Aqueduct, Race 5: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at six furlongs for three year-old fillies
There are two clear standouts in this race. Alpaca Fina (#4) takes a drop in class after a couple of tries against stakes company. The Busanda may have just been beyond her optimum distance, but last time in the Ruthless she had a legitimate excuse. The rail was dead on January 12th and Alpaca Fina spent much of the early portion of the race down inside. She’s better than that and I expect her to get back to her prior good form here.
Go West Marie (#3) was able to overcome a rocky and troublesome start to her career with an easy win against maiden claiming company two back. Her connections confidently stepped her up into a stakes first time against winners and she didn’t disgrace herself in finishing third behind the excellent Gracer. Go West Marie will appreciate this drop in class and just appears to be the only other filly in the race, along with Alpaca Fina, who can achieve a Beyer figure of 70.
What makes these two even more appealing is that others who are likely to take some action are actually worse than they appear. Red Minx won a slow maiden race last time, but was aided by the favorite having to endure a disastrous trip. Forbidden Talent appeared to improve last time, but was aided by the gold rail. I want no part of either one of them.
I’ll be shocked if Alpaca Fina and Go West Marie don’t fill out this exacta, so that’s how I’ll play it.
[Update: With the scratch of Alpaca Fina, I’ll swap out the prior wager for a win bet on Go West Marie (#3), who is just short of a lead pipe cinch.]
$20 Win 3
Aqueduct, Race 7: Starter Allowance $50,000 at one mile
There’s a glaring lack of pace in this race and that’s one of the main reasons why I landed on Ruthless Alley (#1). Despite spending much of his career on turf, he really woke up when switched back to the dirt two races back and responded with a 57-1 victory. Then last time he actually improved on that performance when finishing third behind Finn’s Quest and Anaphylaxis. That was a race that was dominated by closers and Ruthless Alley was the only horse to contest the pace and still be around at the finish. Today he’s drawn the rail with no clear speeds outside of him so he should be able to dictate the pace. I’ll hope that the bettors don’t respect him once again and will play him to win. I’ll also throw him into exactas with S’maverlous (#8), who has been keeping the best company and should enjoy the extra distance based on his pedigree.
$15 Win 1 (WINNER; Payout: $57.75)
$4 Exacta Box 1/8
Aqueduct, Race 8: Allowance N1X at one mile and 70 yards for NY-bred fillies and mares
Perhaps I’m being too patient with Horse to Watch Prize Taker (#8), but I maintain that this filly is sitting on a breakout performance. She outran Uman Candy when they were both against the rail bias on January 25th and then last time Prize Taker was taken too far back behind a crawling pace up front. The race came up slow due to the early fractions, but Prize Taker actually did quite well to make any sort of late impact in a race that gradually quickened in tempo from start to finish. While there isn’t much speed on paper here either, I’m hoping that Chris Decarlo takes advantage of Prize Taker’s natural speed and places her closer to the front early on. I still believe she’s one of the best horses in this race and I doubt her price will reflect that. I’ll bet her to win and use her underneath the two likely favorites, Once a Week (#5) and Uman Candy (#7), in the exacta.
$15 Win 8
$4 Exacta 5/7 with 8
Aqueduct, Race 9: Maiden Special Weight at six furlongs for NY-bred three year-old fillies
It’s hard to assess the first time starters prior to seeing the odds board or hearing Maggie Wolfendale’s paddock insights, but of the horses who have already run there are two that I’m interested in betting back.
Official (#6) was shipped up from Bowie training center in Maryland for her New York debut last month for the high percentage Hugh McMahon. However, things didn’t exactly go according to plan that day. Official broke with the field, but appeared to be intimated racing along the rail through the opening furlongs and steadily dropped back through the pack. She was nearly ten lengths behind as the field rounded the far turn, but looked as if she might have some run in her as they entered the stretch. Her jockey tried to angle her between horses to rally, but Official showed quite a bit of greenness and balked in behind horses. She finally found a clear path in the final furlong and actually accelerated nicely to run past a few horses late. Today she returns to New York off a bullet workout and the top apprentice in the mid-Atlantic is named to ride. She appears to be well-meant today.
I also want to use Horse to Watch Just Catty (#7), who did not do much running in her debut, but also never had a chance given that she was racing against a strong rail bias. Just Catty was three-wide around the far turn and then angled to the far outside for the stretch drive, staying in the five or six path the entire way. She understandably flattened out through the lane ultimately being beaten 18 lengths, but I’m eager to give her another chance here. The pedigree is certainly there for her to improve since she’s a half-sister to NY-bred stakes winner Saltamontes. I’m also encouraged by the fact that she took a surprising amount of play in her debut, going off at 6-1 for a low-profile trainer. I expect to see a much improved effort today.