Aqueduct, Race 4: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for three year-old fillies
Worldly Charm figures to go off as a solid favorite, but I’m very skeptical of her ability to finish off a race after she’s thrown in the towel at the eighth pole twice in a row. I strongly prefer the second time starter just to her outside, Image of Anna (#2).
Image of Anna’s debut is a bit better than it appears on paper as she showed good early speed while chasing between horses before being steadied out of position midway around the far turn. (Watch the replay.) While she never stopped running, she was not able to regather her momentum and faded to sixth. Since then she’s returned with a couple of fast breezes over this track and figures to show significant improvement in her second career start. She’s bred to be quick being by Ready’s Image out of a half-sister to This One’s For Phil so I won’t be surprised to see her challenge Worldly Charm for the lead early before hopefully wearing down that foe late.
$15 Win 2
Aqueduct, Race 5: Claiming $20,000N3L at 1 1/16 miles
I cannot resist taking another shot with ‘Horse to Watch’ Burned Bridges (#6) on this drop in class. As stated in my analysis prior to picking him last time, his return race on December 12th was much stronger than it appears as she was against a ridiculously slow pace and launched a premature, wide move on the far turn before fading late. Writingonthewall, Dawly, and Photon all returned out of the race to improve and win their next starts so it’s particularly puzzling that Burned Bridges could not do the same last time. He was against the track early while racing down towards the inside on a day when you did not want to be on the rail, but that alone is not an excuse for his abysmal effort.
The pace figures to be slow and I’m sure many will flock to Street Thug as the lone speed, but I don’t trust him after just grinding out a win over much weaker last time. Burned Bridges is not a deep closer and can be placed in mid pack today so I don’t think he’ll be quite as compromised as some others in here. The good Burned Bridges is worth more than $20,000 so this drop in class worries me a bit, but if he can get back to anything close to his race two back he’ll be very tough to beat.
$15 Win 6
Aqueduct, Race 6: The Toboggan (G3) at six furlongs
Like most other handicappers, I see a significant gap between Strapping Groom (#1) and everyone else. He’s versatile enough to either go to the front or take back and sit just off Dads Caps early so I’m not worried about the pace. With the lone exception of a dud in the Bold Ruler Handicap, he’s simply run too well recently for anyone in here to beat him.
Perhaps it’s wise to just stop there and simply skip the race, but I think there’s a horse in the “everyone else” category who is going to be totally overlooked and has a realistic chance to finish second. I admit that I’ve become a fan of Non Stop (#4) and have picked him in each of his last three starts, but he’s rewarded my faith in him up until this point. If you take Strapping Groom out of the race, no one in here is really running speed figures higher than the mi-90s and I believe Non Stop can achieve that. While horses like Dads Caps and Candyman E might do themselves in early by actually trying to win the race up front, Non Stop should be sitting in a perfect stop just behind the speeds. I know that his best figure recently came on the turf, but I think he’s equally good on either surface. He’s not the most likely horse to complete the exacta, but I think his value relative to the aforementioned “other” horses will make him worth a play.
[Update: Strapping Groom has scratched. I’ll now be betting Non Stop to win and will use him underneath the two speeds in the exacta.]
$10 Win 4
$2 Exacta 6/7 with 4
Aqueduct, Race 7: The Busher at 1 1/16 miles for three year-old fillies
I picked Fierce Boots to win the Busanda last time and things worked out very well for her as she broke well enough to seize command early through moderate fractions and then held them all off late. She can win right back, but she’s going to be a much shorter price here and there’s a horse also coming out of the Busanda who had a much tougher trip and has a right to do better today.
Fleet of Gold (#4) looks slower than Fierce Boots, Ballylee, and Vero Amore on paper, but her last race is worth watching because she could have easily earned a figure in the 70s with a better trip. (Watch the replay.) After breaking a half-step slowly she was forced wide around the clubhouse turn before making an early move into a contending position on the backstretch. All things considered, she stayed on very well late to be third and probably ran a better race than both the first and second place finishers. She may need to only run as well today with a better trip to get the job done.
I’ll bet her to win and use her in the exacta with the less-experienced Ballylee (#5). When an Albertrani runner wins first time out, more of then than not they turn out to be pretty good.
$10 Win 4
$4 Exacta Box 4/5
Aqueduct, Race 8: The Correction at six furlongs for fillies and mares
I like I’m Mom’s Favorite (#9) quite a bit, but I have serious doubts about her value since that 10-1 morning line feels like wishful thinking. Nevertheless, I cannot pick against in a race where I do not want any of the horses coming out of the Interborough and have serious doubts about the overall ability of most of the horses who are stepping up in class. I’m Mom’s Favorite was running well enough to win this race in the spring of her three year-old year before tailing off in a couple of tougher stakes at Belmont and Saratoga. She’s been given plenty of time to recover since then and has been confidently placed for her return. She’s versatile enough to adapt to any pace scenario and I see her as the most likely winner—though by a very slim margin—of a very competitive race.
I will also use Masasi (#3), who has had to face loose-on-the-lead speeds in her last two races and figures to work out a perfect trip up the rail under Irad Ortiz, Jr. La Verdad, who beat her last time, is better than any of the horses coming out of the Interborough so this really is not much of a step up in class.
$15 Win 9
$10 Win 3
Aqueduct, Race 9: The Withers (G3) at 1 1/16 miles for three year-olds
I will not argue with anyone who asserts that Uncle Sigh is the most likely winner of this race based on his superior speed figures. However, I cannot bring myself to pick him with the looming prospect of an overlay on a horse who I deem as having an equally valid shot at taking down the top prize. That horse, Classic Giacnroll (#4) is one of just two runners in this race who is not stepping up in class having already proven that he can run well enough to win a graded stakes last time out. While I am one of Noble Moon’s biggest fans, even I cannot deny that Classic Giacnroll ran at least equally as well as the winner in the Jerome (Watch the replay). He was squeezed back at the start before being carried wide into the clubhouse turn. He then proceeded to advance down the backstretch before challenging for the lead while three wide on the far turn. He had a right to get tired late, but never stopped running as he gamely held second. He’s certain to be a much larger price than Uncle Sigh and therefore is the value play.
I will also make a smaller wager on Street Gent (#2), whose last race should serve as a good stepping stone for a horse who has made huge strides over the course of his last three starts. While he earned a Beyer of just 79 last time, he did all the hard work early setting quick early fractions for the distance before turning back serious challenges on the far turn and in mid-stretch. Stamina is this colt’s greatest asset so if Irad Ortiz, Jr. can use Street Gent’s positional speed to situate himself just off Samraat early, I could envision him grinding out a victory.
Samraat and Uncle Sigh come into this race with the flashy Beyer figures, but in their respective wins, neither has yet to face a horse who has even broken a 70-Beyer threshold. This may not be the strongest Derby prep, but it’s still a major step up in class for these New York-breds. Whether or not they prove good enough to win, I think they’ll be underlays.
$15 Win 4
$10 Win 2
Aqueduct, Race 10: Claiming $12,500 at six furlongs
Verbosity (#3) made my ‘Horses to Watch’ list last winter after a wide trip against the rail bias on March 21st. He didn’t like the muddy track he saw next time and was forced onto the sidelines until December. His return was fairly lackluster and now Hushion is basically giving him away for $12,500. I have no strong feelings about anyone else in this race, so I’ll stick with Verbosity. I’m not very confident that he’ll be able to get back to his best races, but he probably won’t have to in order to win this.