Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Monday, February 17

RACE 6: RUDE AWAKENING (#5)

Officer Hutchy figures to go off as the clear favorite in this spot after blowing the start when second in a similar spot last time. She was clearly compromised by the break that day and did well to close for second, but she still only earned a 93 TimeformUS Speed Figure for the performance. That makes her one of the major players in this lineup, but it doesn’t suggest that she’s any more likely to win this race than three or four of her rivals. Furthermore, she was bet down to even-money that day and is likely to attract an inordinate amount of support once again given that everyone saw the trip she had last time. I’ll use her prominently, but I prefer one of her main rivals, Rude Awakening. This filly has run well in both career starts to date. She hung on for third after contesting an honest pace against a strong field in her debut and then she won going today’s distance while also earning a 93 TimeformUS Speed Figure. That performance was flattered when three rivals who finished behind her returned to improve their speed figures next time out, including Make Or Break, who is back in this field. Furthermore, there is not a ton of speed in this race and Rude Awakening figures to be able to make the lead fairly easily under Eric Cancel, who has been riding very well lately. Some may view it as a negative sign that she’s racing for a tag after beating maiden special weight foes, but I think the connections are just being realistic with this homebred filly.

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RACE 7: ELLA’S SONG (#3)

Trouble for Skylar is going to be pretty tough for these to handle if she shows up. Plagued by consistency issues for the majority of her career, it seems like this barn finally has her heading in the right direction and a repeat of her recent efforts simply makes her a bit faster than almost all of her rivals. However, she may find herself rallying from farther back in the pack than she has in recent starts due to a plethora of speed types in this race. The Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, and the runner who may play out as the speed of the speeds is Bustin to Please. She comes off a visually impressive score in relatively fast time at Laurel. She obviously has improved for new trainer Claudio Gonzalez, who can send live runners to NYRA. The only issue is that she’s part of a coupled entry and may be an underlay. I’ll use both of these favorites, but I don’t fully trust either one and I think we can get a bit more creative. Ella’s Song intrigues me after she got a crazy ride in her most recent start. While she finished last that day, she actually earned the third highest TimeformUS Speed Figure in the race due to the fact that she set a ridiculously fast pace in the opening furlongs. There was no way that she could have sustained such a pace and she understandably tired in the last furlong. Yet now she’s cutting back and getting a massive rider upgrade to Eric Cancel. Furthermore, she didn’t run as badly as it might seem in her races on this circuit prior to that, particularly three back when she got an awful trip. She’s a bit of a stretch, but this feels like a race in which something odd could happen.

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RACE 8: MY BOY TATE (#1)

Arthur’s Hope will be among the favorites this time after getting the job done in the Say Florida Sandy last month with an impressive 117 TimeformUS Speed Figure. That just seemed like the right spot for him and we got a generous $12 win payout that day. Not only was he the controlling speed going an ideal distance, but the main track on Jan. 11 was slightly speed-favoring, all of which contributed to him delivering a top performance. Now he’s going to be a much shorter price and I think this is a slightly tougher spot. Kendrick Carmouche is going to have to use him in the early going to make the lead over rivlas like Binkster, Amundson, and Eye Luv Lulu, and Arthur’s Hope sometimes has trouble making the front going this shorter 6 furlong distance. Eye Luv Lulu seems like a perfectly viable alternative, the one issue being that wins have been few and far between for this gelding as he’s gotten older. That said, he actually ran quite well in a number of races last year, particularly when he earned a massive 127 TimeformUS Speed Figure in the Affirmed Success at Belmont last April. He remains slightly better on wet tracks than fast going, but he’s run plenty of competitive races over dry strips. I’m using him prominently, but my top pick is My Boy Tate. He lost to Arthur’s Hope by 6 lengths last time but I don’t think he had much go his way that day. He broke awkwardly and was pinched back to lost soon after the start. Then Manny Franco tried to rush him into the race and sent him on a 4-wide chase while trying to make up ground around the far turn. That trip combined with the speed-favoring surface resulted in a poor performance. Yet this horse had run very well just one race prior in his return from the layoff and he’s arguably going to be aided by this turnback to 6 furlongs.

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