Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, November 14

RACE 6: BRAY (#1)

The New York-bred Graded On a Curve will make his first start against open company, but he certainly looks ready for the move up in class. He’s been a new horse since returning as a 4-year-old, earning career-best speed figures while running well in all three starts this season. He had to work harder than expected to secure the win last time, but that was a function of his rival Klickitat improving drastically. I’m using him and do prefer him to Chad Brown’s other runner Junakanoo. The evidence casting doubt on that 94 Beyer he earned two back is piling up. None of the horses out of that Saratoga race have run back to the figures they earned there, suggesting the number should be more in line with the 83 Beyer this horse earned last time. That kind of number still makes him a contender, but he could be an underlay here, especially with Irad Ortiz climbing aboard. My top pick is Bray. This 4-year-old has steadily been improving with each successive start, and that’s continued since the claim by Rudy. He had a legitimate excuse two back at Saratoga when he was wide every step of the way in a race dominated on the front end, and he didn’t get much pace to close into last time either, though still made a strong late move to get up for second. This field is arguably tougher than that one, but he’s run well over this course before and he’s supposed to get more pace to close into this time. I would also throw in Starting Over at a bit of a price. This 3-year-old still has upside in just his third career turf start, and he subtly improved in the Hill Prince last time despite being ambitiously placed.

RACE 7: HORN OF PLENTY (#5)

Blue Gator will seek his third victory in as many starts in this Notebook, but he has some hurdles to overcome if he’s to keep his unbeaten record intact. While he earned a speed figure that would make him competitive against this field at Finger Lakes last time, he did so in the slop in a race where his main rival completely blew the start. He clearly possesses talent, but I think he’ll face a much sterner test as he returns to the NYRA circuit. I think the horse to beat is probably Eagle Orb. He didn’t run well in the Bertram F. Bongard two back, but this three other efforts are all strong. He responded well to the addition of blinkers in the Sleepy Hollow last time, and the turnback in distance shouldn’t be an issue for him. The one concern is that he may have to rate after setting the pace last time, since there’s a lot more speed signed on in this field. I’m hoping that helps set things up for my top selection, Horn of Plenty. This gelding has to run faster if he’s to win his second consecutive start, but I liked everything I saw from him first time out. He had good tactical speed, but rated kindly in behind horses. He got a little keen on the far turn, but Dylan Davis was able to keep a lid on him until the stretch, at which point he altered course professionally and ran down the leader. This is a tougher spot, but he has the right running style and should be a square price.

RACE 9: HAWKISH (#3)

Most of the discussion in this race centers around the two New York-breds Rinaldi and Therapist, who traded decisions in their last two starts. I think it’s fair to say that Therapist is a better horse than Rinaldi, but the latter may have a significant pace advantage in this Artie Schiller. Rinaldi also had the pace in his favor when he won the West Point at Saratoga, but that race was run during a time when all of H. James Bond’s horses were putting up career-best efforts, and the barn has cooled down since. Rinaldi has been successful stalking before, yet he had no late punch last time after stalking the pace of Somelikeithotbrown. He can win, but I don’t want to take any kind of short price on him. Therapist is more appealing to me, since he’s in great form and handles turf with some give to it. He probably is slightly better around one turn, but I nevertheless consider him to be the horse to beat. Yet there are others to consider at better prices. Some may find things to like about Chad Brown’s runners, though I wanted to go in a different direction. Hawkish obviously needs to turn his form around if he’s going to win a race like this. However, I do think you can make some excuses for him. Some horses just don’t care for Kentucky Downs, and he was too close to a fast pace that day with the blinkers on. He had run a decent race at Monmouth previously, and before that he had some traffic trouble in the stretch of both the First Defence and the Poker. Perhaps his best days are just behind him, but I think there’s a chance he can rebound at a price.

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