Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, January 8

RACE 3: OUT FIRST (#2)

I’m not trying to beat potential favorite Out First, who earned a field-best 93 TimeformUS Speed Figure when winning her second start. Some may attribute that sudden improvement to the sloppy track, but I think this filly hinted at ability in her career debut. Racing on the inside, she took a ton of dirt in her face during that Nov. 7 affair, which was run at a time when kickback seemed to be significantly detrimental on the main track. She got a much better trip last time, showing improved tactical speed before taking over in upper stretch. She finished up like a horse who shouldn’t mind some added ground, and her pedigree supports that notion. New sire Outwork is 4 for 18 with his dirt route starters so far, and there’s enough breeding on the dam’s side to suggest more ground shouldn’t be an issue. I prefer her to main rival Frost Me. This filly won her debut but did so against a weak off-the-turf field. While she earned a stakes placing second time out in the Maid of the Mist, she was never really a threat to winner Laobanonaprayer and didn’t run that much better than today’s rival Chasing Cara, as both contested the pace. She can improve again, but I think she’ll have to if she’s to beat Out First. Chasing Cara is hardly impossible, but she may be regressing based on her lackluster maiden win last time. And Shanes Pretty Lady has a license to improve with added ground, but she better turn things around because she’s been a disappointment since the trainer switch to Todd Pletcher.

RACE 6: AL’S PRINCE (#3)

The Reds looms as the horse to beat on the basis of that 100 TimeformUS Speed Figure he earned when settling for third going 1 1/8 miles. He looked like a real threat to win at the quarter pole, but just couldn’t quite see out the distance in the late stages. Cutting back to a one-turn mile should suit him. Plus, it’s not as if that last-out improvement came out of nowhere as he actually ran very well in his debut behind some quality rivals. I’m using him prominently, but I’m not sure there’s as great of a disparity between he and main rival Officiating as the speed figure indicate. This Bill Mott trainee has steadily been coming along, taking small steps forward with each successive start. He has also been getting more involved in the early going in his last two outings. He’s caught sloppy tracks twice in a row, so it will be interesting to see what he can do getting back on a fast track. That said, he was getting to the winner last time while closing up the rail, so the added distance should help him. I’m using both of these, but I actually prefer a different horse out of Officiating’s last race. Al’s Prince was making his career debut in that spot, and stayed on well to be fourth. He didn’t get off to the smoothest start, bobbling slightly before settling at the back of the pack. He had some run coming into the stretch but had to alter course looking for a path, ultimately finding his way to the rail. He was finishing like one that shouldn’t mind a little more ground, which is supported by his pedigree. All three of his dam’s victories came routing on dirt.

RACE 7: TROUBLESHOOTER (#2)

Wudda U Think Now figures to be a strong favorite here after finishing a game second to the talented Jerry the Nipper. While he’s coming right back in another N1X allowance race, this is undoubtedly a weaker spot than he encountered last time. Jerry the Nipper returned from that victory to easily defeat an N2X allowance field next time with a 113 TimeformUS Speed Figure, and the race was further flattered when fourth-place finisher Cold Hard Cash returned to run 12 points faster in his next start. I don’t expect that the slight turnback to 7 furlongs will bother this horse at all, and he projects to get a good trip stalking what could be a moderate pace. I’m hardly against him, but I do think there’s one intriguing alternative. Jeremiah Englehart has entered an uncoupled pair of runners here. Some may gravitate towards Raven Rocks due to the fact that he owns a win over the favorite and attracts Kendrick Carmouche. Yet I want to take a shot with his other horse Troubleshooter. This Into Mischief gelding came to hand last year at Finger Lakes, but he transferred his improved form to NYRA in October, finishing a late-closing fifth in a solid allowance race. He has to do better to win here, but I think the added ground is going to work in his favor. He also seems like a horse who could benefit from the addition of blinkers, as he sometimes looks a little unfocused during his races. I wouldn’t completely discount Saratoga Pal, as he would be a contender here based on his efforts prior to his last race. However, he disappointed as the favorite last time and it seems like he just might be tailing off a bit.

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