Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Thursday, January 30

RACE 5: ITS A WRAP (#4)

Between the two runners with experience, Ghost Fighter is the one who figures to attract the most support. There are obviously some high expectations for this half-million dollar yearling purchase, given that he’s a son of Tapit out of a stakes-placed dam. However, it’s unclear how much ability he actually possesses based on his two starts to date. Many will be impressed by his debut effort at Gulfstream, in which he made up over 10 lengths to be second after a poor start. However, that late run was set up by a fast pace and he only earned an 81 TimeformUS Speed Figure in what was a slow race. He returned as the favorite at Churchill Downs and was incredibly disappointing, lucky to even hold on for fourth in a race where others behind him had trouble. I’m not thrilled with what I’ve seen and prefer others. The first time starters are an intriguing group. Chad Brown has entered a pair, of which Fevola seems like the more appealing option. This gelding has been training adequately down in Florida and looks like one with a bit of ability despite his lack of dirt pedigree. I’ll use him, but Chad Brown’s statistics with firsters on dirt are not terribly convincing. I prefer Its a Wrap, who makes his first career start for Michelle Nevin. While she’s not known for having youngsters ready to win their debuts, this colt seems particularly well prepared to fire first time out. He sports a series of fast workouts, including a few bullets, and his pedigree is geared towards sprinting. He’s a son of 17% debut sire Twirling Candy and his dam excelled in dirt sprints. Furthermore, I liked the quick, efficient stride that he displayed in that 10 1/5 eighth of a mile workout at the OBS sale last June.

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RACE 6: RADIANTRITHYM (#3)

Miss Mi Mi seems like the one to beat as she makes her first start off the claim for Rudy Rodriguez. She had already been in solid form for Gary Gullo, who set her out to win races at Aqueduct and Monmouth in two of her last three starts. She was facing a particularly weak field when she won last time, but she nevertheless earned a respectable speed figure while overcoming a slow pace. If she merely maintains her current form, she’s going to be a handful here and her improved tactical speed in recent starts should ensure that he’s not badly outrun early in a race that doesn’t feature much pace. Assuming that expected pacesetter Malibu Mischief runs on in the spot she was entered on Friday instead of here, the Pace Projector will adapt to a No Speed scenario with no clear front-runner signed on. I’m hoping that prompts the connections of Radiantrithym to adopt some aggressive tactics, since she possesses the tactical speed to be relatively close in the early going. This mare hasn’t gotten ideal trips in either of last two starts. She blew the break two back and had to rush up into position down the backstretch before chasing a loose-on-the-lead winner home. Then last time, she was stuck down on the inside on a day when horses making outside runs appeared to have an advantage. She’s making her first start off the claim for Linda Rice, who does a fine job with new acquisitions. I trust her to show up more than some others in this field who are returning from layoffs or in poor form.

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RACE 7: QUESTEQ (#4)

I suppose Peggy Sue will be the choice of the public as she seeks her third consecutive victory. It’s obviously a good sign that she’s been claimed back by Linda Rice, who lost her for $16,000 on Jan. 4 and is now elected to run her in a protected spot. She’s clearly improved a great deal in recent months, and that improvement has coincided with a sharpening of her early speed. Yet, whereas she was able to set a moderate pace and win in gate-to-wire fashion last time, she’s going to have to revert to stalking tactics here. Elegant Rose and Winifred J are both quicker in the early going and even Shesasuperfreak shouldn’t be far off them. I could envision a scenario in which all of these runners hook up in the early going to ensure that the pace is least honest. If that situation materializes, I would want to turn to Questeq as the alternative. This mare is not a winning type, having visited the winner’s circle just 3 times in 44 career starts. However, this is the time of year when she typically excels. She’s equally as talented on dirt as she is on turf and she’s able to find some easier spots during the off-season, having shown a real preference for Aqueduct in the winter. I was highly encouraged by her return to the races last time, as she contested a fast pace and held on well to be third behind two fillies who are simply faster than many of the rivals she meets here. Now she finds herself in a slightly easier starter allowance field, and the turnback to 6 1/2 furlongs figures to suit her. She’s not a mare that needs the lead to be successful and she’s going to be tough if able to maintain the form that she displayed 7 days ago.

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