Vertical Oak should stand tall in Garland of Roses

The $100,000 Garland of Roses Stakes is the feature on the opening Saturday of Aqueduct’s long winter meet. The six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares drew just five, but the race anchors a solid nine-race card. Slated as Race 5, the Garland of Roses is scheduled to go off at 2:17 p.m. EST. Be sure to take part in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game this weekend!

#5 VERTICAL OAK (even-money, morning-line favorite) has been a force at this level in 2018, winning three nongraded stakes and placing in two others. Her open-length victory in the Dream Supreme last time out was arguably her best effort of the season. VERTICAL OAK has the speed to make the front but will likely stalk just off SOWER before taking over late. Ricardo Santana Jr. won’t ship for the mount, as Eric Cancel takes the call.

#3 SOWER (3-1) will almost undoubtedly try to wire the Garland of Roses field. She won a muddy renewal of the Pumpkin Pie last time out, boosting her career record to 7-4-0-2. Three of her career wins have come at the six furlong distance, so she should appreciate the turnback. She won’t get an off-track on Saturday, but she’s done fine over fast dirt in the past (5-2-0-2). Junior Alvarado will be aboard with Irad Ortiz Jr. riding at Gulfstream.

#1 DREAM PAULINE (5-2) steadied twice in the Dream Supreme when last seen but probably wasn’t catching VERTICAL OAK that day. However, her prior two efforts, both runaway wins, hint at serious talent. DREAM PAULINE broke her maiden over this course and has trained well for this. David Cohen takes over.

The play: $6 exacta 5/3, $4 exacta 5/1 ($10)

DFJ analysis: Junior Alvarado has a mount in each of Saturday’s nine races at Aqueduct, and only two of those are above 8-1 on the morning-line. SOWER (Garland of Roses) begins a string of four straight potential ITM finishes for Alvarado, as he’ll also ride Bavaro (3-1, morning-line favorite) and Glossy (5-2, morning-line favorite) in the next two heats, followed by Bluegrass Jamboree (4-1) in Race 8.

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