Aqueduct, Race 1: Claiming $30,000-$25,000 N2L at six furlongs for fillies and mares
I’m hoping that Caution Sign is overbet here based on her string of high Beyer speed figures on dirt and turf from last year. While her best race will obviously win, I think there are reasons to take a shot against her in this return spot. For a filly who has been very consistent, her last race bothers me. I know she was a long shot, but she really didn’t put forth much of an effort and now has been away for four months. I wonder if six furlongs is too short for her and also whether or not there will be enough speed to set up her late run.
I’m going instead with Veturia (#5), who I think is a very likely winner of this race. She spent the first part of her career in England, but is clearly bred for dirt and showed that she handles that surface fine at Parx in January. I don’t love the layoff since then or the drop into the claiming ranks, but perhaps this is just what she’s worth now. The most important thing is that she has speed and should be clearly in front early under Irad Ortiz, Jr. I know that she faded last time, but that was a faster pace than she’s likely to see today and I expect her to be tough to hold off in the lane.
One other filly that is worth mentioning is Seven Dreams (#7). I know she looks a bit slower than some of the others, but she never had any chance last time after stumbling very badly at the start. Horses who have been switched to new trainer Nicholas Esler seem to be running well for him and I won’t be surprised to see her sneak in there at a square price.
$10 Win 5 (WINNER; Payout: $16.50)
$5 Win 7
Aqueduct, Race 3: Maiden Claiming $35,000 at one mile
In Todd We Trust (#2) is a current “Horse to Watch” based on his green, but game performance two races back when he battled back inside after seeming badly beaten in mid-stretch. Al Aqsa (#4) was a former “Horse to Watch” based on his race on Wood Memorial day, April 7th, last year when he really did some serious running in the stretch after seeming to goof off early on in the race. I ended up removing him from the list because he fell off my radar, but after a couple of decent turf tries down in Florida, I think he could be ready to break through here. Blinkers are probably exactly what he needs and I think these two stand out in this field. In Todd We Trust never had a chance last time at a distance that was far too short for him, but with an aggressive ride from Rajiv Maragh, I expect him to be right there at the finish. I’ll be boxing these two in the exacta and betting the Jacobson trainee to win, since he might be a decent price.
$5 Exacta Box 2/4
$5 Win 2
Aqueduct, Race 4: Claiming $12,500B at six furlongs for fillies and mares
There are many things to like about Silver Over Gold (#2) in this spot and her 6-1 morning line would really be a gift. That drop from NY-bred Optional Claiming company to this bottom-level conditioned claimer is significant. Just look at the names in her running line: Cluster of Stars, Vicki’s Dancer, and Here’s Zealicious, all of whom would be 1-20 in this race. She also gets a really positive jockey switch to Channing Hill and I expect her to get back to some of her better races today. If she runs as well as almost any of her races from last summer all of these fillies will be running for second.
$10 Win 2
Aqueduct, Race 6: Starter Optional Claiming $12,500 at 1 1/16 miles
I originally wasn’t going to pick against Dynamic Host in this race, but with the scratch of Fight for V L T’s, I can’t ignore that Drink With Pride (#5) is the lone speed in a race where no one else is really even comfortable stalking. It’s one of those cases where I recognize that Dynamic Host is the best horse, but Drink With Pride is the horse that I need to bet. He’s in great form, is running back quickly, and gets a rider, in Irad Ortiz, Jr., who won’t be afraid to take it to the field. I also have a few questions about how Dynamic Host will handle a dirt course on the East Coast, since Aqueduct’s inner is very different to the dirt track he’s used to at Santa Anita, which is sometimes handled by turf horses. You would also think that David Jacobson might have picked out a more ambitious spot for this graded stakes winner. He will be a heavy favorite, but I see enough chinks in the armor to bet against him.
$10 Win 5
Aqueduct, Race 8: The Compelling Word at one mile for New York-breds
Saginaw can win this race, but I think that stretching him out around two turns is really stretching him to his limit. I really wonder if they gave him a long enough break after that poor effort in the Alex M. Robb last year, when he was clearly exhausted from a long campaign. His return in the Hollie Hughes was solid, but he’s going to have to run better than that to handle this field. He’s probably going to be a heavy favorite and I see enough reasons to take a shot against him.
Socialsaul (#2) actually beat Saginaw by over 11 lengths the last time they met, but I realize Saginaw had his excuse that day. After a puzzling ride two back (which landed him on the “Horses to Watch” list) when he was reserved off a slow pace and checked at the top of the stretch, they’re finally putting blinkers on him, which I’m hoping is an indication that Cornelio Velasquez is supposed to be aggressive today and clear Saginaw early. Socialsaul seems to run his best races when he’s put in the game from the start and, with the right ride, I think he can be as good as anyone in here.
My other “Horse to Watch” Mine Over Matter (#5) isn’t really a two-turn runner, but he fits these based on ability and will be an inflated price off his Toboggan, in which he lost all chance at the start. This is a horse that was in excellent form before that and there’s no reason to believe he won’t get right back to his better races here.
$10 Win 2
$5 Win 5
Aqueduct, Race 9: Maiden Claiming $16,000 at six furlongs for NY-bred fillies and mares
There aren’t very many appealing options in this race, which makes recent private purchase Gracie Too (#5) a standout for me. After an even first race on the turf, she flopped routing on dirt, and then rebounded with a solid effort at this level and distance that indicates she can contend here. Last time she was inexplicably stepped back up into maiden special weight company and unsurprisingly didn’t run very well. However, she did race with blinkers for the first time that day and showed improved early speed, which is encouraging for today’s race. John Morrison, who has quietly been having a very good meet with 9 in the money finishes from 14 starters, has bought her and adds Lasix for this race. I like that Channing Hill sticks around and with only slight improvement, she’ll be very tough to beat.
$10 Win 5
[12:55 p.m. update] – In what turned out to be a pretty uninteresting race, Veturia ($3.30) got it done as a heavily over-bet favorite. Next.
[2:28 p.m. update] – It’s hard to deny that there appears to be a speed bias. I’d wager accordingly.