Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, February 19

RACE 2: WICKED TITLE (#3)

Lottie’s Mizzion is the horse to beat as she moves up in class following a fairly easy victory at the N2L claiming level last time out. This filly had shown some promise when she broke her maiden last fall and was hardly disgraced despite getting beaten a long way by subsequent G3 Go For Wand winner Sharp Starr in a New York-bred allowance event. While the drop in class last time was fairly drastic, this is where she belongs. She got to stalk a moderate pace last time before taking over, and she figures to encounter yet another favorable setup here. The TimeformUS Pace Projecotor is predicting that she could be on the lead in a scenario favoring the front-runner. As long as she holds her form off the claim for Charlton Baker, she’ll be tough to beat. Yet I want to take a shot against her with her main rival Wicked Title. This filly already has experience at this $14k N3L level where she’s run well. She was a little unlucky to lose her first try for this condition on Nov. 12 when she made a strong late rally to just miss after going wide on the turn. She didn’t get a particularly comfortable trip two back, but she rebounded nicely last time. She was hindered by an awkward start in that Jan. 15 race, and was further compromised by trying to close over a racetrack that was favoring speed due to windy conditions. All things considered, she did well to get up for second in a race that featured a slow pace and she likely would have won if given a fair trip. I’m not overly concerned about the stretch-out to a mile, and she has more tactical speed than she’s displayed in recent starts.

RACE 5: SARATOGA BEAUTY (#5)

It will be interesting to see if the public is willing to give Blitchton Lady a second chance after she disappointed as the 4-5 favorite last time. While she was competing at a higher level that day, she was beaten soundly by today’s rival Buyer’s Remorse, unable to parlay a perfect trip into victory. She was running back on relatively short rest on that occasion, and now Mertkan Kantarmaci has given her a bit more time. Yet she’s still hard to trust even as she drops in class. I’m most interested in the fillies exiting the Jan. 24 race at this level won by Cadeau de Paix. Stunning Munnings achieved the best result that day, checking in third, but she got a great trip, stalking the pace along the rail. I prefer those who finished behind her. Left Leaning Lucy was prevented from putting forth a true effort due to trouble at the start, as she was shuffled back to last a few strides out of the gate. Closing into the fast pace allowed her to pass a few rivals late, but she’s generally more effective racing near the early lead. I’m using her, but my top pick is Saratoga Beauty. She, too, was bumped after the start and then didn’t seem totally comfortable rating in behind horses while taking kickback. She refused to settle for Eric Cancel, traveling keenly into the turn. She eventually worked her way into the clear for the stretch drive, but wasn’t able to kick on. It was nevertheless a solid return to the NYRA circuit, building on her decent Laurel form against cheaper company. I think this filly has subtly improved, and now she makes her first start for a very underrated trainer. Over the past 18 months at Aqueduct, Ralph D’Alessandro is 9 for 25 (36%, $5.76 ROI) with horses that get sent off at odds of 10-1 or less. If this filly can settle better in the early going of this race, I believe she’ll produce a more effective finish.

RACE 6: GUN HILL GIRL (#7)

I suppose Timed Out could go favored again despite losing as the 1-2 choice last time in her first start off the claim for Rudy Rodriguez. The first inclination may be to give her a pass for that performance, as she still finished second at this same level. However, she was facing an unusually weak field last time and is undoubtedly stepping up class here to meet a far deeper cast of characters. She could get the right pace setup and perhaps turning back to 6 furlongs will be to her benefit. Yet I have some doubts about the quality of the field she beat at Monmouth two back, and want to look elsewhere. I’m most intrigued by last-out maiden winners. Shaker Shack and Shesadirtydancer both won races at the $40k maiden claiming level, earning similar speed figures. The former arguably has more upside in just her third career start, having won that race off a layoff. But Shesadirtydancer may just be improving at the right time, as horses who finished behind her have generally come back to do well. I’m using both of them, but my top pick is a filly who won for a cheaper tag. Gun Hill Girl was facing a weak field last time, but she won that race far more impressively than the 1 1/2 length margin of victory would suggest. Though it’s not noted in the chart comments, she broke slowly last time and was turned sideways coming out of the gate, spotting the field multiple lengths. That was especially detrimental for a filly who had shown speed in her only prior start. Most inexperienced horses would just give up at that point, but she launched a wide, seemingly premature rally on the far turn to take the lead at the quarter pole. She got a little leg weary late, but she had a right to tire given that trip. I think she’s capable of better and she should be able to run faster given a clean start.

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