RACE 1: MAMA KIN (#3)
Bill Mott has a couple of contenders in this race, and his entrant Barista Vixen could go off as the slight favorite. If you’re willing to excuse that poor performance over a sloppy track last time, her prior dirt form makes her pretty formidable here. She ran quite well to be second in her debut as a 2-year-old, albeit in a race that featured a very fast early pace. She couldn’t muster a rally in her return from the layoff in August, but she was facing a pretty tough field that day. Now she’s finally dropping in class, a move that has worked well for this barn. Over the past 5 years, Mott is 6 for 15 (40%, $3.50 ROI) with maiden special weight to maiden claiming dropdowns on dirt at Aqueduct. I’m using her, but there are others to consider, including fellow surface switchers Zerenia and Bastet. I find all of them more intriguing than the cheaper Wishes and Dreams, who has been failing in softer spots than this and figures to be among the short prices. My top pick is a different new face, Mama Kin. Her debut wasn’t so bad, as she overcame a slow start to get into an early stalking position before staying on at one pace while attempting to lug in through the stretch. She added blinkers for the second start and broke more alertly, but didn’t get the most comfortable trip thereafter. She’s been on the shelf for a long time and now returns for a $40,000 tag, which is probably where she belongs. Some of those recent works are pretty quick and Carlos Martin can certainly get one ready off a layoff.
RACE 7: HIT IT ONCE MORE (#11)
This is a confusing and competitive $25,000 claimer on the turf, and it’s a race in which I’d be reluctant to settle for short prices. The likely favorite is So High, and I don’t have a major knock against this horse. He’s simply the one to beat based on his last effort, when he won a $35,000 conditioned claimer over heavy favorite Dream Friend. However, the connections are showing no ambition with this 4-year-old as they drop him off the win, and his prior efforts don’t nearly measure up to that last performance. Hayabusa One has plenty of back class, but he’s not really a winning type and I’m skeptical about him still possessing the speed to compete over this shorter distance. Attentive is somewhat intriguing at a bigger price as he drops in class in his second start off the claim for Tom Morley. He ran pretty well last time when making a wide far turn move before flattening out. Ghost Giant also makes sense, and like So High, he’s also coming off a relatively fast win. However, he got an absolutely perfect trip when coming from off the pace to win that New York-bred claimer, and if I’m going to take a horse out of that race, I’d rather it be Hit It Once More. This horse’s recent form had fallen apart on the dirt, but he had always shown turf ability despite failing to hit the board in any of his starts on that surface. He finally got back on turf last time and ran a vastly improved race. He didn’t break that sharply, but rushed up to contest a fast pace and didn’t quit until the very late stages. Obviously he would have to move forward again to beat this field while switching barns, but there isn’t that much speed signed on and his lone pace rival Vip Nation sometimes has gate issues of her own.
RACE 8: BUSTIN SHOUT (#13)
I liked More Graytful last time when he won at 5-1 and earned a fast speed figure to beat the talented Tale of the Union. He’s the horse to beat here even as he steps up in class, and while I respect his current form, I’m not thrilled with the prospect of taking a much shorter price on him. It’s possible that he’s simply improving at the end of his 3-year-old season, but his prior form doesn’t exactly make him a standout in this field, and he’s facing a tougher group with much more pace signed on. Foolish Ghost beat him when they met on Oct. 3 and I don’t see why that horse isn’t a real threat once again. Foolish Ghost is the quintessential “speed of the speeds,” so he figures to be in front of these early. The real question is whether he can hang on going 6 1/2 furlongs against a field of this quality. I’m using him, but I want to look for a bit more value given the wide open nature of this field. My top pick is Bustin Shout, who switches back to dirt after just missing when racing for an optional claiming tag against New York-breds in his most recent start. While his Beyers suggest that turf may be his preferred surface, he earned a 113 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that October 16 off-the-turf victory, and that number has held up as horses have run back out of that race. Furthermore, he ran well within the context of that race, surviving an early duel before drawing off. It appears to me that Bustin Shout is simply in the best form of his career right now, and I like that he’s drawn outside of the other speeds in this field. The distance is a slight concern for him as well, but at least he’s going to be a square price.