Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, January 4

RACE 2: HEAVY ROLLER (#7)

Supreme Aura looked like a winner at the eighth pole going this distance last time, but he was passed late on the rail by the resolute Krewe Chief in the closing strides. It was good to see him get back into top form off the claim for Rudy Rodriguez last time and he’s facing a field of similar quality here. The 9-furlong distance has to be a slight concern after it got to him in the final strides that day. Nevertheless, he projects to work out a good trip and is the horse to beat. Perhaps the return to dirt was just what Krewe Chief needed last time, as she showed a renewed vigor, rallying from last to win despite having to dive down to the rail in the stretch. Yet you got 10-1 if you had him that day and he’s going to be a much shorter price this time. On the positive side, Kantarmaci is a solid 5 for 18 (28%, $2.57 ROI) second off the claim with last-out winners on dirt over 5 years, and three of those winners came at NYRA. He will be tough if he maintains his form, though back-to-back victories may be asking a lot of a gelding who is 4-for-36 lifetime. I’m trying to beat this pair with Heavy Roller. He’s making his first start for Rob Atras, who claimed him back for $62,500 after losing him for just $32,000 two back. While he didn’t run well last time, the fact that he was taken out of that race is a vote of confidence from these connections. This time he’s wearing the silks of Michael Dubb, who is one of the top claiming owners on the circuit. Closers never really got involved in that optional claiming race won by Complexity, so I’m not going to hold the effort against him. Prior to that he had earned speed figures that would make him tough against this group, and he has handled route distances in the past so this stretch-out shouldn’t be a major issue.

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RACE 4: MISTER BOBBY (#1)

Sneakiness is clearly the horse to beat as he returns at this same starter allowance level after finishing second in his return in December. There was nothing wrong with that performance, as he earned a respectable 102 TimeformUS Speed Figure and was only beaten by a horse who is in very good form right now. That said, he was allowed to set a slow pace on the front end and had every chance to win. Fortunately for him, the Pace Projector is once again predicting that he will be on the lead in a situation favoring the front-runner. He’s not the kind of horse that I’d want to take at a very short price, but he must be respected. I slightly prefer the horse who finished just behind him last time, Mister Bobby. This gelding has more upside than many of the runners in this field as he makes just his sixth career start. That victory by disqualification over the summer at Saratoga seemed like a fluke at the time, since his surrounding performances on fast tracks were not nearly up to that level. Yet perhaps that performance was just foreshadowing what was to come and revealed this gelding’s preference for wet tracks. He got back on course two back against claiming company and continued that improvement when finishing just behind Sneakiness last time over a “good” surface. There’s rain in the forecast for Saturday, so he should get his preferred going and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him take another step forward.

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RACE 7: DANEBURY (#5)

The entry of Storm Prophet and Vincento figures to be the prohibitive favorite in this spot, not necessarily because either half is the most appealing win candidate on its own, but because they do form a powerful team in an otherwise competitive affair. Storm Prophet arguably brings the better form into this race, but he’s awfully hard to take seriously as a win candidate given his lifetime record of 3 victories and 13 second-place finishes in 32 career starts. That said, he’s obviously improved since the claim by Rudy Rodriguez at Saratoga and the distance suits him. Vincento may be best going a little farther than this, but he figures to be helped by the prospect of a wet track, as he has recently displayed improved form over wet surfaces. Furthermore, he’s racing off the claim for Rudy Rodriguez, who had previously had this horse in his barn for much of his career and knows how to get the best out of him. I’m using them, but these types of entries are often overbet and could create better value on the individual betting interests. My top pick is Danebury, who makes his fifth consecutive attempt to break though this level. He’s had to settle for minor awards recently, but he’s run very well in both of his last tow starts. He survived an honest pace going a distance that may be a bit too far for him two back and then last time I thought he hung on well to be second behind the in-form I Love Jaxson in what was a fast race for this level. The Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace this time, but I would think that Kendrick Carmouche can just let the speedy sprinter Foolish Ghost go on the front end and reel him in at the right time. I also think it’s noteworthy that Danebury ran one of the best speed figures of his career over a sloppy track at Belmont in May 2018.

 

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