Comely Stakes and Aqueduct Preview with Sara Elbadwi

On Friday, November 26 at Aqueduct feature a duo of impressive stakes race including the Gio Ponte Stakes and the Grade III Comely Stakes. In addition to giving you the Win, Place, Show picks for the entire case, I break down the Gio Ponte and Comely Stakes with guest handicapper Sara Elbadwi from Out Run the Odds on the podcast and you get both of our Win, Place, and Show predictions. 

Race 1

Post time: 11:50 AM ET

Distance: 1 1/16 miles

Type: $40,000 Maiden Claiming

Age: 3-years-old and up

Surface: Turf

Overview: The safest bet of the day might be for Bail Out to finish second, a position he’s finished the last four times out. He’s a remarkably consistent horse who should get another great trip and will be in consideration down the stretch. However, unlike previous races, he might be on the lead, due to the lack of a pacesetter, which may be what he needs to change up his luck. The Great Gazoo is getting a little bit of class relief but needs to be more forwardly placed if he’s going to hit the board. I like the consistency of Arrowheart who ran well just two weeks ago at Aqueduct and was gaining on the leader down the stretch. He’s not worked out since that race, which might be a cause of concern. I’d also consider Ember as a long shot play who will look to improve upon her maiden effort. It wasn’t overwhelming, but she showed a lot more than many have in this field and finished fourth behind Bail Out. If she can stay close to mid-pack then I like her chances to make a run.

Win: Bail Out

Place: Arrowheart

Show: Ember

Race 2

Post time: 12:20 PM ET

Distance: 1 mile

Type: $16,000 Claiming

Age: 3-years-old and up

Surface: Dirt

Overview: The second race features three horses, Ouch Ouch Ouch, Western Advantage, and Actuary who are making the transition from turf to dirt. If you like playing the surface change angle, then consider Ouch Ouch Ouch who has some dirt pedigree underneath and has shown nice speed on turf. Additionally, he, unlike the other two, should be in the best position to make a run on the leaders late. Speaking of the leader, Profusion should be on the lead and has the class to wire the field. He’s run well lately and posted his best speed figures last time out but came up just short of a win. Jacks American Pie hasn’t been particularly noteworthy, but if he’s placed in a stalking position then I really like his chance to hit the board. He’s been working out well coming into this race and while this might be a slight improvement in terms of the caliber of competition, he shouldn’t be compromised by the pace or speed in the field.

Win: Profusion

Place: Ouch Ouch Ouch

Show: Jacks American Pie

Race 3

Post time: 12:49 PM ET

Distance: 1 3/16 miles

Type: $82,000 Allowance

Age: 3-years-old and up (fillies & mares)

Surface: Outer Turf

Overview: There is minimal speed to be featured in the third race so I’m really looking at horses that could wire the field as I’m not convinced a dynamic turn of foot will be able to win this race if everyone still has plenty left for home. L’Indiscret should be very close to the lead and is getting a slight class relief stepping down from a richer allowance race at Belmont last time out. Her speed figures have been consistent, and I think she’s a safe bet to be in the top two. I’m leaning toward Mezcal as my winner. I really loved this horse last time out and she came through with an impressive victory in which she broke her maiden. The caliber of this field shouldn’t be an issue and while she will likely be in a stalking position, she’ll be close enough where she won’t have to make up much ground on the leaders down the homestretch. The former political science professor in me would love to put some money on Federalist Papers and might be able to get a piece of the board, but I don’t think she’ll have enough to win given her performance in her first allowance race last time out. Flanigan’s Cove is another horse that broke her maiden last time out and while she won behind a fast pace, which she won’t get here, she also finished second the previous race behind a glacial pace, so she’s got some versatility.

Win: Mezcal

Place: Flanigan’s Cove

Show: L’Indiscret

Race 4

Post time: 1:18 PM ET

Distance: 1 1/16 miles

Type: Forever Together Stakes

Age: 3-years-old and up (fillies & mares)

Surface: Turf

Overview: In the Forever Together Stakes, Flower Point would appear to be the overwhelming favorite based on speed figures and past performance, but distance is a question mark though she ran well at a mile last time out at a Grade III race and hit the board. Mucha Mezquina is another turf sprint horse stepping up in distance who has had a mixed track record when doing that in the past. As a result, I’m leaning toward Giacosa who can do the distance and while she had a disappointing 6th last time out, she was only three lengths back and has one non-graded stakes races before. Platinum Paynter is the other horse I’d consider here given her strong previous efforts in Grade 3 competition and her recent workouts look sharp. It’s a small field, but I think you can find value if you move off the sprinters.

Win: Giacosa

Place: Platinum Paynter

Show: Mucha Mezquina

Race 5

Post time: 1:45 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $72,000 Allowance

Age: 3-years-old and up

Surface: Dirt

Overview: Our Man Mike is cutting back in distance and I really like playing that angle in a race where nobody stands out as being an overwhelming favorite. He’s been a consistent route horse but typically loses ground the last furlong so the cutback should help keep him near the front. Meanwhile, Big Brown Shoes is a sprint horse who made a seamless transition from maiden to allowance races last time out and should only continue to improve. One Whirlwind Ride ran poorly last time out, which was two weeks ago but had been posting consistent speed figures and finishes prior to that. The lack of workout figures coming out of the last race is concerning, but she’s run on short rest before and did well. Big Castle ran a huge effort two races ago when he switched surfaces but regressed badly the second time and I’m leaning toward fading him as the first time on dirt might have been a fluke, though there is some decent dirt pedigree in his background. I’m not sure if the cutback in distance from a mile to six-furlongs is ideal for his running style though.

Win: Big Brown Shoes

Place: Our Man Mike

Show: One Whirlwind Ride

Race 6

Post time: 2:14 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $70,000 Maiden Special Weight

Age: 2-years-old (fillies)

Surface: Outer Turf

Overview: A juvenile turf race with a Chad Brown entry who ran second last time out is likely going to be a slam dunk for the morning line favorite. Indeed, Tough Street looked good in her maiden effort at Saratoga in July but hasn’t run since. She got caught down the stretch at 5 ½ furlongs but has been working out beautifully at Belmont over the last month and Chad Brown on turf is typically money in the bank. In a field of largely unknowns, she feels like a safe bet. Noli Temere might have just caught some bad luck in her maiden as her race was taken off the turf and she’s got incredible turf pedigree, so if the weather holds, I think she’ll rebound nicely and might give you a decent price. Of the first-time starters, I like Admire My Crown as a horse that’s been posting nice workouts and who has very good turf pedigree as well as a trainer, Horacio DePaz, who has some success with first-time starters. Big Bean Christine falls into the same category as Noli Temere as she got her maiden washed off the turf and has been working out wonderfully since.

Win: Noli Temere

Place: Tough Street

Show: Big Bean Christine

Race 7

Post time: 2:43 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $40,000 Claiming

Age: 3-years-old and up

Surface: Dirt

Overview: I’m not sure if he can do it, but part of me is really intrigued by the idea of Bar Fourteen, a career turf horse, wiring the field. There isn’t obvious early speed, and the horse has run a couple of nice dirt races at a lower level earlier in his career. Speed is typically the name of the game in dirt sprints and Bar Fourteen might be worth a play. Jerusalem Gates should also be near the lead and while I’m concerned about the vet scratch prior to his attempted October 15th race, he had run well at a $40,000 claimer prior to that, and the recent workouts look respectable. Straight Skinny is breaking from the far outside and is a turf horse who collected his only win when his race was washed off the grass and he won on the mud. Conditions might be muddy or sloppy on Friday with rain in the forecast and I have a feeling a few of these turf horses that are transitioning to turf might benefit from that. It’s possible that American Gentlemen runs well here but I’m out on this horse after a few horrendous starts that even corresponded with dropping down in class. The horse might be able to get near the lead, but he’s far from a sure bet and isn’t reliable enough to make me feel confident in a wager. Finally, Air Show got gelded in September and this is the first race since that procedure. A lot of people like to play that angle. I’m not sold on the angle, but if he can get positioned more effectively then I really like his chances in this field.

Win: Straight Skinny

Place: Air Show

Show: Bar Fourteen

Race 8

Post time: 3:14 PM ET

Distance: 1 1/16 miles

Type: Gio Ponte Stakes

Age: 3-years-old

Surface: Turf

Overview: As my guest handicapping guest Sara Elbadwi mentioned, the horse who might have the most significant impact on this race is Public Sector, who isn’t even running. However, Public Sector has run against nearly all the other horses in the field and has served as an effective measuring stick when comparing the horses to each other. Safe Conduct ran poorly last time out on yielding turf and while it will likely rain at Aqueduct on Friday, it’s not expected to be a downpour and the turf should be fine. Otherwise, Safe Conduct is a very solid horse who has turned in wins at comparable races in the past. Never Surprised is probably the horse most thrilled not to see Public Sector in this field having finished second to the horse in his previous two races by a combined length. I’m not sure I love this horse to win, but he’s too good to miss the board. As you might expect, I really like Monition, a horse with two career races and two career wins who has shown improving speed as he’s stepped up in class. What is most impressive is how he won his two races with his first effort being one where he came from well off the pace and the next was a frontrunning effort in which he wired the field. He’ll likely sit back a bit in this race with other speed in the field and should be able to on a move down the stretch. Original is the horse with the biggest question mark. He clipped heels two races ago and looked like a shell of his former self last time out but if he’s able to regain his form from earlier in his career then he’s absolutely a threat.  

Win: Monition

Place: Safe Conduct

Show: Never Surprised

Race 9

Post time: 3:43 PM ET

Distance: 1 1/8 miles

Type: Comely Stakes – Grade III

Age: 3-years-old (fillies)

Surface: Dirt

Overview: A very nice Grade III field to highlight the card the day after Thanksgiving. The favorites are all positioned together with Army Wife, Played Hard, and Crazy Beautiful having run against top competition in previous outings. Army Wife has run against the best three-year-old fillies in the country in Malathaat and Clairiere and held her own finishing a respectable third at the Grade I Alabama and Cotillion Stakes. Played Hard will likely try to be the early speed but has a habit of fading down the stretch while Crazy Beautiful likes to come from off the pace. Played Hard and Crazy Beautiful are nice horses but have been well beaten by Army Wife in previous races. The horse that I’m intrigued by is Shalimar Garden who is an improving horse who is stepping up in class. Her pedigree suggests that distance won’t be an issue and with the potentially fast pace up front, I like for her to be able to run into some speed. Vegas Weekend might be worth a play on the backend of exotics as the horse has never missed the board and is 5-8 winning. This will be a significant step up as well but she should also benefit from the pace in front of her. Ultimately, I think Army Wife is the class of the field and should easily win, but I do like chasing some value underneath since I’m not sold on either Crazy Beautiful or Played Hard.

Win: Army Wife

Place: Shalimar Gardens

Show: Vegas Weekend

Race 10

Post time: 4:13 PM ET

Distance: 6 furlongs

Type: $25,000 Claiming

Age: 3-years-old and up

Surface: Outer Turf

Overview: A nice turf sprint to close out the day. Stanhope and Montauk Daddy should push a pretty hot pace in front, but Stanhope will crumble based on his previous performances while Montauk Daddy has the class to keep things together and hit the board. However, the fast pace should open things up to a few other horses in the field and the one I’m most drawn to is South Sea who is a remarkably consistent horse who has shown the ability to pass other horses and I know distance won’t be an issue. Valmont is another horse whose consistency is a likely advantage and should be nicely positioned behind the early leaders to get an early jump when they come down the stretch. R Boy Bode is another possible play to hit the board, but last time out under a hot pace he really faded down the stretch, so I’m not as convinced he’ll turn in a better performance a month later, though his bullet workout earlier this week indicates that he may try to use some early tactical speed to sit in an advantageous position

Win: South Sea

Place: Montauk Daddy

Show: Valmont

Get all of Matthew’s horse racing coverage by following him on Twitter at @failedtomenace, by subscribing to Amalfi Media’s YouTube channel, and following The Win Place Show podcast.


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