I’m concentrating on Aqueduct today.
Aqueduct, Race 2: Claiming $20,000 at six furlongs
At first I was going to just try and make a case for my long shot “Horse to Watch,” but the more I looked at this race I just couldn’t escape the feeling that Hewitts (#5) was going to win. I had to do a little bit of digging to confirm this, but I had thought I remembered Bruce Levine had trained this horse once before. In fact, he and owner Roddy Valente were the ones who claimed him in California and brought him to the East Coast. He ran a couple of nice races for Levin before being claimed away a couple of years ago. Levine made another attempt to claim him back last year, but it didn’t stick. Now I think it’s quite telling that Levine and Repole team up to get this horse back for a third time. Obviously Levine must believe there is something still there that he can work with. It wasn’t that long ago that Hewitts was running races that would beat this field and I believe the switch to the hot Levine barn may just get him back to those.
He’s not the most likely winner, but I also have to throw a few dollars at my “Horse to Watch” Rich Hero (#1). He wound up on the list after his last race when Keiber Coa spent a bit too long on the rail and wound up getting his horse into trouble coming to the top of the stretch. He lost momentum and otherwise probably would have had a chance at getting to the top two. Before that he had been running in spots where he was totally overmatched and this drop into the conditioned claiming ranks should suit him. I do not like the jockey change, however, and will use him cautiously.
$10 Win 5
$5 Win 1
Aqueduct, Race 3: Optional Claiming $35,000/N1X at 1 1/8 miles
One of the difficulties of this race is finding a horse who you think is going to handle the 9 furlongs. I think I’ve done that with Citizen Wells (#1). This son of Proud Citizen apparently gets loads of stamina from his damsire, Sadler’s Wells, and he displayed with late runs in his last two starts. In his first race back from a near six month layoff last time, he really got rolling in the stretch and ran his final three-eighths of a mile in 35 and change. If he makes a similar move today, it will be very difficult for anyone here to hold him off. I will use him with Regal Warrior (#7), who has on occasion put forth a top-notch race, but has been plagued by inconsistency. I’m hoping that the switch to trainer Rudy Rodriguez will cure him of that. We saw a couple of those Dutrow-to-Rudy switches work out yesterday and I expect Regal Warrior to get a nice trip stalking the pace of Shankopotamus before putting that distance-challenged foe away. I feel these two are most likely to get this trip so I’ll box them in the exacta.
$5 Exacta Box 1/7
Aqueduct, Race 7: Maiden Special Weight at one mile for New York-bred three year-olds
I can say with some certainty that this is my best bet of the new year so far. I’ve been waiting for Seventy Six (#1) to run back for over a month now and here he is drawn in a perfect post position. All of the horses (except He Has Charm) running back here coming out of that December 26th maiden race were compromised by one of the strongest “golden rails” I’ve ever seen. If you were even two or three wide you had no chance to make up ground. Seventy Six legitimately had to chase three and four-wide that day and thus never had a real chance to make an impact. If you go back and watch his debut, in which he had his fair share of traffic issues, it’s obvious that he has quite a bit of ability.
If you take a look at the performances of Wise Guide (#2) and Privatize (#9), you will see how detrimental it was to go wide on December 26th. Each of them returned to better their Beyer figures in that race by 30 points and 23 points, respectively. But even they had trouble in those subsequent starts and can conceivably run better here. Take Privatize’s last race, for instance. He had to go five-wide into the first turn, continue wide the entire way, made an early move to the front, and then battled on gamely through the stretch to lose to a horse who rallied from nowhere. It was a monstrous effort and if he has even a bit more luck today, he will be hard to beat. Yet, Seventy Six is probably going to be the value on the win end and I think he’s probably best of the three anyway. The others have had chances to redeem themselves already and he has not. I like the switch to Keiber Coa and I’m hoping he works out a ground-saving trip from the rail.
$20 Win 1
$2 Exacta Box 1/2/9
Aqueduct, Race 8: Claiming $12,500 at six furlongs
I’m running out of time to write before I have to go out for a bit, but I’ll say this: Undrgroundregulatr (#10) was compromised by slow starts in each of his last two races. I thought last time he ran on admirably after having to be rated in behind a slow pace early. If he has a clean trip here, I think he’ll win.
$10 Win 10
[4:17 p.m. update] – It was a rough day at Aqueduct for me, but I must admit that I was a bit distracted: I adopted a new dog today so I’ve been spending more time playing with him than watching the races.
Seventy Six and Wise Guide were both much the best in the seventh race today and ran very well to be second and third after terrible trips. That was a tough one to swallow. I was dead wrong about the other three today.
[4:54 p.m. update] – It figures. I removed Bwana Booyah from my “Horses to Watch” list after I was disappointed in his last race and what does he do? Comes right back and wins paying $44.