Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Sunday, March 15


Make Or Break would be pretty tough for these to handle if able to repeat her maiden score from Feb. 1, in which she earned a field-best 91 TimeformUS Speed Figure. Yet in making her first start off the claim for Rob Atras last time she surprisingly underperformed, losing to today’s rival Vibrancy. Now she’s getting some class relief and it’s a good sign that she’s again withheld from being claimed. Furthermore, Atras is 11 for 31 (35%, $2.77 ROI) second off the claim over the past five years, so she may do better this time. Main rival Vibrancy made her first start off the claim for the Asmussen barn last time, and while she defeated Make Or Break, she still didn’t do much to write home about. She earned a competitive speed figure when she broke her maiden two back, though horses haven’t really come back from that race to validate the number. Getting back out to this distance should help, though it’s not as if she has much room for error at a short price. I want to go in a different direction, so I’m taking a shot with mid-Atlantic shipper Chaysenbryn. She made a long, sustained run from far back to get up going 6 furlongs last time. Now she attempts to stretch out for the first time and she does have some pedigree to do so, being a half-sister to turf router Mo Gee. This marks her second start following a layoff, so she also has a right to improve. Notably, though Jeremiah Englehart is having a slow meet, over the past 5 years he is 11 for 29 (38%, $2.73 ROI) with horses going from sprints to dirt routes in their second starts off a layoff of 120 to 240 days.



It’s difficult to predict how the public will approach this wide-open conditioned claiming event, which features horses converging from a variety of class levels. In some ways, the horse to beat might be Tiz Morning, since he’s earned the fastest speed figures on dirt. He was claimed away from some low-profile connections by Tom Morley, who has been enjoying a strong Aqueduct winter meet. However, this barn doesn’t have the strongest statistics off the claim and it is a little curious that they’re not moving him up in class given his background. Bebe Banker should appreciate the class relief as he drops out of New York-bred allowance company. He was overmatched in some recent spots, but he should have shown more last time when he had nothing left for the final furlong against a weaker group for the level. I want to look for a horse coming from a different direction, and Our Last Buck fits the bill. He’s stretching out on dirt for the first time, but there are some reasons to believe that he’ll handle it. He was initially targeted at a one-mile race on turf in his career debut before they shortened him up. That shouldn’t have been surprising since he is bred to route, as a son of Courageous Cat out of a damside family that has produced primarily dirt and turf routers. His form looks spotty, but he has subtly improved since the trainer switch to Michelle Nevin. He ran a sneaky race two back when he lost interest coming to the quarter pole before regaining his momentum in the stretch. Then last time he stayed on gamely to lose by less than a length despite having to close up the inside on a day when that probably wasn’t the place to be. Furthermore, his tactical speed should play well in a race that lacks much pace.



Not Phar Now figures to attract plenty of support given that he fits the pattern of a Linda Rice second time starter who figures to improve. He didn’t run a particularly fast race first time out, but he had some minor trouble that day, stumbling at the start before rushing up to contest the pace on the backstretch. Some would also argue that the rail was the place to be that day – I’m undecided – and he was off the inside for his entire trip, so perhaps he deserves a little extra credit for the performance. I’m using him prominently, but he is going to have to improve quite a bit to take down fellow second time starter Ernie Banker. This John Kimmel trainee simply ran a faster race in his debut, earning a solid 90 TimeformUS Speed Figure while losing to the promising duo of More Graytful and Double Shot, the latter of which defeated Not Phar Now by over 5 lengths in his subsequent start. Ernie Banker was a little green that day and figures to do better with experience. However, John Kimmel is just 4 for 41 (10%, $0.51 ROI) with second time starting maidens on dirt over the past five years. I’ll use both, but there is a first time starter in the mix that merits attention. Gandy Dancing ships up from Chad Brown’s Palm Meadows base, and he looks very live. His workouts have been encouraging, especially considering the fact that most of them – including that bullet gate drill on Feb. 18 – were accomplished in company with a horse named Candy Machine. That runner recently finished a strong second in his debut at Gulfstream, earning a 96 TimeformUS Speed Figure. Gandy Dancing has a modest immediate pedigree, but these connections paid a hefty price for him and there is plenty of class deeper in his female family.

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