Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Sunday, March 8

RACE 1: SKY QUEEN (#7)

Halo City is overdue to break out of the maiden ranks. She really should have graduated last time but a series of mishaps prevented her from getting to the wire first. She broke about a length slowly, which put her out of position. Carmouche tried to save some ground thereafter, but he ended up getting stuck in a pocket in behind the leaders and couldn’t find a clear path in the stretch until it was too late. Prior to that, she had put forth her best effort going this one-mile distance. Main rival Tonal Vision didn’t have nearly as much trouble as Halo City last time, but she didn’t get an ideal trip either. Dylan Davis had her in a good spot saving ground on the turn, but the rail never really opened up in the lane. It’s unclear if she had more to offer, but she may have been discouraged having to race in tight quarters. Now this daughter of Tonalist gets an added furlong to work with, and she’s bred to handle more ground as a half-sister to nine-furlong stakes winner Geothermal. They’re clearly the two horses to beat, but I’m intrigued by second time starter Sky Queen. She didn’t show much in her debut, but it seems as if that was expected. She was fairly dead on the board at 9-2 given the weak nature of that field, and Eric Cancel rode her very conservatively. He didn’t apply much pressure as she tired nearing the quarter pole and basically just eased her up late. She probably needed that start, and her pedigree indicates she has room for improvement as a half-sister to multiple Grade 2-winning router Miss Sky Warrior. Kelly Breen is 5 for 23 (22%, $2.23 ROI) with second time starting maidens in dirt routes over 5 years.

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RACE 7: MONEYMEISTER (#9)

A number of horses are dropping in class here, so one of the primary handicapping challenges is to figure out who will maintain their form into this start. I have my doubts about a few of them. The likely favorite is Mo Diddley, and he would obviously be difficult for this field to beat if he repeats his last couple of speed figures. However, he’s suddenly dropping down in class off a solid performance, and Bruce Brown is just 4 for 31 (13%, $0.70 ROI) with horses dropping in claiming price by 50% or more over 5 years. I have even less faith in Saratoga Giro, who also may take some money. It seems like Jason Servis and Michael Dubb are just acknowledging that they made a bad claim, as this horse’s form had completely fallen apart for his prior trainer. They’re now basically begging someone to take this once classy runner for $10,000. I want to focus on horses who appear to be in better form. The one that intrigues me most is Moneymeister, who may get somewhat overlooked here due to the low-profile connections. This horse put in a strong late rally last time to just miss behind the favorite We Should Talk, and he was flattered when that rival returned to win here with an improved speed figure last week. He deserves extra credit for that effort since Feb. 22 was a day on which the track appeared to be favoring speed horses. Furthermore, it’s not as if that performance came out of nowhere, since he had also run well two back when no match for the freakish performance from Where’s Rudy. The Pace Projector is predicting that he’ll get a fast pace to close into.

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RACE 8: PALOMITA (#3)

Sadie Lady is a deserving favorite in this race. She’s moving up in class, but she’s not catching the toughest field at this level and she’s in razor sharp form right now. The Rob Atras barn has fantastic statistics with horses coming off victories and she probably doesn’t need to improve at all on that career-best 107 TimeformUS Speed Figure that she earned last time. I’m using her prominently, but she’s going to be a pretty short price and there are some others to consider. Aunt Babe has been in very good form recently for James Ferraro. She was unlucky to lose two back when just falling a nose short of getting up over a horse who got a perfect trip. Then last time she was compromised by a slow early pace. She figures to get a better setup here, but she’s still not as fast as the favorite and will need some things to break in her favor. My top pick is Palomita in her second start off the layoff. This filly ran poorly last time, finishing 13 lengths behind Aunt Babe. However, that race featured a strong pace and Palomita was outrun by the speedy Forgotten Hero in the early stages. She just never appeared to be comfortable and backed up. It remains to be seen if she can get back into the form that we saw out of her early in her 3-year-old season, but Chad Brown does do well in this situation. Over the past 5 years, he is 13 for 30 (43%, $2.30 ROI) with horses making their second starts of a layoff of 180 days or more in dirt sprints. The Pace Projector is predicting that she’s as quick as Sadie Lady in the early going, so perhaps she can secure a better position contesting the pace this time.

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