Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, February 20

RACE 5: LEMON DROP ROAD (#7)

The touted $1 million yearling purchase Will E Sutton was quite the disappointment in his debut here just 12 days ago. He was a little lukewarm on the tote board, going off as the narrow second choice, and he ran like a colt that needed a start. He was fairly professional through the early stages of the race, but hung on his left lead for too long in upper stretch, just never really accelerating at any point. Stretching out to a mile should help this son of Curlin, but he’s going to have to improve and do so quickly if he’s to break through here. Jonathan Thomas is 4 for 19 (21%, $2.30 ROI) with maiden second time starters in dirt routes over 5 years. I’m using him, but I prefer the other second time starter Lemon Drop Road. There was plenty to like about this ridgling’s debut. He didn’t take much money, going off at almost 9-1, suggesting that he wasn’t cranked to win that day. He actually broke with the field and briefly was chasing the leaders before greenly dropping back under a heavy drive on the backstretch. He continued to travel greenly on the turn, but seemed to finally get on track late, finishing well down the center of the course. His pedigree indicates that he should handle anything from sprints up to a mile. Furthermore, Jimmy Jerkens is 5 for 23 (22%, $5.34 ROI) with maiden second time starters going from sprints to dirt routes over the past 5 years. I could also use a horse like Exalted Charm, who faced better at Gulfstream in his debut, and firster I Am the Law, a grandson of the undefeated Pepper’s Pride. But I prefer the outside runner.

RACE 6: HEIRLOOM KITTEN (#7)

Supreme Aura figures to go favored here even after his entrymate Its All Relevant comes out, as that one will race on Sunday instead. He’s moving up in class after finishing second in his return from the layoff last time. While that was just a $16k claiming event, it was one that featured many dropdowns, so it was a bit tougher than most races at that level. This horse earned a respectable 102 TimeformUS Speed Figure, and he has a right to take a step forward as he switches into the barn of Rudy Rodriguez, who has excellent statistics first off the claim in dirt routes. I also wouldn’t so readily dismiss the horse who finished right behind him last time. Runabout stayed on well for fourth in that spot and may get somewhat ignored here as he goes first off the claim for Amira Chichackly. However, I’m veering in a different direction for my top pick. Heirloom Kitten was simply in over his head against tougher N1X allowance foes in most of his starts at that level. He was never going to land a serious blow against horses like Forza Di Oro and Our Last Buck in his starts at the end of 2020. He dropped in for a $25k tag last time and ran well to win, coming from just off the pace to get up for the victory over a speed-favoring track. He’s now been claimed by David Duggan, who is a solid 4 for 21 (19%, $3.10 ROI) first off the claim over the past 5 years. He’s moving up in class, but his speed figures indicate that he’s a strong fit here, and he should work out a favorable stalking trip.

RACE 8: SHANES PRETTY LADY (#5)

While this Maddie May is a New York-bred stakes event, the race is not short on expensive fillies and regal pedigrees. (Oddly enough, Shanes Pretty Lady is the only horse among this crew who is by a stallion standing in New York.) Brattle House could go favored here as she makes the second start of her career. This $775k daughter of Malibu Moon absolutely towered over her foes in her November debut. She is an imposing physical presence, and she just dominated that race on the front end. However, the speed figure wasn’t particularly fast and the waters get much deeper for this second start of her career. She also has to contend with a layoff, as she spent the last few months training in Florida. I’m using her, but I’m reticent to lean on her at a short price. Furthermore, the TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, with stretching-out sprinters Irish Constitution and Secret Love likely to show speed inside of her. I want to go with horses who are proven at route distances. One of those is Frost Me, who comes off a solid allowance victory at this trip. She’s versatile enough to stalk the pace and seems to be improving with each start. Yet I’m most intrigued by the horse who finished just behind her last time. Shanes Pretty Lady was hindered by a tepid early pace when she lost to Frost Me, and then she was badly compromised by her trip last time on Jan. 31. That was a day when the rail was utterly dead at Aqueduct, as horse after horse who wandered down to the inside met their doomed fate. Shanes Pretty lady, to her credit, actually finished better than most racing on the rail, as she closed for third, albeit flattening out late. I think she’s better than her recent form indicates, and it would appear that added distance is helping this daughter of Bellamy Road. As long as some pace develops up front, I expect her to come charging late at a square price.

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