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Oct 30, 2009

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            Although the weather is New York in October has been mild most racing fans know that it is fall with the winter right upon because of the opening of Aqueduct Racetrack. They opened their doors on Wednesday October 28th and will be open until the end of April. Unlike Belmont, Aqueduct cannot be considered “beautiful” but it does have character and in the winter time if you want to go to live racing it does the trick.

            The fall meeting runs through the end of December with live racing conducted Wednesday through Sunday. Aqueduct will be open the other days for “dark day” simulcasting, where you can bet on other racetracks with the benefit of track odds. From December 14th through Christmas December 25th Aqueduct will be closed for their holiday break and live racing will resume on December 26th. There will be simulcasting on these days through December 23rd, the track will be closed on December 24th and 25th.

            Just like last year Aqueduct is offering FREE admission and general parking with the admission gates opening at 11:00 am an hour earlier on Thanksgiving Day. If you would like to park your car with valet there is a $5.00 charge.

            Despite the move to Aqueduct the quality of racing will still be strong. Holidayfest which starts on Thanksgiving Day and runs through that Saturday features some very good racing. On November 26th, Thanksgiving Day Aqueduct will host the Grade III Fall Highweight Handicap race run at 6f with a purse of $100,000. The next day known in many circles as “Black Friday” the biggest shopping day of the year— Aqueduct will host the Grade II Top Flight Handicap for fillies and mares 3 year old and upward run at 1 mile with a purse of $150,000. The next day is the biggest day of racing at the Aqueduct fall meeting. There are two grade I races and two grade II races. The Hill “N’ Dale Cigar Handicap is a Grade I with a purse of $300,000 run at 1 mile. The Gazelle which has been moved to Aqueduct is also a Grade I with a purse of $300,000 run at 1 and 1/8th miles. The Demoiselle and the Remsen for two year old fillies and two year olds respectively will both be run at 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $200,000 and both carry Grade II status.

            Aqueduct also features the pick the pros and ponies contest every Sunday which is a free contest where you have to pick the winners of two races and four football games and gives you a free shot at a $1,000 every week.

            When it comes to betting the races the configuration of the main track is about the same as Belmont. They run the six and seven furlongs and they have a one turn mile. When it comes to the longer races unlike Belmont which runs their distance races out of the chute and are at one turn, anything over a mile at Aqueduct is at two turns. You will see many 1 and 1/8th miles races because over the main track they don’t run 1 and 1/6th miles races or 1 mile and 70 yards. Those distances are reserved for the inner track which should open in early December and will be open until around the end of March depending on the weather in New York.

            On the jockey and trainer’s side of things you don’t have to go further than Ramon Dominguez and Gary Contessa. They have dominated the winter racing for a while now and are probably the favorites to win their respective titles again. Some other jockeys to watch especially when the riders head south to Florida are Rajiv Maragh who always seems to come up second best to Dominguez. However, both of these riders will command the top mounts so there may not be much value in betting on their horses. Some jockeys that can provide value are Jorge Chavez, once a top jockey in New York who is trying to get back near the top has been riding well and should perform well with his aggressive style. David Cohen, who will be riding here full time is a solid jockey and should have a lot of business for some ship-in trainers, and is another that rides aggressively which should serve him well at Aqueduct. C. C. “Chuckie” Lopez, who is a regular in New Jersey comes here for the winter and always does a great job. Known as an aggressive speed rider he lulls many of the riders to sleep and will win many of his races wire to wire.

            When it comes to trainers it is hard to say who to look for when playing for value. The Pletcher, Dutrow Family and McLaughlin barns will have horses here but their best horses will be down in Florida. Contessa who will run a ton of horses will most likely be overbet. Some trainers that can hold their own in the winter at prices at Randi Persaud, David Jacobson, Bruce Brown and the always solid Bruce Levine should fare well this winter and can offer some value at the windows. Just think a little over six months until they open Belmont, Good Luck!

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