Big Birthday (#4), seeking her second consecutive victory, figures to go off as a heavy favorite in this spot. While she got the job done against N1X allowance foes last time as the 4-5 favorite, I was not overly impressed with that score. Her 99 TimeformUS Speed Figure hardly makes her formidable in this field and she had to work pretty hard to fend off inferior rivals like No Deal and Gypsy Janie. I think she’s going to have to run significantly better to beat today’s group and I want to take a stand against her at what figures to be a very short price.
Linda Rice has entered a pair of runners in this race and I think they both merit consideration. Picture Day (#6) has some back class and is returning from the layoff here. She appreciates moisture in the track, but she could find 7 furlongs to be a demanding distance off the bench.
I’m using her, but my top pick is Linda Rice’s other runner D J’S FAVORITE (#3). This filly has significantly improved in her recent starts for this barn. Linda Rice often keeps some of her inferior runners a places like Laurel before they’re ready for primetime, and clearly chose to move this one to New York at the right time. She outclassed claiming foes in sloppy conditions on Dec. 21 and then was immediately stretched out to a mile for two starts. She actually ran quite well in both of those races, particularly last time when she tangled with eventual winner Jump Ruler through some taxing early fractions. I believe she’s going to appreciate this slight cutback to 7 furlongs and moisture in the surface will only enhance her chances. Furthermore, Linda Rice has fantastic numbers with quick turnarounds like this. Over the past 5 years, she is 12 for 32 (38 percent, $2.52 ROI) with horses running back in just 7 to 12 days on dirt at Aqueduct. She’s drawn in the perfect post position outside of the other speeds and I believe she’ll be difficult to beat.
Exacta Key Box: 3 with 1,4,6
Trifecta: 3 with 4,6 with 1,4,5,6