Now that this race is confirmed to stay on turf, let’s dive in and look at some of the contenders. The theme here is class droppers, as all of the main players are coming out of tougher allowance and stakes races.
The horse to beat is Chamois (#9), who goes out for Christophe Clement and Aqueduct leading rider Jose Ortiz. This horse has made only two starts in 2016 and he’s lost at relatively short prices on each occasion. Those races came over six months ago, and now he’s dropping for a tag for the first time in his career, just as the turf season comes to a close. On the plus side, three of his four career wins have come right here at Aqueduct, and he even has handled turf courses that have taken some rain. He’s the horse to beat, but he’s not the easiest runner to trust.
I’ll Call (#12) is taking a similar drop in class as he exits the Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap, but at least his most recent start came within the last month. This six-year-old gelding has actually been in pretty good form lately, but he still hasn’t won during either of the past two seasons, and it appears as if his connections are just trying to find a spot where he can get to the winner’s circle. I’ll definitely use him, but I am somewhat concerned about the pace. The Pace Projector is predicting that it will be fast, and this horse is unlikely to wrest the early lead away from the speedy River Knight early.
I’d prefer to take a late runner, and the one that interests me most is EL JEFE GRANDE (#1). He’s running for the same $40,000 tag that he was offered for last time at Laurel, but I think he finds himself in a more favorable situation today.
As a late closer, he is completely dependent on race flow, and it appears that he should get an honest early clip to close into this time. That was not the case in October when the pace was slow (color-coded in blue), and he could never make an impact. Prior to that, he had been in over his head in two stakes races. I like that he’s previously handled this Aqueduct turf course late in the season, and he figures to go off at a much more generous price than the two aforementioned runners.
I would also throw in Indebted (#3) and St. Louie (#10), who are among the few runners stepping up in class, as backups.
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 3,9,10,12