Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Sunday, November 22

RACE 3: T LOVES A FIGHT (#1)

Funny Guy is a deserving favorite as he cuts back in distance for this New York Stallion Stakes. Seven furlongs is arguably his ideal trip, and he would be too tough for this field to handle if able to recapture his summer form. However, he does have some questions to answer after a poor showing in the Empire Classic last time. While 1 1/8 miles may be a little far for him, he had run well going that distance before and was supposed to beat today’s rival Bankit, who was second that day. Funny Guy just looked a little dull all the way around the track. I certainly respect this runner, but I’m not inclined to accept a very short price on him. The most obviously alternative is My Boy Tate, who won impressively against a softer field at Parx last time. This 6-year-old gelding also loves the 7-furlong distance, and he is an Aqueduct specialist. That said, I didn’t think he ran any better than today’s rival T Loves a Fight when they met a couple of times at Saratoga, and that one figures to be a better price in this spot. T Loves a Fight made one start during the Belmont fall meet, and I thought he showed subtle improvement despite losing. He got no pace to close into in that September 26 affair and also found himself parked wide on the turn on a day when horses racing on the rail appeared to have an advantage. This hardy 6-year-old appears to be back in career form right now, and he usually appreciates the move to Aqueduct in the winter.

RACE 5: EXFILTRATION (#9)

The headline attraction in this New York-bred maiden special weight is obviously the first time starter drawn on the rail. Brattle House is a $775k yearling purchase who certainly catches a soft field for her debut. The daughter of Malibu Moon is out of a dam who won her first two career starts sprinting on dirt for Christophe Clement, and her only foal to race is stakes-placed Bourbon Bay. Christophe Clement, who co-bred this filly, is 4 for 23 (17%, $2.07 ROI) with first time starters in dirt routes over the past 5 years. If she can run at all, she’s likely to beat this group. However, she figures to be a short price and there are some others to consider. The other firster Duckphat also has credentials to win first time out. She’s out of a solid routing dam Great Gracie Dane, who is a half-sister to multiple dirt stakes winner Ostrolenka. Yet I want to try to beat the favorite with one of those horses who has experience. Exfiltration had absolutely no speed early in her debut before doing a smidgen of running in the stretch. She got no pace to close into that day and she has a pedigree that suggests stretching out should help her. That may also be a better race than it appears, as winner Vacay returned to win a stakes next time improving her speed figure significantly. Horacio DePaz is 2 for 5 (40%, $5.60 ROI) with maiden second time starters going from sprints to dirt routes over the past 5 years, and 10 for 29 (34%, $4.03 ROI) with maiden second time starters overall. She seems likely to step forward and may have found a good spot, especially if the firsters aren’t quite ready.

RACE 7: ADVANCED STRATEGY (#8)

Sanctuary City may got favored again after finishing a solid second when bet down to 5-2 at this level just 16 days ago. Most handicappers will see that 96 Beyer and 115 TimeformUS Speed Figure he earned for his performance in the Mohawk two back and assume he has a significant class edge over this field. However, he was very much carried along to that career-best figure due to the nature of turf racing, and I’m not optimistic that he can do much better than his performance last time. He got a great trip in that November 6 allowance and just couldn’t quite reel in Microsecond. He’s a player here, but I thought there were some alternatives that were more interesting at better prices. One of those is the new face, Austrian. This colt makes his first start against New York-breds since his career debut at Saratoga in 2019. Since then he’s raced primarily in the Midwest. While he may look a little cheap at first glance, this horse has subtly improved in recent starts, running a strong race at Kentucky Downs two back before holding his own in a tough optional claimer last time. He was privately purchased since then and is now in the barn of Danny Gargan. If he improves at all off his recent form he’s a real threat here. My top pick is Advanced Strategy. This son of Karakontie made his first start against winners last time, cutting back to 7 furlongs. While it seems like he never made an impact looking at his running line, this horse was actually in the midst of a sweeping move to challenge for the victory in midstretch last time before flattening out. I suspect that he lost some momentum and interest when pushed out to the outer part of the turf course on a day when the rails were already placed far off the hedge. I just don’t think that was the best part of the course and it hindered his run. He proved that he could handle a true route distance when breaking his maiden two back, and I think he’s dangerous here if he gets back to that kind of effort while reunited with Joel Rosario.

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