Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, February 27

RACE 6: THE GREAT JOHANNA (#3)

There’s no denying that Lucky Move is the horse to beat here despite losing as the favorite last time. She’s simply facing a much softer field this time and should have a strong chance to win if she merely repeats that most recent effort. The fact of the matter is that she actually ran reasonably well to be fourth, since she was held up at the back of the pack early and was closing fastest of all in the late stages. Yet she was so far out of position due to the fact that she lacks any early speed or much of a turn of foot. Those deficiencies are masked when she’s able to go 1 1/8 miles around two turns but they do make her somewhat vulnerable in a one-turn mile test. If she’s defeated it’s likely to be at the hands of a horse who gets the jump on her, and that could potentially be Might Be. This 6-year-old mare struggled to find her form in her first few starts for Bruce Levine, but her last effort signaled that she’s finally getting back on track. She shouldn’t mind the stretch-out to a mile, especially if she’s able to secure the early lead from Play Me a Memory. Might Be isn’t the most trustworthy, but she will be difficult to beat if she continues her ascent. I’m using both of those, but my top pick is actually a horse who finished well behind the favorite last time. The Great Johanna was a serious disappointment that day. However, her trip had a lot to do with that. Junior Alvarado rated her on the rail early, placing her in behind tiring runners over a surface where you were better off racing outside. He made little effort to improve her position at the quarter pole and basically eased her without ever asking for run. Clearly she wasn’t at her best, but she also never was given a chance. Now she gets a switch to Manny Franco and she’s one of the more consistent entrants here based on her prior form.

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RACE 7: LE GENERAL (#7)

The Caretaker looks formidable based on his recent form. He ascended to new heights off the claim last year, finishing a strong second to the promising Free Enterprise before walloping open N1X foes with an impressive 114 TimeformUS Speed Figure on Dec. 29. Rudy Rodriguez acknowledges that he may have run him back too quickly in the Say Florida Sandy thereafter, but the horse also has a valid excuse, since he was rated off a slow pace over a speed-favoring track. If he bounces back he’s going to be awfully tough to beat. However, Rudy also made a point to say, as reported in Dave Grening’s DRF article about this race, that the horse hasn’t been doing as well recently, which makes the drop back in for the $40,000 tag somewhat alarming. I want to go in a different direction, since there are other viable options in here. Playthatfunnymusic makes a bit of sense as he gets needed class relief after failing against tougher open company rivals recently. However, I wonder if he can recapture the form he displayed late last year, which may have been somewhat situational. I prefer Le General, who figures to be a square price this time. This colt switched back to dirt in his most recent start but caught a muddy track. While that may not have hindered him, getting involved in a torrid early duel certainly did, as he put away main pace rival Hushion but was left vulnerable to closers in the lane. Yet that was a subtle step forward for a horse who had once shown high ability, and he’s apparently trained well out of the race. There is other speed here, but he’s drawn well outside and gets a positive rider switch to Franco.

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RACE 8: CAPE COD DIVA (#9)

This is probably the most confusing race on the card, since two of the more logical contenders, Sea Sparkle and Dovey Lovey, are sent out by low-profile connections with low-percentage riders. Sea Sparkle nearly pulled off a shocker at 86-1 last time, though she had a lot working in her favor that day, while Dovey Lovey unexpectedly reproduced her best form against cheaper. I don’t trust either of these options at relatively short prices and want to look in other directions. The logical horse to beat is Miss Mi Mi, who has earned a series of speed figures that make her a major player. However, much of that form was compiled for Rudy Rodriguez and Gary Gullo, and she did regress a bit upon returning to Greg Sacco’s barn last time. She figures to appreciate cutting back in distance, but she also may be the favorite and I’m reticent to take a short price on a runner who may be heading in the wrong direction. I want to get a little more creative, so I’m taking a shot with Cape Cod Diva. This filly attracted plenty of support first off the claim for Rick Schosberg last time. She ran poorly, but she also was badly compromised at the start as she lunged up in the air and was squeezed back to last in the early going. I’m going to ignore that performance, since her prior dirt form was pretty solid. She was flattered when Jan. 17 winner Sadie Lady returned with an improved performance last week, and she earned a speed figure that would make her competitive here prior to that.

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