Aqueduct Racetrack has a great card scheduled for Saturday, anchored by the Grade I Cigar Mile Handicap, which drew Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) runner-up Sharp Azteca, Practical Joke (fourth in the BC Mile) and Mind Your Biscuits (winner of the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen). But the races that intrigue me most are the Demoiselle and Remsen Stakes.
Carded immediately before the day’s main event, both races are for two-year-olds, carry a $250,000 purse and Grade II status, and both will be contested at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.
The first thing I notice about this race is that, although the pace is projected to be brisk (-9 early speed ration), 1-Daisy appears to be the only confirmed frontrunner in the field — and she has recorded faster ESRs in each of her two lifetime starts than the race par.
What this means, in layman’s terms, is that Daisy should be leading the pack early on Saturday and her latest Brisnet Speed Figure (86) suggests she could be tough to overhaul. Still, at 5-2 on the morning line, the John Servis trainee hardly gets my pulse racing.
Two horses that do are 5-Indy Union and 7-Layla Noor. The former just broke her maiden by seven lengths and has improved in every start minus her penultimate race, where she tried turf and two turns for the first time in the Grade 3 Miss Grillo Stakes, while the latter was last seen winning an optional claiming affair at Laurel Park.
I think Indy Union will be even better with another furlong to work with (her last race was at a flat mile) and I absolutely love the fact that she recorded a career-best ESR and LSR (late speed ration) in her most recent outing.
On the same token, I thought Layla Noor looked great at Laurel and her stakes debut — in the Jessamine Stakes (G3) at Keeneland — wasn’t half-bad either, considering that it was on the grass and she lost to eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) champion Rushing Fall.
Indy Union is 6-1 on the morning line and Layla Noor is 12-1.
3-Wonder Gadot, who finished sixth in the BC Juvenile Fillies following a troubled trip, has been installed as the 2-1 favorite in the Demoiselle.
In the Remsen, which is a “Road to the Kentucky Derby” race worth 17 total points (10 to the winner), I’m inclined to take a stand against 3-Avery Island, even though, like Daisy in the previous race, he appears to have an early speed advantage against these.
The issue I have with the son of Street Sense is that his best BSF is a meager 87 — a full 7 points less than the Remsen par. I love his pace numbers, but I simply can’t endorse a slow favorite, even one that has every right to improve.
So, instead, I’m looking at a trio of horses — all at good prices:
4-Biblical: Todd Pletcher trainee has improved drastically in every start, culminating with a 1 ¾-length maiden score that earned the son of Tapit an 86 BSF and -5 LSR on Nov. 17.
5-Catholic Boy: I think this guy can make his presence felt down the lane. He was well-bet while finishing a close fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) on Nov. 3 and Saturday’s projected turf-like pace (-5 ESR) might mitigate the fact that he’s never run on the dirt, even though his pedigree suggests he probably prefers the green (112 BRIS Pedigree Rating on grass, 109 on “fast” dirt).
10-Tap Rap Strike: At 8-1 on the morning line, this dude is especially intriguing to me. A well-backed 6-5 in his debut (which he won at Parx Racing), the son of Tapit is partially owned by Cash Is King LLC, a stable with a 23.3-percent lifetime winning average, bolstered by graded winners such as Afleet Alex, Afleet Again and, more recently, Cathryn Sophia. Tap Rap Strike earned an 84 BSF in his maiden score, while earning an outstanding -2 LSR.
Depending on the odds, I’d dutch those three to win and also box them in the exacta.