Powell takes a stand in the Remsen
by DICK POWELL
The Remsen Stakes (G2) will be run at Aqueduct for the 103rd time on Saturday at its usual nine furlongs on the main track. Run for a purse of $300,000, its recent winners have rarely distinguished themselves the following year in the Triple Crown races. For every NORTHERN DANCER (Nearctic) in 1963 and DAMASCUS (Sword Dancer) in 1966, there has been winners like BUDDY’S SAINT (Saint Liam) in 2009 or even LEAVE THE LIGHT ON (Horse Greeley) in 2014.
As far as getting your magnifying glass out and searching for a horse that might make some noise next year as a three-year-old, forget it. But as far as a race that can be handicapped and wagered on that day, the Remsen is usually a fun exercise. In other words, put your blinkers and shadow roll on and get to work.
This year’s Remsen has attracted a field of 10 and with a short run into the first turn, trips will be important. An inside post and/or gate speed is usually critical since you do not want to be parked out three wide for both turns.
A quick look at the conditions of the race and the subsequent weight assignments tells you how weak this year’s renewal is. None of the 10 starters have ever won a stakes race and only one is a multiple winner. So, nine of them would be eligible for a non-winners of a race other than allowance event. All carry 116 pounds.
Once you put the race into that context, the immensely talented TAKAFUL (Bernardini) fits very well since nobody broke their maiden the way that he did four weeks ago. Dismissed at almost 13-1 odds in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight event at the end of the Belmont Park meet, he gunned to the front and never looked back.
Even with demanding fractions, Takaful kept widening his margin without a lot of urging and he stopped the teletimer in 1:15.82 while earning a BRIS speed rating of 99. He has worked extremely well since then and now takes on a big challenge of going two turns but as far as moving up in company, the jury is still out on that against this bunch.
The son of BERNARDINI (A.P. Indy) has all the pedigree in the world and he gets first time Lasix. Jose Ortiz is riding the hair off his mounts and from post 4, he can make the lead if he wants and then let his cruising speed take over.
Often, I will let this type horse in this spot go and look elsewhere but against this bunch, Takaful is perfectly logical and the horse to beat.
MO TOWN (Uncle Mo) rallied from post 9 to get up for second going six furlongs in fast time at Saratoga in his well-bet career debut then he came back at a mile and won by seven lengths as the odds-on favorite. He stretches out to two turns for Tony Dutrow who wins 26% first start after a maiden win and 18% against graded stakes foes.
Mo Town’s dam, Grazie Mille, is by none other than BERNARDINI and she was a good second in her career debut going six furlongs on a wet track then broke her maiden by five lengths when stretched out to two turns. That was it for her career and Mo Town is her first foal to race. Johnny Velazquez will have to overcome post 8 and he shows up here off a bullet, five-furlong breeze.
NO DOZING (Union Rags) is the only multiple winner in the field having won his well-bet debut at Delaware Park going six furlongs then an allowance race going the same distance at Laurel.
Arnaud Delacour took a shot with him and shipped him to Keeneland for the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) going two turns and he ran well from post 9 with first time Lasix despite being bumped around at the start. He was able to hang on for fourth that day and the winner, CLASSIC EMPIRE, came back to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) next time out.
New sire UNION RAGS (Dixie Union) is off to a strong start at stud and has sired two Grade 1 stakes winners in his first crop. They get better with distance but post 9 will be a challenge for Daniel Centeno who has hardly any experience here.
Maybe one of the other recent maiden winners will jump up and throw in a big race but I am playing this year’s Remsen straight with exactas of Takaful over Mo Town and No Dozing. An exacta that pays $20 will make me very thankful.