Weekend Plays: Long-winded Nakamura factors in Red Smith

Weekend Plays: Long-winded Nakamura factors in Red Smith
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Because most horses can't rally for an indefinite stretch of ground, it's impressive when seeing a horse move early in a race and sustain that push without fading. In marathon races, a sustained move is even more notable given the distance.

With that said, Nakamura is an interesting option in a deep renewal of the Grade 3, $200,000 Red Smith Stakes at Aqueduct, leading off five selections to ponder on Saturday's races.

Aqueduct Race 9: Red Smith Stakes

On paper, Sadler's Joy is the best horse in this race, but he enters off a 10-race losing streak dating back to March of 2018. Though the fields he has been facing were tougher than this one, there is some room to explore other options.

Graham Motion-trained Nakamura recently finished second in the Oct. 17 Sycamore Stakes (G3) at Keeneland, losing by 1 ¼ lengths to Marzo, who is entered here too. But it is notable how Nakamura made a sustained bid from nine lengths off the pace.

Around the first turn, Nakamura settled in third to last off a crawling 25.56-second opening quarter and 51.26-second half mile. 

After six furlongs in 1:17.09, Javier Castellano pointed Nakamura outside and he began to make his move early. He gradually inched forward and reached fourth at the top of the stretch, right outside the leading trio. 

The winner, Marzo, enjoyed a ground-saving trip close to the soft pace before tipping out. Nakamura tried late, but Marzo held him off.

Nakamura is worth another look at double-digit odds. And the rider switch to Jose Ortiz is understandable given Castellano decided to go with expected favorite Sadler's Joy.

If not on top, then Nakamura at least deserves a spot underneath Sadler's Joy on your tickets.

Aqueduct Race 7: Allowance

The Caretaker is not the fastest horse on figures. But he gets space in this list because of his popularity at the claim box and his newest trainer.

First of all, getting claimed often is a sign of a happy, healthy horse, as there is not a huge market for worn down runners with a tag. If the claims come three times in a row, then the horse must look outstanding.

In The Caretaker's case, he lands now in the barn of trainer Rudy Rodriguez, who TimeformUS rates a 97 out of 100 with horses first time off the claim. He knows where to spot them.

The Caretaker will need some pace. Otherwise, he should move forward in this event.

Churchill Downs Race 3: Allowance

Toma Todo exits off a 183-day layoff for trainer Michael Maker and Bloom Racing Stable. But his career debut is notable as he defeated some nice 2-year-old turf horses, including Peace Achieved and Elusive d'Oro.

Peace Achieved went on to win the Bourbon Stakes (G3) at Keeneland before failing to make an impact in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, while Elusive d'Oro recently won a local 5 ½-furlong turf maiden by 4 ¼ lengths.

From studying Toma Todo's work tab, he did miss one work in late October.  Regardless, there are seven breezes since his last start, and this field is not strong. Toma Toda can win, even without his best.

Churchill Downs Race 9: Maiden

In Picking Winners by Andy Beyer, there is a section describing the “Z pattern,” which is when a horse starts out with some speed, loses ground and makes a mild late bid. Thus, the margin moves in the pattern of a Z.

The maiden with a Z pattern in this race is Don Bourbon, who makes his third career start after running fifth in another race at Keeneland.

Don Bourbon started off in fifth, before falling two spots to seventh and 10 lengths off the pace at one point. But, he made a mild move back to fifth.

Tiznow progeny are slow to develop. With two starts under his belt, though, Don Bourbon is in a better position to fire his best shot.

Churchill Downs Race 11: Maiden

Elite Class finished second by a head in his last two maiden starts. Yet, at 7/2 he gets one more chance to prove seconditis has not infected him.

This 2-year-old colt is attractive because of his tactical speed, which he can use to clear from Post 12 and secure a good position off the pacesetter. Given most of the field should struggle around two turns, it is easy to imagine Elite Class inheriting the lead by default and outlasting them in the stretch.

The closest horse to him on the morning line is the expected pacesetter Blood Moon at 4-1, and he lost ground to the winner in his three starts.

Elite Class is favored, but only mildly. He is the choice at 3-1 or higher.

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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