The Jury: Bets and fades for Jan. 14
A relatively quiet Saturday of action across the country includes a Kentucky Oaks (G1) prep at Aqueduct and listed stakes at Oaklawn, Tampa Bay Downs, and elsewhere. James Scully, Vance Hanson, and Ashley Anderson tackle these and other races in this week's TwinSpires Jury.
What is your best bet?
James Scully: #2 Complete Agenda (8-1) in Saturday's ninth race at Aqueduct. Loved the cutback to a mile last time, as Complete Agenda turned in a career-best effort winning by open lengths over $50,000 starter allowance rivals, and middle distances look like a perfect fit for the four-year-old colt, who made 10 straight two-turn attempts after his career debut. Claimed two back by Linda Rice, Complete Agenda brings progressing form to this entry-level allowance, and the well-bred son of Curlin has run his best races at Aqueduct (3-2-1-0). There appears to be a fair amount of speed entered in the 11-horse field, and I'll tab Complete Agenda with 10-pound apprentice Madison Olver.
Vance Hanson: The nightcap (10th) at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday is a maiden turf event for three-year-old fillies, which has attracted an interesting group. If she runs as well as some of her other Christophe Clement barn stablemates have this meet, #7 Heiress (9-2) is worth a long look. The first-time starter is a full sister to Plum Ali, who captured her first three outings at two, including a pair of stakes, one of which was the Miss Grillo (G2). Also noteworthy is that Clement's two earlier winners this meet were first-time starters, so I'd expect this filly to be well meant. Her price should be okay, too, with a couple Chad Brown trainees likely to attract play.
Ashley Anderson: Not This Time five-year-old #1 Soy Tapatio (9-2) is a neck shy of three straight wins in his last three while racing between 1 1/8 and 1 1/4 miles, and will now cut back to a mile in the Fifth Season S. at Oaklawn on Saturday. The gelding triumphed at today’s distance by 6 1/2 lengths five back in the Manitoba Mile then finished fourth by 1 3/4 lengths as the favorite in the Century Mile H. Trainer Robertino Diodoro is a 21% winner in non-graded stakes and is winning at a 30% rate at Oaklawn this meet. Cristian Torres will pick up the mount and has won 16 of his last 44 rides (36%) when paired up with Diodoro over the last two months. Soy Tapatio will break from the rail post, which is winning at a 24% rate, and can beat morning line favorite #8 Ginobili (7-5), who was a distant second and sixth in his last two attempts at a mile.
Who is the horse to fade?
JS: #8 Ginobili (7-5) in the Fifth Season S. at Oaklawn. He's recorded all three wins at Del Mar, faltering badly in his last two starts outside of California, and the two-turn mile will be a challenge given the abundance of early speed entered. The early/presser dictated the tempo wire-to-wire in his lone two-turn win. Ginobili, who will make his second start back after almost 12 months off, didn't win his second start back from a lengthy layoff in 2021, and I will let him beat me at short odds in the Fifth Season.
VH: The 2022 edition of the Nashua (G3) at Aqueduct, held Nov. 6, visually looked like a weak renewal. If that assessment is correct, then #4 Champions Dream (6-5) is worth standing against at a very short price in the Pasco S. at Tampa Bay Downs. From the first crop of Justify, Champions Dream won on debut at Saratoga, was subsequently drummed in the Champagne (G1) over a sloppy track after a troubled start, but then was all out to get up in time in the one-mile Nashua. The form of that race has not been flattered, as both the runner-up and third-place finisher have been well beaten in subsequent stakes appearances. Although he debuts for new trainer Mark Casse, adds Lasix, and doesn't face any world beaters in the Pasco, the likely price is simply too short for me to like him with much confidence.
AA: #1 Beth’s Dream opened as the 6-5 morning line favorite in the Wayward Lass S. at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, but the Curlin granddaughter has failed to win in two tries beyond a mile, settling for a head second in the 1 1/16-mile Lady’s Secret S. two back before finishing far back in seventh in the Molly Pitcher (G3) last out at Monmouth last summer. Her trainer, Victor Barboza Jr., is just a 3% winner in his last 29 graded stakes races, and the five-year-old’s recent workouts over the last two months do not inspire much confidence. I instead like George Weaver pupil #7 Pass the Champagne (3-1), who was a head second to Malathaat at today’s distance in the Ashland (G1) last April. She next came home 12th of 13 in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), then went on a nine-month break before winning a seven-furlong allowance optional claimer in February. She’s again coming off a nearly year-long break but has posted a pair of sharp workouts in preparation of this event.
What else is worth noting?
JS: Saturday's fourth race at Oaklawn features the return of Verifying, who was last seen finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). By Justify and a half-brother to champion and $3.9 million earner Midnight Bisou, the Brad Cox-trainee won his career debut on the Travers Day undercard and finished second in the Champagne (G1) prior to the Juvenile. He's listed as the 6-5 morning line favorite among eight runners in Saturday's entry-level allowance, but Verifying will face a legitimate challenger in #2 Two Eagles River (8-5), who missed by a neck to Victory Formation in a Churchill Downs allowance two back and broke poorly when recording a head second in the Dec. 31 Renaissance S. at Oaklawn last out.
VH: She won a track-and-distance maiden in a very pedestrian time last out after stalking a very slow pace, but I'd still give #5 Aniston (5-1) a shot at improving enough in the Busanda S. at Aqueduct for five-time Busanda-winning trainer Todd Pletcher. The Curlin half-sister to Grade 3 winner Souper Sensational faces the second- and third-place finishers from the Demoiselle (G2), whom Aniston's stablemate Julia Shining defeated without having produced earlier speed rating power, and I suspect they could also be vulnerable to this filly, who remains with a high ceiling.
AA: Chad Brown has yet to win the Kentucky Oaks, but his filly #2 Occult (7-5) opened as the morning line favorite in the Busanda, which will award Oaks qualifying points of 20-8-6-4-2. The Into Mischief three-year-old was a distant fourth on debut in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Aqueduct in September but bounced back to win by 4 1/4 lengths when stretching out to a mile at the same track in December. Brown won the 2021 Busanda with The Grass Is Blue and will get the chance to assess his potential Oaks runner here while moving her up in class to face graded stakes-placed Affirmative Lady and Gambling Girl.