I’m happy we’re back on Aqueduct’s main track, even though we don’t kick things off with the most interesting card. However, I do see some races with potentially vulnerable favorites and a few intriguing alternatives:
Aqueduct, Race 4: Maiden Claiming $16,000 at 6 1/2 furlongs for NY-breds
Keyaly has run the best races of any of the competitiors in this race, but bviously you have to let an 0-for-52 maiden beat you. Clearly Perfection did have trouble at the start last time and was running on well late so he feels like one of the more likely winners. However, I’m not sure that he’s really all that good and the price is likely to be fairly low.
I’m going to go in a different direction and will try Aly’s Favorite Boy (#6), who, in his debut, ran like a horse who needed a race and may be able to build on that effort today. He broke a half step slowly and rather than rush him, Rosario Montanez was conent to let him settle at the back of the pack. He started to ask him for run as the field approached to the top of the stretch and Aly’s Favorite Boy actually responded fairly well. He was chasing a wall of horses past the eighth pole and had to alter course to the far outside, but was running on well through the finish.
Last time, Aly’s Favorite Boy faced tougher company going two turns and he should appreciate the softer competition and a return to sprinting here. Hopefully Eddie Castro’s hustling style gets him into the game a bit earlier today so that he can run them down in the stretch. He’s one of many horses that can win this race, but he’s almost assured to be a decent price.
$10 Win 6
Aqueduct, Race 5: Optional Claiming $75,000/N1X at one mile for three year-old fillies
I was debating whether or not it was worth it to make a pick in this race. U. S. S. O’Brien is the most likely winner of this race, but what are fair odds on her? I agree with Eric’s morning line and think she could drift as low as 2-5, which would be a serious underlay. Aqua Regia has run races that are nearly as good and has a legitimate chance to win.
I’m going to take a small shot against them both with a horse who ultimately may not be very good, but who also has not yet had a fair chance to show her best. Lady Paradime (#1) looks far too slow to be competitive on paper, but she’s had major excuses in each of her last three starts. Her maiden score at Delaware last fall must be seen to properly be appreciated as she literally fell to her knees at the start and gave up a good six lengths. (watch replay) The figure came back fairly slow, but she was much better than her half-length margin of victory would suggest. She resurfaced on the turf at Gulfstream, a surface which she does not have to like. Then, most recently, she ran in a very tough dirt optional claiming race against In Tune, one of the favorites in this weekend’s Gulfstream Park Oaks, and Rosalind, the third place finisher in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. February 27th was a day at Gulfstream where it felt like speed gave horses a real advantage and it was not more apparent than in the race Lady Paradigm is exiting. The top three finishers ran in that exact order all the way around the racetrack with the two favorites being split by 47-1. All the horses that started out near the back of the pack, Lady Paradime included, were basically spinning their wheels by the time the field exited the backstretch.
She’s probably going to see a much fairer surface here and I feel that this filly deserves a chance to show what she can offer in a spot like this. There could be some hitting up front among U. S. S. O’Brien, Flaring, Appearance, and Aqua Regia, who all prefer to be forwardly placed, so I’ll be looking for Lady Paradime to come running late a big price.
$10 Win 1 (WINNER; Payout: $201.00)
$5 Exacta 2/5 with 1
Aqueduct, Race 8: Optional Claiming $75,000/C at seven furlongs for NY-breds
I want no part of Big Business or Sailmate, both of whom go out for trainers whose records off this type of layoff leave a lot to be desired. There’s not much pace in this race so you have to do a bit of guessing as to who is going to make the lead. I think the horse most likely to get sent to the front is Bake Shop (#6) since those are the tactics Manny Franco tried to use last time. That should give him an advantage and I also believe the turnback could work in his favor. His prior try at this distance at Saratoga in August is a lot better than it appears as he was away slowly that day, yet was able to work his way into a contending position around the turn and came with a good late run to just miss by a neck. (watch replay) He’s previously done good work on the front end and I think he could be tough to run down if he finds himself in that position again today. He’s also going to be a much bigger price than horses like Beautyinthepulpit and Johannesburg Smile even though his best races are just as good as anything those two have run recently.
I’m also going to place another wager on So Scott (#1). I’m usually not one to only play trainer angles and ignore a great deal of other evidence, but I did find an interesting statistic for his new trainer. Over the past five years, when Bruce Levine has claimed a horse (non-maiden) and runs it back in a non-stakes protected spot (i.e. not in for a claim) he has won with 9 of 28 starters (32%) for an ROI of $3.73. More remarkably, he has gotten 23 of those 28 to finish in the money (82%). That says to me that when a horse he acquires is doing well, he makes sure that it’s coming back to his barn after it runs back again. I know that So Scott’s most recent victory was pace-aided, but prior to that he had run well in a couple of spots despite the fact that the paces were against him. The move to the main track and extra furlong should help, though I realize that another slow pace today probably won’t work in his favor. However, if he is indeed doing well off the claim, it’s not as if he doesn’t have better races to get back to that would make him a serious factor in this race.
On a side note, how cool is a horse whose last two wins—just half a year apart—came at the disparate distances of six furlongs and two miles?