Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Sunday, December 6

RACE 1: BELLAGIO (#2)

Bourbonic is probably the horse to beat as he drops in for a tag for the first time. I don’t know why they ran him on turf last time because he really doesn’t have much pedigree for that surface. He was simply facing a vastly superior field in his dirt debut and he’s getting needed class relief. Significantly, Todd Pletcher is a remarkable 25 for 50 (50%, $2.63 ROI) with maiden special weight to maiden claiming dropdowns in dirt routes over the past 5 years. I’m hardly against him, but I do prefer his main rival at what figures to be a slightly better price. Bellagio is making that same drop after just one start, when he was badly outrun every step of the way going 1 1/8 miles behind Remsen third-place finisher Known Agenda. Nine furlongs is just a tough distance for any horse’s debut, so he should have gotten some needed fitness out of that start. Furthermore, this colt was in traffic for much of that race, unable to gain momentum while stymied in behind tiring runners around the far turn. This well-bred colt has more ability than he showed that day and he’s getting a positive rider switch to Junior Alvarado for his second start.

RACE 6: SHANES PRETTY LADY (#3)

Laobanonaprayer is simply the horse to beat as the only stakes winner in this field. She wasn’t winning the strongest edition of the Maid of the Mist last time, but it’s not as if she’s meeting any killers in here. The cutback to 7 furlongs is a bit of a question mark for a filly who appears to relish distance, but she could arguably regress and still beat this group. Her main rival is probably debut winner Gray Destiny. This filly did everything right in her debut She rated kindly off the pace, professionally moved up inside of horses on the far turn, and pulled away through the stretch. The one problem is that it was a fairly weak off-the-turf affair. Not only was she entered for turf, but she was facing a field of rivals who were also intended for that surface. That said, this filly really does have more of a dirt pedigree and she’s not supposed to mind turning back in distance. I’m using both of them, but I slightly prefer Shanes Pretty Lady at what figures to be a more generous price. Her debut was pretty strong. Even though she got plenty of pace to close into, she finished powerfully once wheeled out into the clear. A number of horses have run back out of that race to improve their speed figures subsequently, so that 86 TimeformUS Speed Figure looks legitimate. The problem is that she regressed last time when making her stakes debut off the trainer switch to Pletcher. She was sluggish from the start and never got involved. Yet I think the added ground will help this daughter of Bellamy Road, and she does figure to get pace to close into here.

RACE 8: UNO (#11)

Dreamer’s Disease is clearly the horse to beat as his connections have cleverly spotted his Kentucky-bred in a lucrative New York stallion stakes. He validated them taking a shot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by finishing sixth, beating over half the field. He set a wicked early pace before fading in the stretch but nevertheless earned a strong 107 TimeformUS Speed Figure for the effort. That, coupled with his solid 99 figure for that allowance romp two back, simply makes him a deserving favorite against this field of somewhat questionable quality. That said, he will be cutting back in distance, and he may have to deal with pace pressure, as the TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace. I certainly respect him, but I’m pretty interested in another son of Laoban. Uno, a $255,000 auction purchase, made his debut here last month and was very impressive, drawing off to win by nearly 4 lengths after a slow start. While he got the six furlongs that day, these Laoban progeny have relished any extra ground they can get, so he figures to appreciate the move out to 7 furlongs. Furthermore, Todd Pletcher has a remarkable record with horses like this. Over the past 5 years the Pletcher barn is 9 for 15 (60%, $2.76 ROI) with last-out debut winners making their second starts against New York-breds. He has to get a little faster, but I’ll take his upside over Dreamer’s Disease’s class at what figures to be a slightly better price.

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