Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Sunday, February 21

RACE 6: CAUSE TO DREAM (#2)

Likely favorite Maracuja was understandably bet down to 4-5 last time in a race that appeared to be particularly weak for this level. However, she never looked to be travelling that well and had no punch in the stretch. She’s a little hard to like here off that effort, but it has to be noted that she ran so much better in her career debut. She was very green in the early going of that Dec. 20 debut and was running strongly down the center of the track late on a day when you were better off racing inside. If she could build upon that effort, she’ll be tough for this field to handle. Though, she figures to be a short price and there’s not much pace to close into once again. I prefer runners to the inside. Becca’s Wish was away from the gate very awkwardly in her debut, lunging at the start before rushing up into fourth on the backstretch. She never really made an impact thereafter, but nevertheless earned a solid speed figure in what turned out to be a fast race. However, runbacks from that event have been a mixed bag. The top two finishers returned to do very poorly, though third-place finisher Mo Desserts won her next start by 15 lengths. Jeremiah Englehart is 15 for 75 (20%, $2.38 ROI) with maiden second time starters in dirt sprints over the past 5 years. My top pick is Cause to Dream. This filly didn’t look fully prepared for that debut, as she showed brief speed before fading badly. It was a completely different story last time, as she took a big step forward. While she faded to finish fourth beaten 7 lengths, that effort was a lot stronger than the result indicates. Jan. 31 was a day when the rail was dead, and this filly was inside throughout and driven down to that rail path in the lane. The fact that she was able to achieve an 85 TimeformUS Speed Figure given that trip is fairly remarkable. She certainly ran better than today’s rival Despeight All Odds. Some may hesitate due to the low-profile human connections, but this filly can run.

RACE 7: PERCEIVED (#5)

Advance Notice has lost all 5 of his attempts at this level since breaking his maiden, but most of those have been good efforts. He’s displayed remarkable versatility since breaking his maiden, showing proficiency over distances ranging from 6.5 to 9 furlongs. This one-turn mile should hit him right between the eyes, and indeed, he seemed to run well going this trip last time. He as no match for an impressive turn of foot from Doubly Blessed, but he nevertheless stayed on well for second. Now lands in a spot that doesn’t feature that much early speed, so he should get a great trip on or just off the early lead. He’s the horse to beat, but I prefer a runner who finished just behind him last time. You could have claimed Perceived for $40k out of his win on Jan. 2, but his new connections waited and paid $140k following that victory at the Paul Pompa dispersal sale. He failed to return dividends on that investment last time, as he disappointed as the favorite behind Advance Notice. He just looked a little dull every step of the way, unable to produce the turn of foot he displayed for Chad Brown two back. However, he was attempting to close into a slow pace in a race dominated up front. He obviously has better races in his form that could beat this field. And it’s been unwise to go against the duo of Linda Rice and Eric Cancel lately. Over the past 30 days, that team is 10 for 22 (45%, $2.86 ROI). He’s my top pick, but this race is also open to some others. Tiergan makes his first start off the claim for Rudy Rodriguez, who is especially dangerous in these situations. And Dust Devil was impressive beating claimers last time, as he gets a class test here. Yet both of those would need some pace up front, and that may not develop.

RACE 8: MALIBU STAR (#4)

Family Biz seems like the horse to beat despite moving back up in class. He appeared to be back in top form off the claim for Linda Rice last time as he closed from far back to get up to win a very strong race for the level. Notably, runner-up Limonite returned to win his next start with a 115 TimeformUS Speed Figure. Family Biz’s overall form has been a little inconsistent, but he’s clearly this good when he’s at his best. Furthermore, he projects to get the right trip in a race where the TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace. I’m not against him, but I do think there are some others to consider. Among those who figure to contest the pace, I’m most interested in Daddy Knows. Like the favorite, he’s moving up in class out of a claiming event – and an even cheaper one at that – but he put in an exceptional effort to win that race. Daddy Knows contested a fast pace going this distance and turned back multiple challenges to hold off the closers late, earning a win that was much better than the half-length margin would indicate. The 114 TimeformUS Speed Figure he earned was actually a slight step back from the 118 he achieved in his prior start, suggesting that he’s ready for this class hike. I’m using both of these runners prominently, but the runner that I find most intriguing is Malibu Star. This well-bred colt looked like a future stakes winner when he broke his maiden here in December, earning a 112 TimeformUS Speed Figure to defeat his stablemate. For whatever it’s worth, he was privately sold following that start, as was runner-up Citizen West (who returned to bomb at the Fair Grounds). Malibu Star was understandably bet down to 9-5 for his first start against winners last time, but he was uncharacteristically dull, never getting involved before getting eased in the stretch. Clearly something went awry, but at leas he’s now coming back in jus 4 weeks, suggesting that whatever issue plagued him may have been sorted out. He also sports an impressive 58 3/5 bullet workout last week, the fastest of the morning at that distance by over 3 seconds. I expect him to rebound, but there are some lingering questions about his form.

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