Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Sunday, December 22

RACE 1: TOPAZ BRIDE (#6)

Imprsstheprofessor may inherit the favorite’s role upon the redraw, as this race was brought back from Thursday’s canceled card. This filly closed resolutely from far back to be third in her debut against maiden claiming company. While this is a step up in class, she’s exiting a race that may be stronger than your average maiden claimer, as winner Officer Hutchy returned to finish second in a stakes last weekend. Imprsstheprofessor is clearly bred to stretch out in distance and she should be right there at the end with any kind of step forward. I’d also use the other second time starter who finished third in her dirt debut, My My Michelle. This filly only beat one rival in a depleted off-the-turf race, but she was staying on well late like a filly who should improve with experience. It wouldn’t be any major surprise if she were to turn the tables on Courageous Girl, who finished just ahead of her last time. I’m using all of these, but my top pick is Topaz Bride. This filly debuted on the grass, doing so against New York-breds in September at Belmont. She showed good tactical speed before fading in the lane. Yet, what intrigues me about her is that she didn’t appear to be terribly comfortable traveling over the grass that day and her pedigree does contain plenty of dirt influences. Tiznow is a capable dirt sire, and her dam was primarily a dirt horse. Furthermore, her second dam was a multiple stakes winner routing on dirt, even taking down the 10-furlong Ladies over this track. We saw Mike Maker win with a big price trying dirt for the first time last week, and this filly could deliver a similar result.

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RACE 4: DESERT LIGHTS (#8)

Autostrade figures to go favored in this spot as he makes his first start off the claim for Linda Rice. This gelding has plenty of back class, having competed effectively in open allowance races in the past. However, he’s been off form for a long time while cycling through a series of barn changes. He achieved an in-the-money finish again last time, but that was likely due to the drop in class rather than any significant improvement on his part. On the other hand, it’s worth pointing out that this guy really doesn’t cared for a wet, sealed racetrack, so you can excuse a couple of his 2019 performances and the rest of his speed figures make him fairly competitive here. Yet, he’s going to take plenty of money due to the expectation that he’ll improve off the claim and he’s still not the most trustworthy sort. Furthermore, there isn’t much speed signed on, and the Pace Projector is predicting that Autostrade could have to rally in a situation favoring front-runners. I suppose a horse like Freudian Sip is dangerous given his tactical speed, but he beat a very weak field two back and his surrounding form is hardly inspiring. I want to go in a different direction, so I’m taking a shot with Desert Lights. It appears that this runner’s form has tailed off since the claim by Randi Persaud, but I think he’s had legitimate excuses in both of his recent starts. He was running back on just 4 days’ rest when he made his first start off the claim, not to mention the fact that one mile is too far for him and a 10-pound bug rider was named to ride. When he got back to the races 8 days ago, he had to run over a sloppy sealed track, a surface that he doesn’t really care for. Furthermore, he was trying to rally from behind after a poor start over a track that was favoring speed. Desert Lights had previously been in strong form for Gary Gullo and I think he can rebound for a stable that has gotten some horses to outrun their odds recently.

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RACE 7: REED KAN (#6)

I suppose Aristocratic is the horse to beat as he drops in class out of a very tough optional claiming spot. It’s no surprise that he was no match for Grade 1 stakes winner Complexity last time. While he did lose by a very large margin – 18 lengths – the race came up very fast and this horse just shut down late going a distance that has always been a little difficult for him. If he can control the pace up front against this softer crew, he’s going to be difficult to beat. However, he is facing a significant pace rival in Reed Kan. This returning 4-year-old intrigues me off the layoff. His form obviously tailed off badly through the spring of this year. However, prior to that he was throwing down speed figures that would absolutely crush this field. The question is whether he can get back to that form, since he had first achieved that kind of success while under the care of Jason Servis. Yet, Mertkan Kantarmaci does fine off layoffs, especially in sprints, and it’s a good sign to see this runner returning at the $40,000 level, which is probably where he belongs. It’s also worth pointing out that his last race is not quite as poor as it seems, since he didn’t get a very clever ride that day, buried inside on the turn before trying to come up the rail in the lane. I like that he’s drawn outside of Aristocratic, and he may go off at an overlay since bettors are likely to be wary of the layoff.

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