Welcome to Noel Michaels’ Weekend Winners, the place to go for weekend best bets and spot plays from veteran handicapper and tournament-play pioneer Noel Michaels. Check back every week for a couple of highlighted selections designed to help you cash a few bets and make some money.
Noel's selections have been featured just about everywhere horse racing picks can be found, including in print in the Daily Racing Form, The HorsePlayer Magazine and American Turf Monthly, online at DRF.com, Twinspires.com and USRacing.com, from the paddock on-track at Arlington International Racecourse, and on the air on HRTV, TVG, NYC OTB Extra, NYRA's Talking Horses, and on broadcast TV on WAVE-3 Louisville, ABC KOLO-8 in Reno, Nevada, and channel 72 Long Island Cablevision.
Saturday, Dec. 3
This weekend is the last big stakes blowout of the season at Aqueduct with the Big A rolling out four graded stakes on Saturday’s 10-race card including a pair of juvenile features and a pair of handicaps for 3-year-olds and up. Let’s concentrate on the older horses here, first with the Grade 3 Go For Wand Stakes and then with the headline event of the Aqueduct fall meet, the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap Presented by NYRA Bets. The fall portion of the Aqueduct meet closes on Sunday, but before then you can enjoy these classy races and hopefully cash out at the Big A. Best of luck.
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The Go For Wand has drawn a big field of fillies and mares going one mile around one turn. In my view it’s always important to designate one turn or two turns in mile races because it tends to signify whether the distance will be favorable to route horses cutting back in distance or sprint horses stretching out. To me, one-turn miles offer a better chance for the sprinters to get the distance, and that should be the case here with #7 Dr B, who enters this race in good recent form from races ranging from 6 ½ to seven furlongs. Her last win was three races ago at Parx but her other recent races were good too, including a second behind eventual Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Goodnight Olive at Saratoga and a second last time out on this track in the seven-furlong Pumpkin Pie Stakes where she lost to Boston Post Road. In my opinion both Boston Post Road and certainly Goodnight Olive would be favored in this race if they were entered. Dr B has a running style that indicates she should handle this extra distance and her best speed figure came in her last race when she stretched out to seven furlongs. More improvement could be on the way today, and that should be enough to win. Irad Ortiz Jr. picks up the mount. There are some notable Aqueduct horses for the course entered in this field, and one of these horses looks perfect for your exacta boxes. #10 Bank Sting is a New York-bred with six wins and a second in eight prior outings at Aqueduct, is at her best between seven furlongs and a mile and was a stakes winner against open company on this track back in March. She prepped with a second-place finish off a four-month layoff last time in the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes and will be ready to roll in the second off the layoff with Joel Rosario back for the mount.
The Grade 1 Cigar Mile will also be run at the one-turn mile trip and has drawn a field of six with the scratch of O Besos. The favorite will be the Chad Brown-trained #2 Zandon, who is a graduate of races like the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (third) and the Runhappy Travers Stakes (third). Zandon will be facing older horses for the first time and cutting back in distance in this race. Zandon is a late runner who may not get much pace up front to help set-up his closing move, and despite the connections there’s just too many question marks to include this horse in your bets at even-money morning line odds. The better bet is #4 Get Her Number, who has earned two triple-digit Beyer speed figures in his last three races including a second in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar and a win last time out over multiple graded stakes winners Ginobili and Forbidden Kingdom. In case you are worrying about the distance, Get Her Number is already a Grade 1 winner at 1 1/16 miles, which he did in the 2021 American Pharoah Stakes. In case you are worried about him being too far off the pace, Get Her Number has enough tactical speed to stay close to the pace at route distances. In case you are worrying about value, Get Her Number projects to be no more than the third choice on the tote board. For the exactas, use the underappreciated #7 Mind Control, a multiple graded stakes winning veteran middle-distance horse that has won already four graded stakes at Aqueduct. He’ll be making his final career start, and has a shot to go out a winner at this wheelhouse course and distance for trainer Todd Pletcher, who had John Velazquez fly in for the mount.