The first stakes race at the inner meeting at Aqueduct comes up on Saturday with a field of nine fillies and mares signed up to go six furlongs in the $100,000 Garland of Roses.
Willet is the 5-2 morning line favorite, coming back on short rest after she ran seventh in the Go for Wand Handicap (G3) on Nov. 28 at odds of 9-2. Last year she wheeled back out of the Go for Wand to win the state bred Touch of Love a week later.
The one to catch over what likely will be a wet track is the speedy Bridgehampton (7-2), part of an entry sent out by Mike Hushion. The filly has won three of her eight starts and is seeking to rebound off a sixth place finish in the Gallant Bob Handicap (G2), a race that has produced three next out stakes winners.
Winning Image (3-1) and Joya Real (6-1) are cross-entered in Saturday’s $100,000 Willa On the Move Stakes at Laurel Park, so we could see a scratch or two.
The weather forecast is not good, with showers starting in the morning with a steady rain in the afternoon, which likely will leave the track off. There are no longer any turf races being carded.
We will also head out to Gulfstream Park on Saturday afternoon for the Claiming Crown. There is $1 million up for grabs, with some of the best blue-collar claiming horse converging on Hallandale for opening day of the winter meeting.
There are 142 horse entered on the 10 race card.
Saturday’s Best Plays Report will include my strongest plays from Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park.
Let’s head out to Aqueduct for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Aqueduct Race 8 The Garland of Roses (Post time 3:47 ET)
1 Bridgehampton / 1a Jonata 7-2
6 Willet 5-2
7 Expression 10-1
4 Winning Image 3-1
Analysis: Bridgehampton pressed a sharp early pace and faded to finish sixth last out in the Gallant Bob Handicap (G2) last out at Philly that is always a really tough race. The runner up La Verdad came back to win the state bred Iroquois, fourth place finisher Merry Meadow won the Sky Beauty at Gulfstream Park West, and fifth place finisher Classic Point took the restricted Punkin Pie and then won the Go for Wand Handicap (G3) in his next two starts.
The filly won the My Juliet three back and ran a good second in the Victory Ride (G3) last year in her first start against winners. She is bred top and bottom to handle a wet track, by Bernardini out of a Forestry mare. She owns solid early and mid pace numbers and is a danger to take these gate to wire if able to shake loose early.
Willet comes back quick after she failed to fire her best in a seventh place finish in the Go for wand. She ran fourth in that race last year and came back a week later and won the state bred Touch of Love on the main track here which was muddy that day, so she can handle the quick turnaround.
The cut back to six furlongs will suit and she has done some of her best running on wet tracks, winning three of five trips over wet tracks with a second. She reunites with Arroyo who was aboard for her win in the Touch of Love last year.
Expression made a good late run to finish in the runner up spot last out against Alw-2 optional claimers, beaten just a neck for the top spot facing Alw-2 foes in her second start off the layoff. She has won five of her nine starts on the inner track in her career.
Her best in stakes company in a second and a third and she is 0 for 5 on wet tracks, but is looks as if she should be a decent price here and she looks primed for a top effort here in her third start off the bench.
WIN: #1 to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 1,6 / 1,4,6,7
TRI: 1,6 / 1,4,6,7 / 1,2,4,6,7
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