A good weekend that could have been better; poor pools and fields that had too many horses with low odds made me shy away from a lot of Aqueduct races, but I still managed to finish Saturday well with $15 added to my bankroll. I imagine I would have had a field day had I actually wagered the three Derby preps: my win choices alone won the Wood Memorial and Illinois Derby at even and 13-1 odds while Creative Cause narrowly lost the Santa Anita with many factors working against him. Oy!
This weekend’s best was a 7-furlong sprint race, with the East Coast ponies prepping for possible Met Mile (I) starts in the lucrative, but small Carter Handicap (I) field which saw a late scratch from favorite local Calibrachoa, but featured the 1-2-3 finishers of the Dirt Mile (I). Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Caleb’s Posse would be stepping in as the favorite with Calibrachoa out, who narrowly held him off last out on the same track in the Tom Fool (III). Coupled-entry Emcee got a bad start, but brushed up well to stay with the field led through cool fractions by Shackleford with Caleb’s Posse about 5 lengths back as the trailer. On the clubhouse turn, a surprising early move was made by 7-furlong specialist Jackson Bend who caught up with Shackleford turning for home, an exciting stretch duel developing between the two. But then came Caleb’s Posse with his trademark late move, turning it on full blast to catch up with Jackson Bend, who had disposed of Shackleford and holding on strong. Had the race been barely a sixteenth further, I’m not sure how much it would have mattered. Jackson Bend won the race by a nose in a photo finish, setting up some suspense and a rematch due to take place in May’s Met Mile (I).
My knee-jerk reaction is to support any Tapit entry on a stakes level, so naturally I shied away from Hawthorne’s Cryptoclearance Stakes over 1 1/16 miles for older horses. Tapit gelding Taptowne did not feature anything too remarkable on paper concerning connections or past performances with 3 wins in 14 starts and at around 10 or 11-1 odds. Shadowbdancing gunned uncontested to the front while the lone gray Taptowne was squeezed 8 or so lengths back and between horses with little running room and under sleeper fractions. On the clubhouse turn, the field was catching up and Taptowne found a little room on the rail to start threading himself through the herd to slowly gain ground on Shadowbdancing coming down the stretch to pass with less than a sixteenth remaining. It was by no means a fantastic, dramatic event with a nearly 1:39 mile and :7 second final sixteenth, but it just goes to show that every now and then a “heart” favorite can win. Race replay here