Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Thursday, December 17

RACE 1: TEETOTALER (#1)

The most experienced member of this field, Chasing Cara, is undoubtedly the horse to beat as she drops back into maiden company after contesting stakes. To her credit, she’s improved in recent starts despite racing against tougher competition. She overcame a slow start to get up for third in the Joseph A. Gimma, and proved that performance was no fluke in the Maid of the Mist, when she again finished third after contesting an honest pace. The winner of that race, Laobanonaprayer, returned to win again impressively earlier this month. Stretching back out to a mile should help, and she has the tactical speed to control this affair from the outset. I’m taking a shot against her with a more lightly raced rival, but this filly merits respect. My top pick is second time starter Teetotaler. This $500k yearling purchase just never looked comfortable in her debut. She broke a step slowly and found herself at the back of the pack taking a ton of kickback, which was an issue on the main track during that first week in November. She never commenced a rally, but Carmouche was just easing up on her late. That’s been a productive race, as fourth-place finisher Out First returned to win with a 93 TimeformUS Speed Figure, and the 9th-place finisher won a maiden claimer next out. She obviously has a right to do better stretching out as a daughter of multiple Grade 1 winner Artemis Agrotera, making her a half-sister to 9-furlong Albany winner Chestertown. I would expect her to show more speed this time with blinkers added. She’s my top pick, but there are other inexperienced fillies to consider. Quiet Type switches to dirt with more of a main track pedigree, and Home for Christmas also tries dirt for the first time for Christophe Clement, who has strong statistics with this move.

RACE 2: CIVIL WAR (#3)

Potential favorite Sam and Sy debuted for a tag at Belmont but won convincingly in the slop by over 13 lengths, beating Bowing Snowman, who would earn improved TimeformUS Speed Figures of 68 and 84 (winning last time) in his next two starts. He tried a tougher field at Churchill last time and came up short at 6-5, but nevertheless improved his speed figure while rallying up the rail for second. Cox appears to have this one headed in the right direction as he now adds blinkers for his third start, and he has the tactical speed to work out the right trip. Yet he’s one of many who can win and could be the shortest price. Fire Sword’s connections took a risk running this $80k yearling purchase for a $50k tag first time out, but they got away with it. This gelding won with ease as he just glided away from that field under minimal urging. He earned a respectable 91 TimeformUS Speed Figure in a race out of which fourth-place finisher Charlie Five O, who dueled with this horse early, won his next start with a 92 figure. This Wesley Ward trainee’s biggest advantage is his early speed, since he figures to control this race on the front end. I’m using both of these runners, but my top pick is the closer Civil War. After winning his debut a Monmouth, this colt was thrown to the wolves in his next start when beaten 24 lengths by some of the top two-year-olds in the country in the Grade 1 Champagne. He didn’t fare much better in the Nashua last time, and now drops back down in class for this starter allowance. Deep closers like this are always at the mercy of pace, and it is a little concerning that he hasn’t stepped forward much from a speed figure standpoint. However, class relief can wake up horses like this, and he does pick up leading Aqueduct rider Kendrick Carmouche.

RACE 7: FARRAGUT (#6)

Two runners who figure to attract support in this New York-bred allowance are Luna’s in Charge and Jemography. The former ships in from Kentucky after contesting a series of open company races this fall. This 4-year-old is consistent and versatile, usually picking up checks regardless of surface or distance. However, he rarely wins and he may attract plenty of support as he seemingly drops in class. I’m using him, but he’s not the kind of favorite that I want to endorse. Jemography has won plenty of races, but he’s done so out of town at Finger Lakes. Since coming to the NYRA circuit this fall he’s stepped up his game, twice finishing second at this level. However, now he’s facing what appears to be a stronger field at this level than the one he encountered last time. I’m using both of them, but there are others to consider. Raven Rocks was a gutsy maiden winner last time and has room for improvement, though he does have to step forward on the speed figure scale. And a longshot like Bulwark would be tough if able to run back to the massive 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure he earned when breaking his maiden last year. However, he has to contend with a layoff and a potential wet track. I’m going in a different direction with Farragut. I know that I’ve been chasing this horse a bit, but he has run better than it appears in a few of his recent starts. He got caught chasing a very fast pace when he was third at this level three back behind the talented Six Percent. And then last time he was always out of position chasing wide in a race that was dominated by horses who rode the rail. I don’t mind the turnback for him given the amount of pace signed on here, and he’s handled wet tracks before.

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