Garland of Roses Stakes Picks

Horse Racing Radar
Rich Bieglmeier
Rich Bieglmeier is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Sunday, December 6, 2020

It's a run for the roses. No, not that run for the roses, that's the Kentucky Derby and it's on the first Saturday of May in non-COVID years. Instead, we are talking the run for the Garland of Roses Stakes at Aqueduct.

Seven fillies and mares will drag-race 6 furlongs on the Q's main track. You want a winner? Then you better focus on the fastest ones out of the gates. Meet to date, there have been 40 efforts at the distance and surface with 32 leaning through the tape first labeled early speed. Nine of those to raise the W flag never trailed, wire to wire to the winners' circle (alliteration, a crafty rhetorical device). 

Six furlongs on dirt has also been good for the favorites, hitting at a well above average while generating a slightly negative return on investment (ROI).

LADY NINJA (PP: 1 ML 2-1) is the morning line favorite but she hasn't always been fast. She's been pilot or co-pilot in four of her last 10 starts, winning as a co-pilot but fading in her last two when she took the wheel. The six-year-old mare is dropping in class and shortening from 7 furlongs to 6, which is her favorite distance by far. She's won six of nine at today's distance and has just two wins in 16 at any other lengths.

While LADY NINJA is sometimes fast, HONEY I'M GOOD (PP: 7 ML 3-1) is always fast on her first foot. The four-year-old daughter of SHACKLEFORD has been either first or second at the quarter pole in each of her 10 starts. In half of her races, the Steven Asmussen trainee never gave up the lead. Her lone trip off the board was in her second start and only attempt past 6 furlongs where she faded badly at 1 mile.

HEY MAMALUKE (PP: 6 ML 20-1) has longshot speed as she's been on the lead or within head or neck of the front in eight of her last 10 runs. However, she has a hard time maintaining her speed of late with her legs getting heavy in four of her last five runs around the track.

BRIDLEWOOD CAT (PP: 3 ML 12-1) flashed speed early in her career, heading to the front in her first four races, getting home first in a pair. Then she tried the closing thing in the next two with off the board results. Trainer Jonathan Thomas has pushed her back to the front in her last two, but she backed up late in both. BRIDLEWOOD has been on the bench since mid-September and has put in some good and bad works since.

Jockey John Velazquez has forwardly placed PACIFIC GALE (PP: 4 ML 10-1) in his two most recent rides on the five-year-old mare. Trainer John Kimmel had her second out of the box in her last under Velazquez and on the lead in a previous race with Jose Lezcano steering the ship. The pair of upfront efforts are a departure from stalking trips in the previous eight outings. The third time really could be the charm with her new running style as PACIFIC GALE improved her early fractions and had more staying power in her last race despite adding a half furlong and running in the slop.

Pit looks like as many as five of the seven in the Garland of Roses Stakes could vie for the lead early on, but which lady gets the trophy? We took a trip around the internet to see who some handicappers have on top.

Guaranteed Tip Sheet: SAGUARO ROW with the following commentary, "SAGUARO ROW has two wins and a second in three at AQ and is three and 0 at the distance. HONEY I'M GOOD is another that likes the distance with three wins and a second in four tries. HONOR WAY has the top, last race speed figure, concerned about a bounce as it's way above the norm. But... same race equals same result. LADY NINJA drops in class and is coming from the other side of the country, might need one."

Newsday's Steve Matthew: HONOR WAY with the following commentary, "Honor Way has trained sharply since decisive score in overnight stakes last time; keeps on giving. Honey I'm Good owns speed and fast figures but has been sidelined since June; must take the good with the bad. Saguaro Row, another that's returning from long layoff, loves the Big A and packs powerful kick on "A" game; let price be your guide." LADY NINJA

NYRA's Andy Sterling: LADY NINJA

NYRA'S Anthony Stabile: SAGUARO ROW


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