Graded Stakes Picks and Preview from Aqueduct, Churchill, and Del Mar

On Saturday, November 20 at Del Mar features some exciting racing including the Grade III Native Diver Stakes. On my Win Place Show podcast, I preview graded stakes races at Del Mar (Native Diver), Aqueduct (Red Smith), and Churchill Downs (Chilukki). Additionally, play along at StableDuel at Del Mar where you can enter contests and win big. How? Download the StableDuel app and then pick 10 horses with your $50,000 fantasy budget. If your stable comes out on top, you’re a winner! In addition to picking the winners below, I’ll also include the “price” in the StableDuel contest.

Race 1

Post time: 3:30 PM ET

Distance: 5 furlongs

Type: $70,000 Maiden Special Weight

Age: 3-years-old and up

Surface: Turf

Overview: Let’s start off the day with a nice Maiden Special Weight with a couple of impressive horses that have yet to get their first victory. Encroachment (4-1) will most definitely be on the lead early and has one method to victory, which is to wire the field. The problem is he tired significantly his first time out at six-furlongs. A slight cutback in distance should help, but I’m still concerned about stamina. Cali Bay (5-2) is one of the horses that pass Encroachment in his maiden and except for one time running on dirt, Cali Bay has shown to be highly competitive and often hits the board. The horse to his outside, Square Cat (6-1), ran an impressive third in his maiden and showed some greenness in his performance, but his speed figures indicate there is something to like and he provides nice value. First-time starter Rackataptap (7-2) has been working out well, but neither his trainer nor jockey inspires much confidence for a victory. Dance Company (4-1) is a former Wesley Ward horse that is now in Doug O’Neill’s barn. He ran a nice maiden on dirt at Keeneland and has taken well to Del Mar with strong workouts leading up to the race.

Win: Square Cat ($5,000)

Place: Cali Bay ($8,500)

Show: Dance Company ($7,000)

Race 2

Post time: 4:00 PM ET

Distance: 1 mile

Type: $16,000 Claiming

Age: 3-years-old and up 

Surface: Dirt

Overview: The second race on the card might come down to pace with whoever gets the early jump on the lead having a good chance of holding on to wire the field. Due to that, I’m looking at Invictatatus (5-1) who won two races ago at a comparable level of race. He’s not had success running against horses in richer claiming races, but the $16,000 circuit seems to suit him just fine and he out finished T Bones Trick (7-2) in that previous race. T Bones Trick is a nice horse who does well off the claim and his new trainer, Jonathan Wong, has a solid reputation there, but the horse’s previous success off the claim often corresponds with a drop-in class, which is something he is not getting this time out. However, Family Biz (3-1) is getting a drop-in class and is probably the best horse in the field, but his running style might not set up well in this race as he likes to come off the pace but won’t have any pace to run into. Salah (6-1) is worth including on exotics as a horse for a course and as a horse that also loves the distance despite the fact his best efforts came last year. Finally, Builder (5-1) might get a nice trip upfront but typically runs on synthetic or turf. He’s got winning experience on dirt, but it’s been a while since those days and his recent workouts do not pop off the page.

Win: Invictatatus ($6,000)

Place: Salah ($5,000)

Show: Family Biz ($8,000)

Race 3

Post time: 4:30 PM ET

Distance: 5 furlongs

Type: $80,000 Allowance Optional Claiming

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

Surface: Turf

Overview: If you’re looking for an easy race to bet, it might be this one as Zero Tolerance (4-5) is the class of the field despite only having four starts. She’s got three wins including a non-graded stakes victory at Santa Anita in October. She finished four her most recent time out when stretching out to a mile at the Grade III Autumn Miss Stakes but cutting back to five-furlongs should be perfect and she’s won on the Del Mar turf at this distance in the past. Trickle In (5-1) should be near the lead early and while she is likely to fade just a bit down the stretch, she provides nice value underneath in a very small field. Storming Lady (5-1) is a nice horse and Jess Pyfer has shown she can hold her own during her jockey apprenticeship, but the horse has not responded when stepping up in class and this would be a significant step up.  I also like Southern Mama (6-1) underneath as a horse that has run well on turf last time out at Keeneland and hit the board behind a strong pace and decent field. Night Life (7-2) is taking a step up in competition, which has traditionally not worked out well for her.

Win: Zero Tolerance ($11,00)

Place: Trickle In ($6,000)

Show: Southern Mama ($5,000)

Race 4

Post time: 5:00 PM ET

Distance: 5 ½ furlongs

Type: $50,000 Maiden Claiming

Age: 3-years-old and up

Surface: Dirt

Overview: If Head for Business (8-5) does not win this race, he may want to consider running 4 ½ furlong races at Charles Town next year. The horse has been frustratingly close to breaking his maiden as he’s finished second three times and it’s always close, but he lets it slip away down the stretch as he gives up the lead. He’ll get another frontrunning trip and the question is whether there is another horse in the field able to catch him. The odds would indicate that Wearenotbadpeople (5-2) might be that horse, but a closer look at the numbers reveals that he’s got the same problem at Head for Business in terms of losing ground down the stretch. Therefore, the next most likely candidate is Sottocapo (3-1) and he’s running on dirt, which is his better surface and has run against Head for Business before and came up short, but his workouts show that he’s got fresh legs after his last race and a nice post position. I also think it might be worth looking at Dream Robber (15-1) who is breaking from the far outside and should get on the lead. He had an awful maiden on turf, but the surface switch is going to do the trick and I like him to add value to a chalky board.

Win: Sottocapo ($8,000)

Place: Head for Business ($9,400)

Show: Dream Robber ($500)

Race 5

Post time: 5:30 PM ET

Distance: 1 1/16 miles

Type: $70,000 Maiden Special Weight

Age: 3-years-old and up

Surface: Turf

Overview: There is a clear top three in the field with Prince Albama (5-2), Hail Freedom (3-1), and Kazuhiko (3-1) all having hit the board multiple times in recently at similar level races. All three have a decent turn of foot with Prince Albama and Kazuhiko being a little more impressive than Hail Freedom who often sits close to the early pace, which should be reasonable. Kazuhiko has not run over six-furlongs before, and Hail Freedom seems to be a cut below the others in terms of speed. It’s doubtful all three horses get the perfect trip or run as well as they could, so looking beyond them, Oncoming (12-1) is an intriguing horse coming off over a year layoff but has been working out beautifully at six-furlongs. Additionally, Hollywoodhellraisr (6-1) might get a nice trip and be able to get a piece of the board from its stalking position.

Win: Prince Albama ($8,500)

Place: Hollywoodhellraisr ($5,000)

Show: Oncoming ($750)

Race 6

Post time: 6:00 PM ET

Distance: 6 ½ furlongs

Type: $70,000 Maiden Special Weight

Age: 2-years-old (fillies)

Surface: Dirt

Overview: In a race with so many unknowns, it makes sense that Adare Manor (9-5) is the morning line favorite given her impressive maiden effort that resulted in a 70 Beyer Speed Figure and a driving second-place finish by a neck. Her workouts suggest there are no issues, and he should be fresh. Little Lara (4-1) made a furious run in her maiden but came up short. I worry whether she will spot the field too many lengths and run out of room on Del Mar’s short homestretch. Of the first-time starters, I’m biased toward Micro Share (5-1) as I recently got to know one of the gentlemen who owns a micro share of him through My Racehorse. Personal connection aside, the filly has a tremendous pedigree and can run, but might ultimately like more distance. The other maiden who will fetch you a little more value is Empire Gal (12-1) who has been looking good in workouts and has strong connections with Mike McCarthy training and Mike Smith aboard for the ride.  

Win: Adare Manor ($9,200)

Place: Empire Gal ($750)

Show: Micro Share ($6,000)

Race 7

Post time: 6:30 PM ET

Distance: 1 1/16 miles

Type: $50,000 Starter Allowance

Age: 3-years-old and up 

Surface: Turf

Overview: While Big Coupe (7-2) is a nice horse coming off two straight wins, let’s not overstate his dominance in the field. He’s a vulnerable morning-line favorite given that he’s taking a step up in class against experienced horses. I would look at the two horses right outside of him, Liar Liar (8-1) and Secret Club (4-1) both of whom provide better value and have run well at this level of competition. If Liar Liar stays close to the pace in a stalking position, I really like his chances to win and provide some value. Secret Club will sit a little further back and has good, not great, turn of foot. Midnight Jostar (6-1) is another horse that will be forwardly placed and should get an ideal trip while running at a very comfortable level of competition for the horse. 

Win: Liar Liar ($3,000)

Place: Midnight Jostar ($5,000)

Show: Secret Club ($7,000)

Race 8

Post time: 7:00 PM ET

Distance: 1 1/8 miles

Type: Native Diver Stakes – Grade III

Age: 3-years-old and up

Surface: Dirt

Overview: This is a field that features a lot of horses with talent but also with a lot of red flags. Let’s go straight to the favorite, Eight Rings (7-2), who is a classy horse but is starting to run longer distances and may be out of his depths in terms of stamina. Additionally, he ran just two weeks ago at the Breeders’ Cup in the Big Ass Fan Dirt Mile, finishing fourth behind the dominant Life is Good. Eight Rings has looked fresh in workouts, but it’s still fair to wonder whether going the longest distance in his career two weeks after the Breeders’ Cup is a recipe for success. So, let’s talk about the other two Baffert horses, Azul Coast (4-1) and Ax Man (6-1). Azul Coast, after running interference for Medina Spirit last time out at the Awesome Again Stakes is back on the track in a much more reasonable position and has Flavien Prat back aboard. He should get a good trip but has very limited success in graded stakes races. Meanwhile, Ax Man (6-1) is coming off a significant layoff, but he should be able to grab the lead easily and won’t be pushed for a fast pace. Additionally, Mike Smith has been aboard Ax Man three times previously and won twice, both of which were route races with front-running trips. Kiss Today Goodbye (5-1) has run against some of the best horses in the country and gotten squashed but is getting some class relief after a significant layoff and I like the way the race sets up for him to come from off the pace. Midcourt (4-1) is a nice horse, but I fear his best races are behind him as he’s failed to recapture his 2020 form and most recently was walked off at the Awesome Again Stakes.  

Win: Ax Man ($5,000)

Place: Kiss Today Goodbye ($6,000)

Show: Azul Coast ($7,000)

Race 9

Post time: 7:30 PM ET

Distance: 5 ½ furlongs

Type: $20,000 Maiden Claiming

Age: 3-years-old and up 

Surface: Dirt

Overview: The final race will crown a first-time winner, which is always a nice way to close out the day. Dixie’s Two Stents (9-5) is an unimpressive morning-line favorite whose best finish was in his maiden and has not gotten that close again. Fenestra (5-1) and Mad Catter (4-1) are likely to vie for the early speed and could create a hot pace, but I think Mad Catter likely choose to sit right off the pace and have the first crack at Fenestra who is likely to crumble even at the shortened distance. I do think Fenestra can hold on to get a piece of the board, but he won’t get my win bet. Of the first-time runners, Annie’s Chief (20-1) might be worth a shot as she’s been working out well and in a very limited sample size, her trainer has won 67% of his first starts this year with a huge ROI. It wouldn’t be the worst $2.00 you spent. Finally, Warfront Fighter (4-1) has run some nice races at Belmont but has not seemed to have taken to the west coast as well as they may have hoped, so I would be cautious.

Win: Mad Catter ($7,000)

Place: Annie Chief ($250)

Show: Fenestra ($6,000)

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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