Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, January 17

RACE 2: COUTABLE (#5)

Sadie Lady’s first start off the trainer change to Rob Atras was pretty disappointing, but she basically lost all chance at the start. She found herself back in last after breaking awkwardly and was just never in position to be competitive thereafter. She had a legitimate excuse that day, and I wouldn’t hold her last turf race against her either, since she got embroiled in a ridiculously fast pace. Sadie Lady’s prior form was solid, and while she may be a bit better on turf, she’s run competitive speed figures on dirt before. Some may perceive her main rival to be Cape Cod Diva off her victory at the N2L claiming level last month. Yet, that was a weak field and her main rival Wisconsin Night returned to bomb as the odds-on choice next time. While that last race may suggest that she should have been running on dirt all along, she still has to prove herself against a legitimate field of dirt horses. My top pick is Countable as she makes her second start off the layoff. She wasn’t exactly beating the toughest field at Finger Lakes last time, but she was game to earn the victory in a fight to the finish. Prior to that she had achieved some respectable results in her first few dirt sprint attempts at Aqueduct, and has some foundation to build upon that form now. Notably, Linda Rice is 8 for 15 (53%, $3.12 ROI) with last-out winners making their second start after layoffs of 120 to 240 days in dirt sprints. Additionally, Rice has fantastic statistics with blinker additions in general. There are plenty of reasons to expect she’ll improve here and she figures to offer fair value.

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RACE 3: CREATIVE STYLE (#4)

The Rudy Rodriguez entry figures to attract plenty of support merely due to the fact that horseplayers can get two horses for the price of one. Yet neither one of these participants is particularly formidable in his own right. Kumar has shown more of a preference for turf at this point in his career and was fairly disappointing when always outrun at the starter allowance level last time. Perhaps he’ll appreciate the drop in class, but he needs to run a bit faster. Carthon may have a higher ceiling, but it’s been a while since he was capable of producing his career-best speed figures and he didn’t take much of a step forward first off the claim for Rodriguez last time. I’d be interested in looking for alternatives, and the most logical of those appear to be Hizaam and Walkoff. The former drops in class as he makes his second start off the claim for Linda Rice after being hindered by a speed-favoring sloppy track last time. He has a right to do better and is perhaps more trustworthy than Walkoff, who hasn’t been seen since last summer and was tailing off at that time. I want to go in a slightly different direction, so my top selection is Creative Style. This gelding has been knocking heads against much tougher company at the N1X level, and it’s frankly no disgrace having lost to rivals like Payne, Free Enterprise, and Patagonia. Some may perceive his 15-length loss last time as a step in the wrong direction, but he didn’t have to love his first spin over a sloppy track and 9 furlongs is probably too far for him anyway. The turnback should suit him and this is the right class level.

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RACE 8: ASSAULT AND PEPPER (#8)

There’s not much form to analyze in this relatively weak maiden claiming event. I suppose the horse to beat is Be Magic, who makes his first start off the claim for Linda Rice while dropping in class to compete for the lowest tag of his career. This filly’s form isn’t exactly inspiring, but Linda Rice knows how to win in this situation. Over the past 5 years, she is 15 for 36 (42%, $2.44 ROI) first off the claim with maidens on the dirt. I’ll use her prominently, but she’s not a favorite that is to be feared. Horses like Big Cyn and Empress Luciana have posted speed figures that put them in the mix, but they’ve also had their fair share of chances and haven’t shown much ability. I would rather go for a lightly raced contender with a bit more upside, so my top selection is second time starter Assault and Pepper. This filly finished far back in her debut, but she actually had a far more adventurous trip than her short running line comment conveys. She broke with the field and was racing up close to the leaders through the opening quarter mile before she steadily got shuffled back heading to the half-mile pole. At that point, for whatever reason, Assault and Pepper totally disengaged from the race and abruptly plummeted to the back of the pack as if she was about to be eased. Yet, rather than pulling her up, Sammy Camacho steered her to the outside around the kickback and she surprisingly got back into the race, rallying mildly passed a few stragglers in the stretch. It was the kind of performance that suggests we probably didn’t see the best that she had to offer that day. Now Rudy Rodriguez adds blinkers for her second start, and she gets a rider upgrade to Reylu Gutierrez, all signs that we should see a more focused effort out of her.

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