For the first Horses to Watch entry on Aqueduct’s main track, I’ll only focus on four races. I should have more to discuss in coming weeks as more stables ship horses up from Florida and turf racing resumes.
THURSDAY, MARCH 27
Race 8: So Scott (#1) & Sailmate (#7)
Though Big Business returned from a long layoff to be a narrow winner, it’s pretty clear that the second and third place finishers ran stronger races. The early pace of this race was very slow for the distance as Bake Shop was allowed to walk through an opening quarter mile nearly 24 seconds flat. Big Business’s tactical speed allowed him to be perched right off the leader and he was in the perfect position to take advantage of those slow fractions.
Sailmate (#7), meanwhile, had broken from the outside post position and was forced to make a four-wide run around the far turn to get up alongside the leaders. He stayed on gamely through the stretch, but could not get by the favorite. What made his race even more impressive was that his trainer John Kimmel shows terrible numbers with horses coming off long layoffs, so it’s reasonable to expect Sailmate to run a much stronger race next time.
So Scott (#1) is a deep closer who was not suited by race dynamics. While he did break from the rail and get to save ground for the entire trip, this is a horse who does best when he can make a long, sustained run from the back. In this race, he was obviously full of run coming to the top of the stretch, but was forced to wait for a hole to open up at the head of the stretch. Just outside the eighth pole the two leaders drifted apart and Rajiv Maragh sent So Scott through, but it was too late. He showed good acceleration to just miss while finishing fastest of all. Though he only received an 82 Beyer for this effort—largely due to the pace—I think he showed that he is doing very well off the claim by Bruce Levine and belongs with this caliber of competition. (watch replay)
FRIDAY, MARCH 28
Race 7: House on Toilsome (#3)
House on Toilsome (#3) finished far behind, but she did have a major excuse at the start as she hopped and nearly bucked her rider off. She was left far behind the field, but proceeded to rush into the race down the backstretch, expending far too much energy in the first quarter of a mile. I know that this mare isn’t exactly a winning type, but she’s dirtied up off this non-effort. Additionally, there’s reason to believe that she’ll get back to her better races next time considering that she was claimed out of this race by Jason Servis. (watch replay)
Race 8: Matterhorn (#5)
I won’t say that Matterhorn (#5) was ever winning this race, but he did run much better than the second place finisher in an effort that was better than it will look on paper. He broke a length slowly, which forced Irad Ortiz, Jr. to ask him for run in the first eighth of a mile as he tried to attain a position in mid-pack. He was in a good spot for the run down the backstretch, but as Cornelio Velasquez on the eventual winner tried to slow down the pace up front, the field bunched up and Matterhorn was forced to angle four-wide for a clear run. Ortiz, rather than taking back and losing position, decided to push forward and Matterhorn made what was ultimately a premature four-wide move on the far turn. He ranged up alongside the leaders at the quarter pole, but had already expended too much energy and flattened out late.
Contrast his far turn run with the trip that Taylor Rice gave to Idle American, who was patiently ridden and picked up the pieces late to run up into second. Matterhorn has probably been somewhat of a disappointment for his connections after exiting the Derby trail early. Yet now that they’re no longer in a rush to make the Triple Crown, he has every right to step forward off this effort and make some of the late spring and summer sophomore stakes. (watch replay)
SUNDAY, MARCH 30
Race 8: She’s Stones Sis (#4) & Familyofroses (#6)
It’s hard to believe that the pace of this race was actually as slow as the posted fractions, but Trakus confirms that they did indeed run the opening half-mile in nearly 53 seconds. The only possible explanation for such a situation is that Jose Ortiz on She’s Stones Sis (#4), who should have been pressing the pace or even setting it, had no idea that they were going so slowly. He was in no rush to make any move on his filly and allowed Broadway Music Gal, who on paper was a much more improbable winner than her 7-2 odds would suggest, to essentially wire the field. She’s Stones Sis only received a 50 Beyer for this race, which comes following another poor effort when she had the excuse of being involved in a fast pace that collapsed. When she shows up in the entries again it will appear to many that she’s gone off form, when she has actually just been a victim of extreme pace scenarios.
Familyofroses (#6) ran by far the best race of any in here as she was rated off those excruciatingly slow opening fractions and still came with her late run. She, too, was only assigned a Beyer in the 50s, which fails to indicate that she actually ran pretty well to overcome dynamics. (watch replay)