Defending champion Private Zone headlines the $500,000 Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) on Saturday at Aqueduct, one of four graded stakes on an outstanding wagering card.
The six-year-old gelding will be making his first start for trainer Brian Lynch and his first start since getting run down by Runhappy in the stretch of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).
Martin Pedroza ships in for the return ride on the son of Macho Uno, who in addition to winning this race last year was second in the 2013 running.
His main foes will be two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) winner Tonalist and the up and coming Matrooh, who won the Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) in his last outing for trainer Chad Brown.
Completing the field are recent first level allowance winner Marking, Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) fourth place finisher Mshawish, Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) third place finisher Red Vine and New York bred Full of Mine, who was third in the Empire Classic in his first start against winners.
The supporting features are the $300,000 Comely (G3) for three-year-old fillies, $300,000 Remsen (G2) for juveniles and $300,000 Demoiselle (G2) for two-year-old fillies.
Saturday’s Best Plays Report will include my strongest plays from Churchill Downs and Aqueduct including all of the stakes action.
Let’s head out to the Big A for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Aqueduct Race 9 The Cigar Mile G1 (Post time 3:50 ET)
#7 Private Zone 6-5
#4 Matrooh 6-1
#5 Tonalist 2-1
#2 Mshawish 10-1
Analysis: Private Zone had the lead heading for home in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) last out but could not hold off Runhappy inside the final furlong and had to settle for the runner up spot. The third place finisher Favorite Tale came back to win the Fabulous Strike Handicap at Penn National in his next outing on Nov. 25. Our top pick ran second in the ’13 edition of this race and last year won it in gate to wire fashion by five lengths. He owns a huge edge in early and mid pace numbers and should be able to open up an easy early lead. He makes his first start here for the Brian Lynch barn that is 26% winners (with a +ROI) with newcomers to the barn.
Matrooh earned a career top speed fig winning the Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) last out at Belmont Park going seven furlongs. The Chad Brown trainee was making his first start off a two-month break. He has made six starts since landing in the U.S. and he is perfect in four trips going one turn. This is just his third start since July and he may still have some upside for a barn known better for turf but is having a live meeting, hitting at a 30% clip.
Tonalist was a disappointing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), beaten 12 1/2 lengths for the top spot. He had won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) for the second year in a row two back. He has done his best running at Belmont Park, his lone trip over the Big A main track came in his debut where he ran fourth. Trainer Christophe Clement puts the blinkers back on which should have him closer to the lead here and he will need to be. His last start with the hood on was his solid runner up finish to Honor Code in the Met Mile (G1).
WIN: #7 to win at 7-5 or better.
EX: 4,7 / 2,4,5,7
TRI: 4,7 / 2,4,5,7 / 2,3,4,5,7
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