Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Thursday, November 12


Starship Bubba is arguably the horse to beat after just missing at a slightly lower level last time while earning a career-best 94 TimeformUS Speed Figure. How do we justify that sudden improvement? Well, he’s going out for a barn that has been winning races in bunches since the summer, often getting new top efforts out of their horses with little warning. Plus, his prior dirt form is a little more encouraging that it might seem. You can draw a line through that July 30 effort, as he lost all chance when stumbling at the start. If we can expect to see more of the horse that showed up last time he’ll be tough for these rivals to overcome. His main rival appears to be Onward, an expensive yearling purchase who drops in for a tag for the first time after not quite panning out as an allowance prospect. He faced some talented runners early in his career, but he never really progressed from there. A repeat of his maiden-breaking effort at Tampa would give him a serious chance here. While the last race was not good, it was followed by a layoff, so perhaps there was a physical issue to get over. I’m using both of these runners prominently, but I don’t fully trust either one. I instead want to take a shot with Victory Built at what should be a square price. This colt used aggressive tactics to wire a field from post 14 when breaking his maiden against state-bred maiden claimers two back. He then stepped way up in class to face starter allowance foes last time and got cooked in an early duel in a race dominated by closers. Now he’s dropping down to a more realistic level and the blinkers come off, suggesting that they may not be dead-set on making the lead this time. His form is heading in the right direction, and he put in one of his best prior efforts over a wet track, which he may encounter again on Thursday.


If this race stays on turf, the entry is likely to attract plenty of support. Stronger half Smile Bryan makes his first start off the claim for Mike Maker, who is known as one of the top turf trainers in the country. However, his stats are better with routers than sprinters, and he may have to improve a horse who has been a bit of a disappointment for his prior connections. This gelding sat a decent stalking trip last time and barely fended off a closer for second while no match for the winner. The horse that I want out of that race is Tenure. He could only manage to finish seventh, but he lost all chance when he dwelt badly at the start, spotting the field by some 6 lengths or more. He actually did well to get himself back into the race and close ground into a slow pace. His form had been solid prior to that, and now he’s making his first start off the claim for Rob Falcone. Notably, Falcone is 6 for 13 (46%, $4.74 ROI) first off the claim with turf sprinters. The trainer also has Standup in this race, but Tenure may have the advantage over that stablemate given the lack of speed signed on. The Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring the front-runner. That could also bring some other horses with tactical speed into the mix, such as longshot Souper Highvoltage. This lightly-raced gelding doesn’t have much turf experience, but he had an excuse in his lone prior grass start and he’s subsequently improved on synthetic. His last performance at Presque Isle Downs was much stronger than it seems, as he was a survivor of a suicidal pace duel.


Our Last Buck figures to be a heavy favorite as he steps up in class after clearing his New York-bred conditions. His recent speed figures are simply faster than those of his main rivals and he’s not actually stepping up in class from a practical sense given the weak field assembled for this level. My one concern about taking this horse at a short price is the distance. While he did have a legitimate pace excuse when second by 13 lengths in that one 9-furlong test at Saratoga over the summer, he still fell apart in the last furlong like a horse that just isn’t cut out for two turns. He has plenty of natural speed and he’s able to use that to great affect in his one-turn races, but I’m just not sure that he has the stamina to grind out a two-turn victory against quality foes. Now, perhaps there aren’t any such rivals in this field, but I think there’s at least one alternative that could prove dangerous. Three horses exit that 8th race at October 9, and the one that I want out of that affair is First Line. This gelding did not get the most comfortable trip as he was rated behind and between horses early before getting checked back in tight quarters on the far turn. I just felt he was always out of position that day, and he never really quit running even when soundly beaten in the stretch. He was overmatched in his first start against winners, but he’d be a real rival for Our Last Buck if able to get back to his maiden-winning form. There isn’t much speed in this field, and I expect Luis Rodriguez-Castro to send him to the front in attempt to secure the early lead from the favorite. The other horse that I would use at a price, primarily underneath, is Fried Rice King. He looks a little cheap, but he was running on strongly at the end of a live race last time, and he’s one who clearly wants every bit of this 9-furlong trip.

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