Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Thursday, February 6

RACE 2: ARCHUMYBABY (#5)

Excess Capacity is arguably the horse to beat based on that 97 TimeformUS Speed Figure she earned first off the claim last time out. While that performance came over a mile, she’s been just as effective sprinting in the past so the turnback doesn’t figure to harm her. That said, it is a little worrisome that her last race is the only one in her past performances that makes her particularly formidable against this crew. Another runner who figures to attract some support is class dropper Lucy’s Town. She had a very successful season in 2019, winning 5 races while competing at a variety of Midwest tracks. All of those victories came for her previous trainer, who was winning at a 30% clip as of last fall. Though, Kelly Breen does a fine job and she’s arguably shown subtle improvement for the new barn. She’s back at the right level now after facing tougher company in her last two starts, but her lack of early speed could be an issue here. My top pick is Archumybaby, who scratched out of a seemingly tougher spot last weekend to race here instead. This mare is admirably consistent, having won a third of 36 career starts while rarely putting in a poor effort. She has found optional claimers and starter allowance races to be a little tough for her, but her last four attempts in straight claiming races have all resulted in victories. She actually put in a decent effort last time after getting an awkward trip chasing along the rail against tougher foes. She seems to run for any barn and her tactical speed always ensures that she works out a decent trip. Furthermore, if it’s a fight to the finish you know that she has a knack for getting her head down in a photo.

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RACE 3: DARLING DARIO (#7)

Victory Boulevard and Inside Risk should vie for favoritism here. The former is coming off a visually impressive maiden victory in his first start off the claim for Ed Barker. While he wasn’t beating much that day, he drew off with authority, displaying significant improvement on his prior form. He may not have to run much faster to beat this crew, but he will have to do it stepping up in class. Inside Risk has the opposite issue, as he’s getting class relief. Yet his recent form leaves a lot to be desired, as he’s failed to be competitive in three consecutive races since breaking his maiden at Saratoga. The connections have been a little too aggressive in their placement with him ever since acquiring him. That said, he should have been more competitive against starter allowance foes last time out. I want to get a little more creative given the muddled nature of this field, so I’m taking a shot with Darling Dario. Trainer Greg Sacco does an excellent job and he’s already sent out his two stable stars to win at this meet. This gelding isn’t at that level, but he did face much better company in his first two starts against maiden special weight foes at Monmouth. He actually ran very well in his debut behind subsequent stakes performers Meru and Embolden. He’s only sprinted on dirt once since then, and while he finished far back, it would be fair to say that his rider didn’t motivate him with a great deal of urgency that day. He broke his maiden in slow time in the slop recently, but I won’t make much of that race since he’s turning back in distance here. He appears to have more ability than his recent speed figures would suggest and he’s going to be a square price.

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RACE 5: ZEALOUS (#3)

Proven Reserves may win this race, but his recent dirt form has been pretty disappointing. He was uncompetitive in a couple of starts over the summer and he merely picked up pieces last time when back on the dirt in a race where no one really showed up behind the first two finishers. It’s concerning to me that he’s totally lost the early speed that he once possessed. He’s also going to take money based on the Chad Brown factor and a superior turf speed figure two back. His main rival Promo Code at least has the tactical speed to work out a good trip in this race. However, his return from a layoff last December at Gulfstream was similarly disappointing. He chased the pace after briefly dueling for the lead, but had no answer in the stretch. I didn’t like that he failed to change leads through the lane that day, which doesn’t bode well for him stretching out in distance. Furthermore, Todd Pletcher doesn’t have great statistics with horses making their first starts for a tag. I want to look in a different direction for some value. Zealous is returning from a brief hiatus after finishing a dull fourth at the N1X allowance level last December. While that performance won’t get him to the winner’s circle here, it was an odd race in which he was never really in position to be competitive. Foolish Ghost ran off on the lead that day and forced a few rivals, Zealous included, to come off the bridle early chasing him. Prior to that Zealous had been running competitively against decent competition and he’s always been best going this one-turn mile distance. He figures to work out a better stalking trip this time and the H. James Bond barn has been having a strong meet.

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