by Scott Shapiro

Aqueduct takes center stage on Saturday afternoon as the New York-based venue has four graded stakes events on the 10-race card headlined by the $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap (G1).

As usual there is a Pick 4 offered to horseplayers over the last four races and it is a solid one with three of the four stakes events included within the sequence.

Here are my thoughts and how I will attack the Pick 4 that commences in Race 7 and concludes with the Cigar Mile.

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Race 7

A challenging state-bred special weight event over the outer turf course kicks things off.

I will take my chances against 3-1-morning-line favorite Stonefactor (#12). The daughter of The Factor has had things her way on the front end in both of her first two tries and has failed to hit the board. With the presence of long shot Dark Tricks (#1) drawn to her inside I do not see things getting easier for her. Let’s try to beat the chalk to get things rolling.

Silverado Mist (#5) has not finished with much energy in any of her first three starts for Hall of Famer Bill Mott, but she does have speed and cuts back to a sprint after two tries going one turn. The move to Jose Ortiz makes her worth including.

I will also use a few others that offer better value.

20-1 longshot Beautiful Chaos (#6) is by a Bernardini mare that hit the board in two of four on the sod and tries the lawn for the initial time for the hot Phil Serpe barn.

Straw Hat (#9) finished behind Stonefactor last time out, but with a hotter pace to run into she has every right to move forward for trainer Leah Gyarmati.

Summer Squeeze (#10) is out of a mare that missed by a neck in her only start sprinting over the lawn and is a half-sister to six-figure earner Summersault. She may need a race, but the value is there to include.

Scatback (#11) moves back into protected company after a third-place effort over the dirt for Carlos Martin. Javier Castellano takes the call on this daughter of Scat Daddy that was competitive in two runs over the lawn at Saratoga this summer.

Race 8

The second leg is the Demoiselle (G2) run at 1 1/8 miles over the main track.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) participant Wonder Gadot (#3) is listed as the 2-1-morning-line favorite in the $250,000 event for two-year-old fillies. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro brings the strongest resume into the race but is likely to get over bet off of a less than ideal voyage last month at Del Mar. She can win, but I will let her beat me coming off a race I am sure she was fully cranked for by trainer Mark Casse.

Daisy (#1) really impressed me in her first start versus winners last out in the Tempted Stakes (G3) at one mile. The Fox Hill Farms filly took pressure all the way around the track and still drew off late to win by nearly five lengths in the end. She has the look of a filly that will get better with added ground and could be lone speed.

If Daisy fails to move forward I give Held Accountable (#4), Maurer Power (#6) and Layla Noor (#7) chances to spring the upset.

Race 9

I lack a strong opinion in the 104th running of the Remsen (G2).

Avery Island (#3) has been impressive over his last two starts, but now tries two turns for the initial time, so I do not completely trust him as the lukewarm morning line favorite. I will spread in this race and hope to catch a price.

Race 10

The featured Cigar Mile concludes the strong Saturday afternoon card in New York.

Sharp Azteca (#6) is the clear one to beat in this spot after a tough loss in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The four-year-old colt did all the dirty work that day, but could not hold off Battle of Midway in the lane. If he can avoid an early battle upfront he should outclass this group and win his first Grade 1.

If they go too fast early on Tom’s Ready (#4) or Practical Joke (#8) are the ones likeliest to take advantage.

Practical Joke has been at his best in one-turn mile races and should be ready to fire his best shot for trainer Chad Brown.

Tom’s Ready exits a win in the Bold Ruler (G3) and while he has not been a consistent sort over his 20-race career, he has put forth efforts good enough to compete with the top contenders in the Cigar Mile.

Here is how I will play the Saturday afternoon Pick 4:

Ticket 1: ($.50 Pick 4)
Race 7: 5+6+9+10+11
Race 8: 1
Race 9: ALL
Race 10: 6

Ticket Cost: $25

Ticket 2: ($.50 Pick 4)
Race 7: 5+6+9+10+11
Race 8: 1
Race 9: 2+3+4+7+8+10
Race 10: 4+6+8

Ticket Cost: $45

Ticket 3: ($.50 Pick 4)
Race 7: 5+6+9+10+11
Race 8: 1+4+6+7
Race 9: 2+3+4+7+8+10
Race 10: 6

Ticket Cost: $60

TOTAL BUDGET: $130

Good luck at the windows!