Mr. Buff (#7) is clearly the horse to beat off his triumph by a head at the N1X level just 14 days ago. He was all-out to hang on for the victory that day, but he beat a solid group of horses in doing so and earned a 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure in the process, which is easily the highest recent dirt figure among the competitors in this race. While he’s been successful over a range of distances, it does seem that Mr. Buff has been most comfortable controlling the pace going two turns recently. He also has shown an affinity for this Aqueduct main track. I’m hardly against this favorite, but I do think it’s worth pointing out that Mr. Buff has never been the most consistent sort, so I’m not sure I want to trust him to pair up top efforts at a short price.
One of his main rivals is Hammerin Aamer (#4), who has been trying to get back into top form for Rudy Rodriguez since winning his N1X condition in June. He ran better than it seems in his return at Laurel and held on well to be third two back in a race that was falling apart late. His last effort may seem disappointing at first glance, but he was facing a particularly tough field for the level, and this race is easier. I’m more concerned about the distance of this race, since Hammerin Aamer appears to be best around one turn.
I’m using both of these logical contenders, but I want to get a bit more creative for my top selection. I’ve always been a fan of TESTOSTERSTONE (#2), and I think there are reasons to give him a look at a big price in this race.
Testosterstone was in decent form as recently as last winter, when he rallied to be third in high-level race behind the talented Harlan Punch, earning a speed figure that puts him squarely in the mix. His surrounding form is spotty at best, but I see some reasons to be hopeful that he can get back on track. His return performance in September at Belmont was not quite as poor as it seems when you consider that he never runs particularly well at Belmont, or around one turn. I won’t hold the turf experiment against him, though that test of stamina may have helped him get fit for his third start off the layoff. He’s run some of his best races at Aqueduct in the past and this two-turn 1 1/8 miles is perfect for him. I could envision a scenario in which Mr. Buff fails to deliver a top effort and no one else steps up, giving Testosterstone an opportunity to pull off the upset.
Exacta Key Box: 2 with 3,4,7
Trifecta: 2,7 with 2,7 with 1,3,4,6