It usually takes a lot of evidence to convince me of a speed bias, but it was hard to deny that horses who got to the lead and stayed close to the rail had a clear advantage through the first few races on Thursday at Aqueduct. While this hopefully will prove to be valuable information when some horses from today start running back, for now I’ll be adding two of them to my horses to watch list.
In the first race, Pretty Cozzy (#5) went off as the 3-2 favorite in a field of $25,000 claimers going 6 furlongs. She was a bit slow into stride coming out of the gate, but soon became rank while running at the back of the compact field. After a moderate opening quarter in 23 4/5, Junior Alvarado made the decision to swing her outside of horses and move up for the run into the turn. To be fair, he didn’t have much choice in the matter as he would have ended up finishing nowhere if he had continued to rate her. Yet as she easily moved into striking distance of the leaders, the horses inside of her began to angle out for the stretch run and Pretty Cozzy soon found herself in the five-path coming off the turn. With the slow pace up front and track playing to inside speed, Pretty Cozzy, having lost most of her momentum, could only manage fourth, beaten about 4 lengths.
With a fair track and better setup, she may still be the best of this bunch. Hopefully we can get a decent price next time now that her PPs contain this seemingly dull running line.
A bit later in the third race on the card, a $20,000 maiden claimer at 6 furlongs for 3-year-olds, Ben Perkins, Jr. unveiled a first time starter named Buckeye Heart (#8). Breaking from the outside post, he was very green all the way around the racetrack, veering out on the backside and then trying to get out all around the turn. Jockey Pablo Fragoso rode him hard to get up into the third place behind the dueling leaders, and then continued chasing 4- to 5-wide all the way around the bend into the stretch. Having found himself about 3 lengths off the leaders due to lost ground, Fragoso resorted to the whip, which Buckeye Heart shied away from, weaving outside then inside. Nevertheless he was able to gather some momentum and get on track late in the race to lose by only a neck finishing third, just off the dueling favorites who went one-two the entire way.
Buckeye Heart was clearly best of this field and, like Pretty Cozzy, was severely compromised by the trip he made for himself. He is actually quite well bred for a $20,000 claimer, being by Lion Heart out of a mare from the female family of Willa On the Move and Will’s Way. He’ll likely go favored if he comes back at this level, but perhaps his new connections (he was claimed by Dominic Galluscio) will move him up based on this encouraging run.