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Home / Articles / Jeff's Grade 3 Run Happy Stakes Preview and Picks

Jeff's Grade 3 Run Happy Stakes Preview and Picks

By: Jeff Hochman     Date: May 9, 2024
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Grade 3 Run Happy Stakes | March 11th, 2024 | Race 4 | | Belmont at the Big A

#1 Straight No Chaser (1/1) trained by Juan Landeros and ridden by John R. Velazquez

This 5-year-old horse by Speightser makes his long-anticipated return to the track after winning the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Stakes by 7 ½ lengths (109 Equibase Speed figure) on Preakness Saturday, 2023. This came before his win in an AOC-50Knw by 7 ¼ lengths (113) at Oaklawn Park. He has finished first four times with one show in just seven career starts, earning $245,800. Straight No Chaser has been working lights out, and I know for a fact his connections are expecting a big-time effort. The inside post will benefit him, and he has already shown he can win from the #1 post. His works have been off the charts and, with a clean start, should easily have the lead. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez wins 20% of his dirt sprint races, and trainer Landeros (Dan Blacker’s assistant) is cashing 33% over the past 30 days. A very talented horse when healthy and might be heading to Del Mar for the Grade 1 Breeders Cup Sprint in November. The One to Beat!

#2 Durante (5/1) trained by David Jacobson and ridden by Manuel Franco

A 5-year-old gelding performed poorly in the Elusive Quality Stake (listed) at Aqueduct last Saturday, finishing 6th by 4 ¼ lengths. As a result, the horse may be scratched from the race. The horse, a progeny of Distorted Humor, has had a successful career with earnings totaling $491,786. It has finished in the money in 15 out of 27 starts. However, he has the slowest early pace and second slowest middle pace speed figures in the current field. Additionally, the trainer has only won 8% of races when switching from turf to dirt, with a -41% return on investment. Therefore, it is safe to assume that this horse is unlikely to win with just seven days of rest and can be excluded from the list of potential winners. Toss!

#3 Stage Left (15/1) trained by David Jacobson and ridden by Ramon Vazquez

The oldest horse in the field with the most career starts as well. This 8-year old gelding by Congrats has 12 wins 7 seconds and 7 thirds in 46 career starts earning $731,983. He’s had a nice career and does have some back class (two stakes wins) but his speed figures are going down in his last three races. You can argue that his last three races were on an off track and will improve on a faster surface. Still, he has just five wins from 27 starts at today’s distance of 6 furlongs. Has never finished worse than third in five races at this track. Use Underneath!

#4 Ninetyprcentmaddie (8/1) trained by Robert Reid Jr. and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.

He has 5 wins, 4 seconds, and 2 thirds in 15 career starts earning $385,381. Likes to hit the board, finishing second in back-to-back races in the Page McKenny Handicap (August 22, 2024) and City of Laurel Stakes (November 25, 2023), respectively. Those were at 7 furlongs and will now shorten to his preferred distance of 6 furlongs, where he has won twice in three career starts. He won his only race when Irad Ortiz Jr. was on the irons three starts back, earning a 97 Equibase speed figure. Live Long Shot!

#5 Twenty Four Mamba (12/1) trained by Charlton Baker and ridden by Dylan Davis

This is a 5-year-old gelding sired by Classic Empire. He has participated in 27 career starts, winning 6 times, coming in second 8 times, and third once, earning a total of $404,416 in prize money. However, he is at a disadvantage in terms of speed and class. The horse has never won a race of 6 furlongs on dirt, and its recent workouts have been very slow. Even though I like the name of the horse (RIP Kobe!), I don't think he can win due to its "sustained" running style. Other horses in the field are much faster, and Twenty Four Mamba would need a significant pace meltdown. Toss!

#6 Joey Freshwater (9/5) trained by Linda Rice and ridden by Jose Lezcano

This 4-year-old colt by Jimmy Creed will be stepping up in class after winning an AOC- 80K, earning a career-best 108 Equibase Speed figure on April 4th, 2024, at Aqueduct. He ran fourth in the same condition in the race after winning an AOC- 62.5K on January 6th, 2024, at Aqueduct. I must point out that both wins came with Lasix, and he must run off the medication in this stakes race. His recent form off Lasix has not been great. Has finished in the money nine of 15 starts with career earnings of $384,530. I respect the connections too much to eliminate this horse from contention completely. Trainer Linda Rice and jockey Lezcano win 22% together. The ML favorite towers over this horse regarding speed and class ratings. A bounce off that 108-speed figure is likely in his fourth race in 2024! Use Underneath!

Jeff's Top Selection: #1 Straight No Chaser (1/1) to Win!

Jeff's Preferred Selection: #4 Ninetyprcentmaddie (8/1) to Place and Show

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