Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, January 1

RACE 2: BONUS BABY (#7)

Ghostghostghost seems like the horse to beat. At first glance she may look similar to a few others in here, but there are some reasons to be more optimistic about this filly’s chances. She was well-meant in that debut at Saratoga as a two-year-old, suggesting that at one time there were hopes for her. She disappointed off the yearlong layoff, but her Oct. 12 effort at this level was solid. She stalked a fast pace that fell apart and hung in well for second. Throw out the turf effort, and now she’s back in the right spot while going out for a new barn and picking up leading rider Kendrick Carmouche. This speedy filly has to get 7 furlongs, but could play out as the controlling speed. The only drawback is that I anticipate she’s going to be among the shorter prices here. Dancing Kiki also credentials as she makes her first start for a tag on dirt, but she’s had plenty of chances on both surfaces already. I want to go in a different direction with Bonus Baby. That 95 TimeformUS Speed Figure she earned in August at Saratoga behind the talented 4-time winner Robin Sparkles would absolutely crush most fields at this level. While she ran slower in her runner-up finish last time, that was a better effort than it appears as she closed down the center of the track over a rail-biased course. She clearly prefers turf based on her limited appearances. While the switch to dirt may not be ideal, she did face better company in her two prior dirt attempts, including one start against open company maidens at Oaklawn. I think she has a bit more to offer on this surface and she figures to be a square price here.

RACE 6: COOLBOY (#7)

Montauk Daddy is a logical favorite in this spot as he makes his first start off the claim for Rob Atras. This barn has strong statistics with this move and the horse appears to have a class edge over this field. While he’s primarily raced on turf during his career, his two prior dirt starts were both pretty strong. He ran very well in his career debut in the slop as a 2-year-old, and he arguably ran a winning race on Aug. 22 at Saratoga when closing ground after a poor start. And that’s the only real concern for him here. He is a horse who sometimes has trouble breaking alertly, and a poor start could really compromise his chances, especially in a race that features so much early speed drawn to his outside. I’m using him, but I prefer another on top. Coolboy has long been a favorite of mine, even when he was racing for his prior low-percentage trainer. He appeared to be a clever claim by Chris Englehart two back, and he made his first start for that barn last time. While the claim didn’t pay immediate dividends, the horse clearly took a significant step forward. He rated kindly off the pace and looked full of run coming to the top of the stretch before losing all his momentum while steadying in traffic. All things considered he did well to regather himself and rally for third. Now the horse again goes out for a new barn after being claimed again. Rudy Rodriguez has excellent statistics off the claim, which could compromise his price a bit. He will have to improve to beat the favorite, but I think that’s likely to happen given the deceptively strong effort last time out. Behind these two I’d want to use closers like Double Shot and Joint and Several, as it seems possible that the pace could come apart.

RACE 8: EAGLE ORB (#4)

Swill figures to go favored in this Jerome as he ships in from Kentucky for Brad Cox. He’s the only horse in this field with graded stakes experience, having contested the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club last time out. He put in a solid effort to be fourth that day, making a brief bid at the top of the stretch after getting rank in the early stages of the race. He may not have to improve much on that performance to beat this field, and he arguably ran better two starts back when breaking his maiden. The 103 TimeformUS Speed Figure is the best in this field, and the runner-up from that race, Santa Cruiser, returned to win with a faster number. The only problem is the price, as he figures to go favored for all of the reasons stated above. I’m not against him, but I don’t think he has much of an edge, if any, over his main rival Eagle Orb. This New York-bred colt has only put in one poor effort in his five prior starts, finishing a perplexing fifth in the Bertram F. Bongard. Aside from that, he’s been rock solid, most recently earning a 100 TimeformUS Speed Figure when impressively winning the Notebook. That victory came at six furlongs, but he proved that he could handle a mile two back when finishing a strong second to eventual Remsen winner Brooklyn Strong. This horse has the tactical speed to work out the right trip and he appears to be heading into this race in top form. The others are tougher for me to endorse. Hold the Salsa is just a little slow, and I’m pretty convinced that Original, despite possessing talent, is a turf horse.

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