Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Thursday, January 7

RACE 1: SWINGING STICKS (#4)

Another Shot figures to go off at an extremely short price as he drops in class again after checking in third at the $40k level in early December. A repeat of that 76 TimeformUS Speed Figure should make him awfully tough for this field to handle for the sheer fact that there just isn’t any other positive dirt form to be found among his competitors. He’s the most likely winner and it isn’t really close, but I do think that there is at least one alternative who may offer sufficient value to take a shot against this favorite. Swinging Sticks has yet to try dirt, having made his debut sprinting on the turf against maiden special weight company. He took no money that day and didn’t show much ability, just running along sluggishly at the back of the pack. However, it shouldn’t be a great surprise that he didn’t handle turf, since he has a dirt pedigree. Effinex has yet to distinguish himself as a sire, but if his progeny have shown anything it’s that they want dirt routes. Furthermore, this colt is a half-brother to 6-time winning dirt router Abounding Spirit ($170k) and 5-time winning dirt router Mental Iceberg ($168k). Jorge Abreu doesn’t have great statistics with this move, but this horse lands in a weak spot and should improve under these conditions if he can run at all.

RACE 6: MAKE OR BREAK (#3)

The two main players in this race are Big Bennys Tribute and Chaysenbryn, who finished second and third, respectively, when they met at this level on Dec. 11. Neither was any match for easy winner Customerexperience, but they both ran well and earned solid speed figures. Big Bennys Tribute proved that she could handle the one-mile distance stretching out for the first time, whereas Chaysenbryn validated her surprising 10-length win against cheaper company in November. Chaysenbryn did lose to her rival by 1 1/2 lengths, but she also had the wider trip. I’m using both of them, but I think there’s at least one alternative to consider at a better price. Make Or Break was no match for those aforementioned two favorites when they met at this level on Dec. 11. However, she was able to achieve a better result on the class drop last time. That 90 TimeformUS Speed Figure stacks up well against those of the favorites, but she still lost at a relatively short price. One has to wonder if she requires slightly softer company to put in competitive efforts. Yet I’d be willing to upgrade that last effort slightly due to the fact that she was racing wide throughout over a rail-biased surface. She now goes out for Mertkan Kantarmaci, who is 13 for 46 (28%, $3.15 ROI) first off the claim on dirt at Aqueduct over the past 5 years. The fact that she’s moving all the way back up in class into a protected spot has to be a good sign. Notably these connections pulled off an upset with a similar move up in class off the claim on Sunday’s card.

RACE 7: SOMEDAY JONES (#6)

Looking at Bikinis is obviously the horse to beat as he makes his third start off the layoff and first as a 5-year-old. While he comes in with a solid set of speed figures, he’s been somewhat of a disappointment at this stage in his career. He looked so full of promise as a 3-year-old, raising hopes enough to get bet down to 11-1 in the 2018 Travers. However, he never really panned out. Even just as he was rounding into top form in the 2019 Cigar Mile, he was forced to the sidelines once again. Since returning this fall he’s twice lost as the favorite, and that last fourth-place finish on Nov. 27 was especially discouraging. Perhaps he turns things around here, but I’m not looking to be him at what figures to be a very short price. The best alternative appears to be Someday Jones. While this 8-year-old horse may want slightly longer distances than this one-turn mile, he’s a classy runner who should not be underestimated. He was game to hang on for the victory against cheaper claimers on Dec. 10 and then returned with an even better effort last time. Racing over a rail-biased surface, he had to be taking farther off the pace than usual to get down to the inside path and stayed there until the stretch, at which point he lost momentum when trying to close outside. He earned a strong 114 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that performance, and now he’s moving up in class off the claim by the sharp Mike Maker barn. There should be an honest pace in here given the presence of Rock On Luke, and he could be as much as three times the price of the favorite. I strongly prefer him to Lil Commissioner and Mihos, who come out of a weaker race at this level. Perhaps more intriguing than those two is the aforementioned front-runner Rock On Luke, who has been improving in his recent starts at Parx. Though, I maintain that the victory is likely to be decided by the two outside runners.

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