RACE 4: CAUSE OF ACTION (#5)
Pinky Dude is clearly the horse to beat as he attempts to improve his dirt record to 2-for-2. While he had shown some ability in prior stars on synthetic at Woodbine, he looked like a horse reborn getting on conventional dirt last time, making a wide, sweeping move to the lead past the quarter pole before drawing off impressively. He was assigned a strong speed figure for a race at the $16,000 level and he looks like he could be tough as he returns for the bottom-level N3L condition. However, most horses exiting that Dec. 18 affair have regressed in subsequent starts, with some declining by many points. As impressive as Pinky Dude appeared to be, I’m somewhat skeptical of the quality of that race and think he could be slightly vulnerable here at a short price. I prefer Cause of Action, who is getting some needed class relief after facing tougher $25k conditioned claimers in recent starts. He was meeting better horse when finishing a close fifth on Nov. 22, and he ran better than it seems last time out on Dec. 20. The latter was a day that featured a moderate rail bias, and this horse was never inside, instead chasing in the 3-path for much of his trip before moving wider into the lane. All things considered, he ran on well to be fourth, and should be able to do better here on the class drop. Furthermore, he’s been gelded since that last race and returned with an improved workout 10 days ago.
RACE 5: MOONSHININGBRIGHT (#3)
The focus here is squarely on the first time starters, as here are a few that figure to pique the public’s interest. I assume that Crowded Trade will go favored as he makes his debut for Chad Brown. This $185k weanling purchase is out of a stakes-winning dirt routing dam who earned her highest speed figure on synth. One foal to race failed to win and the dam has no siblings. Chad Brown is a solid 14 for 64 (22%, $1.56 ROI) with first time starters on dirt at Aqueduct over the past 5 years, but that illustrates that his horses do get overbet. That Dec. 23 bullet drill appears to have been in company with 5-year-old mare Palomita. I’m using him, but I’m also intrigued by John Terranova’s firster Ranger Fox. This son of 13% debut sire Nyquist is descended from Hall of Fame inductee Xtra Heat, who is his second dam. That makes this dam a 3/4-sister to dirt sprint stakes winner Elusive Heat. However, Terranova firsters often need a start when they debut on the dirt, and the works don’t reveal much. I’m instead siding with experience. Moonshiningbright had an eventful journey in his debut, as he broke slowly from the rail and rushed up greenly on the backstretch before fading late. He was far more professional next time out, breaking clearly and showing speed. While he again faded at the end, he may have been hindered by racing two-wide against a rail bias. The runner-up returned to win with 108 TimeformUS Speed Figure. He has a right to continue improving, and his early speed could prove dangerous in this field of firsters.
RACE 6: DR. DEVERA’S WAY (#2)
I pegged this entry as the 3-5 favorite on the morning line, but that is unlikely to hold up with the expected scratch of Montauk Daddy, who figures to participate in a tougher spot on Friday. Brilliant Brooks could still go favored on his own, and if he does I think he’s a short price that you want to try to beat. This horse did show some promise early in his career, but now he has to be judged off his two most recent starts from last fall and neither one is particularly inspiring. He did earn an improved 90 TimeformUS Speed Figure when beating $16k claimers last time, but that has proven to be a very weak race, out of which most participants have regressed significantly. Brilliant Brooks was claimed out of that start by Rob Atras and it is perhaps a good sign that he’s moving up in class in his initial start for this barn. However, it is a little curious that he’s been gone for 3 months since the claim. I prefer others. Three horses in this field exit the Dec. 20 race at this level won by Ryan’s Cat, and they’re all somewhat interested. Light the Posse arguably had the worst trip of that crew, but he also failed to overcome any of that adversity, finishing far back. Money in the Bank was most successful, checking in second behind Ryan’s Cat. He was never really on the rail and thus put in a solid effort, continuing his trend of improving dirt performances. In some ways he’s the true horse to beat in here, and I’m certainly using him. Yet I prefer Dr. Devera’s Way from that Dec. 20 affair. He was parked very wide all the way around the far turn and stayed on pretty well for fifth. While he disappointed as the favorite on the class drop last time, he was overbet that day due to some perceived notion that he’s a wet track specialist. While he has earned both of his career victories on wet tracks, he’s equally proficient on fast going, as he proved three back at this level. He figures to work out a good stalking trip here and he’s unlikely to be favored despite his strong credentials.