Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, March 14

RACE 4: SMALL BEAR (#3)

Crea’s Bklyn Law gets a drop in class after failing in recent attempts at the N1X level. He’s never been a winning type at just 3 for 32 lifetime, but he has nevertheless earned a series of speed figures that make him the horse to beat here. He was mildly steadied at the start last time and was out of position for most of the race before making up some ground in the lane. He does figure to be more forwardly placed this time, and should be right there at the end with his typical effort. I’m hardly against him and prefer him to Shalako. This gelding earned a speed figure that would make him formidable here last time, but did so in a $10,000 claimer. The race came up very fast, but it remains to be seen if he can reproduce such an effort against stronger competition. He hasn’t exactly been the picture of consistency over the past several months, and while it does seem like Rudy Rodriguez has him heading in the right direction now, it’s really just that Feb. 9 performance that suggests he’s good enough to win this race. I want to beat him with the dropping Small Bear. This former stakes winner is plummeting down to this open claiming level after competing in a series of optional claimers during the past year. His form has clearly tailed off, but he’s nevertheless still earning TimeformUS Speed Figures that would make him competitive in this race. He had little chance to close in a race that was dominated up front last time, and he was simply overmatched prior to that. It’s very possible that facing this softer group could rouse him to produce a better effort, and that would make him tough to beat.

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RACE 5: FAIR LASSIE (#4)

Abraxan and Sunshine Gal should vie for favoritism in this wide open conditioned claiming event. The former is coming off a victory against a softer field last time, when she just dominated throughout after opening up a clear lead right from the start. The Pace Projector is indicating that she should get another favorable setup, but she will get a bit more early pressure from Teletype to her outside. She can obviously win here, but she was in pretty poor form just prior to that victory last time, so she’s not exactly trustworthy. The same goes for Sunshine Gal, but at least she has multiple prior speed figures that would make her formidable against this group. She never made an impact in her return last time, but she was meeting a significantly tougher field at the N2X allowance level. Now she’s getting some needed class relief and she just seems to fit really well against this field from a speed figure standpoint. As long as she gets a little pace to close into, she’ll be right there at the end. I’m using both of these, but my top pick is Fair Lassie. This filly should appreciate the cutback in distance after fading going a mile last week. While she finished far back that day, she still earned a respectable speed figure. Prior to that, she closed well for second at this level, finishing between next-out winners Dovey Lovey and Dirty Bird. She might have gotten closer to the winner that day had she not had some trouble at the start, forcing her out of position in the early going. She loses Manny Franco this time, but promising apprentice Luis Cardenas may be an ample replacement.

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RACE 9: DARLING’S CURE (#10)

Honey Money fits the profile of a winning Linda Rice second-time starter. She showed some promise in her debut and seems likely to take a significant step forward with that experience under her belt. My only concern is that, unlike many first time starters for this barn, she was really meant to win first time out, getting bet down to even-money favoritism. Part of that was due to the field quality, but she was certainly live on the board. She still figures to do better here, but this is a much tougher assignment and I don’t think it’s just a given that we can apply the magic Linda Rice statistic this time. A horse like Dancing Kiki has run faster in a few starts, though she has less upside after having raced 6 times. Yet there are other second time starters to consider, including some with speed, such as Charlotte Webley and Leyte. If the pace is honest, that could help set things up for the late run of Darling’s Cure. This filly made her debut against open company at Laurel last time and put forth a solid effort to be third with a decent 76 TimeformUS Speed Figure. She was shuffled back behind a moderate pace in the early going and did well to continue to make up ground through the lane in a race where no one else really closed. This trainer isn’t known for success on a major circuit like this, but the filly showed ability first time out and she may get some what ignored here due to the low-profile connections. She’s apparently trained well out of that race and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an improved effort this time.

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