watch it and ask yourself how in the heck he won it. Then go back and watch it about six more times and keep asking the question. The win was equal parts talent and perseverance and all heart–and it was remarkable. With that being said, you’re allowed to wonder just how much is left in the tank for another big run against much, much better here. We already mentioned he’s going to get a dream trip just off the rail and be well clear of his main rivals, so that’s a big bonus in this corner. Yet to run over a dry track since coming back to the U.S., but his form last year says he should handle it just fine, not to mention there might be moisture in the course anyway. Taking a deep breath, crossing my fingers and toes and trying to beat him on top.

5. Vacation: Ah, that crafty Shug. He shows up with a well-bred Phipps homebred who has been running on turf/synthetics all year and thinks he’s going to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. So is he? Well, while this 4-year-old has come of age away from the main track this year, think back about 10 years ago and remember mom Country Hideaway as a tough-as-nails middle-distance main track runner. This colt is 0-for-9 on the main, so obviously he needs a lifetime run even to threaten remotely, but it’s not out of the question to see him rallying strongly through the stretch for a spot underneath.

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