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Excelsior Stakes Betting – Wicked Strong Takes It Up A Notch

Posted by on 4/23/2015 9:07:29 PM

The Grade-3 Excelsior Stakes has been run since 1903, and starting at the old Jamaica Racetrack before moving to Belmont Park and then Aqueduct. It is for horses three years old and up, and it is run over 1 1/8 miles on dirt with a purse of $200,000.

For being a week before the Kentucky Derby, this is a pretty solid field of older horses that should keep you occupied this Saturday. There are a few contenders, but look for Wicked Strong to storm to the front late and pick up the victory.

What : Horse Betting

When : Saturday, April 25th, 4:57 PM ET

Where : Aqueduct, Ozone Park, NY

Pick : Wicked Strong

Cousin Stephen is coming off a second at the non-graded Stymie and it was his first top-three result since last February, when he ran third at the Grade-3 Sam F. Davis. This four-year-old hasn't had the most consistent career after three top-three finishes in eight starts, but with a few breaks, he could wind up in the money.

Effinexwon an allowance race last month in his first start of 2015, but he has never finished in the money in a graded-stakes race (two, to be exact), although he came close with a fourth at the Grade-2 Hawthorne Gold Cup in November. This four-year-old could also make some noise this weekend, but he needs a little luck.

Micromanage has a win and two fourth-place runs in three 2015 starts, but he has finished 10th in each of his last two starts, the Grade-1 Jockey Club Gold Cup last September, and the Grade-3 Red Smith Handicap in November. He finished fourth at the Stymie, so this five-year-old has to find another gear at Aqueduct as he might simply be past his prime.

North Slope came in third at the Stymie, which followed a victory at the non-graded Evening Attire Stakes in February, but he finished up 2014 with a ninth at the Grade-3 W.L. McKnight Handicap and has bounced back and forth between dirt and turf throughout his career. He did manage a second at the Grade-3 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, but that was in August 2013. The five-year-old will have to make a big move to challenge this weekend.

Red Rifle had finished in the money in his last six starts before a fifth at the Grade-2 New Orleans Handicap last month. He had won the Hawthorn Gold Cup in November and then opened up 2015 with a third at the Grade-3 Mineshaft Handicap, so this five-year-old gelding definitely has the speed to keep up and could threaten down the stretch if the leaders stumble.

Stormin' Monarcho won the non-graded Mr. Sinatra in March, his first start in the money since winning the non-graded Swatara in November. His last start in a graded-stakes event came in July when he ran 10th at the Grade-2 Suburban Handicap and prior to that, it was a 12th at the Grade-3 Illinois Derby last April. This five-year-old gelding might not be able to run with the top horses in the pack.

Turco Bravo was the winner of the Stymie and he has now finished in the money in four starts in a row, and five of his seven career starts. However, all of those races were non-graded events and this six-year-old gelding is just now making his debut in a graded-stakes race. No horse in the field will have more pressure on it than Turco Bravo, although he can always go back to non-graded events if this doesn't work out.

Wicked Strong is the definite favorite coming into Saturday's race if you look at his resume: he won the Grade-1 Wood Memorial last year to get into the Kentucky Derby, where he finished fourth, which was his same result at the Belmont Stakes. Then he won the Grade-2 Jim Dandy Stakes and then a second at the Grade-1 Travers Stakes before a disappointing 11th at the Jockey Club Gold Club, which to be fair, has a very strong field. That race was in September, then Wicked Strong took six months before returning for a fourth at the Grade-2 Gulfstream Park Handicap. It might take him a bit to get going, but this four-year-old colt should make a late run on Saturday.

How It Will Play Out

Wicked Strong should make a return to the winner's circle with a victory here, using a late surge to snatch his first win since the Wood.

Excelsior Stakes Betting Pick: Wicked Strong

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