Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, November 21

RACE 2: HE’S A LUCKY DEVIL (#9)

I have no major issues with Vodka Lemonade, who finished a solid second in his debut at Belmont last month. He got away with a pretty moderate pace for the distance and was ultimately no match for impressive winner Swashbuckle while just hanging on for the place. I’m using him, but he’s likely to be a short price with Irad Ortiz retaining the mount. The other logical favorite is Straw Into Gold, a homebred who debuts for Christophe Clement. This well-bred son of Hard Spun is out of a Grade 3 winning turf dam and is a half-brother to stakes winner Sea Foam as well as turf winner Kerry’s Ring. They both figure to have a say in the outcome, but I’m most interested in another horse coming out of that October 24 event at Belmont. He’s a Lucky Devil just looked like a horse who needed that debut. He rated towards the back of the pack early and launched a premature far turn move into contention before flattening out in the lane. He should gave gotten some needed fitness out of that performance and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him show a bit more speed this time. Furthermore, Jonthan Thomas is 13 for 32 (41%, $3.23 ROI) with maiden second time starters in turf routes over the past 5 years.

RACE 4: CONVICTION TRADE (#1)

I’m inclined to bet against the potential favorite Value Engineering. This horse has some talent, but he’s been a little disappointing this year, not quite taking the step forward that was expected of him as he’s struggled to break through this allowance condition twice now. He probably was best on July 17 when moving too soon into a fast pace, but I didn’t think he had much of an excuse last time when he had dead aim at the leaders and just hung in the late stages. I’ll use him defensively but I prefer some new faces. Christophe Clement entered the pair of Arthur Kitt and Mr. Alec, both of whom are contenders. Yet both of them need to rebound from poor efforts. I slightly prefer Arthur Kitt, who returns from a layoff, as I believe Mr. Alec will attract support due to an exaggerated poor trip last time. Some others are stepping up in class out of claiming races, and the one that I find most intriguing is Conviction Trade. This horse always had ability for trainer Jorge Abreu and just found this N2X level to be a little beyond his capabilities. Yet now he’s claimed by Mike Maker, one of the top turf trainers in the country. I’m expecting him to improve, and he’ll be pretty dangerous here if able to step forward off a visually impressive win at Belmont last time. That victory was accomplished over yielding ground, and he is a horse who has proven that he handles some give in the course in prior races.

RACE 9: SADLER’S JOY (#4)

I understand the temptation to resist horses like Sadler’s Joy. You’re always going to be on the edge of your seat, enduring potential frustration, when betting short-priced deep closers like this. However, the truth of the matter is that Sadler’s Joy is just classier than this field, and he’s confirmed that he’s as good as ever this season as a 7-year-old. It took him a start to get going when he returned this summer, but he ran very well to cross the wire first in that Bowling Green at Saratoga going today’s distance. I can excuse his poor performance in the Sword Dancer since he just didn’t handle the boggy going that day. Then last time out in the Turf Classic, I wouldn’t be too discouraged by his loss in the Turf Classic. That race’s winner, Channel Maker, is obviously in career form and he returned to finish an excellent third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Sadler’s Joy did get passed from behind for second in the final furlong, but that was because Javier Castellano made a premature move on the far turn in an attempt to actually win the race. I love this rider switch to Joel Rosario, whose poise and patience with horses like this should allow Sadler’s Joy to time that late move properly. I suppose his main rival is Red Knight, who was second to the favorite in this race last year. Red Knight ran well to win the Sycamore last time, but he got a great trip that day and may be slightly better over longer distances than this 1 3/8 miles. I would look to some bigger prices underneath. Postulation ran deceptively well in the 2019 Red Smith, and once again comes into this race in solid form. And even Doctor Mounty is somewhat interesting stretching out in distance. He’s never gone this far, but he’s a half-brother to Dabster, who was second in the 1 3/4 miles Marathon Stakes.

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