Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Thursday, February 25

RACE 5: SUZ (#8)

Lem Me Have It figures to go favored as she drops in class off the layoff. The Rudy Rodriguez barn is in the midst of a strong run (8 for 27, 30%, $2.94 ROI over the past two weeks), but I’m somewhat skeptical of this mare at a short price. They’re basically giving her away for $12,500 considering that she was claimed for $35k and disappointed in two starts for this barn last October. She’d fit very nicely in some starter allowance races, but the connections have instead opted for this cheap claimer. I’ll use her defensively, but I prefer others. Cover Photo may also attract support despite going out for low-profile connections, and she may beat this field if she repeats her last effort. However, it must be noted that Jan. 31 was a day when the rail was dead and she benefited from closing outside into a pace that fell apart. She still ran a speed figure that makes her a strong contender here, but she’s unlikely to get quite as favorable a setup this time. Another horse who could take some money is Movie Score, who earned a strong 95 TimeformUS Speed Figure for her blowout victory at a cheaper level on Feb. 8. Yet, this time, she was helped by a strong rail bias, as the inside path seemed to be a significant advantage by the end of the day on that card. I doubt she can achieve a similar result over a fair surface. I’m instead interested in a horse who was compromised by a bias. Suz finished some 19 lengths behind Cover Photo last time, but she got the wrong trip over that Jan. 31 track featuring the dead rail. She was ridden hard to make the front over another speedy rival, but in doing so found herself right down in that inside path. Like so many who wandered down inside, she was totally empty by the time the field got to the quarter pole. She’s better than that based on her prior efforts, and I think she might be able to wake up in her second start for Karl Broberg. She gets a positive rider switch to Luis Cardenas and finds herself in a race where the Pace Projector is predicting a scenario favoring the early leader.

RACE 7: BLINDWILLIE MCTELL (#4)

Dark Money and Steam Engine may both attract support as they move up in class out of $25k state-bred claiming company. Steam Engine defeated Dark Money when they met on Jan. 21, taking advantage of his superior early speed in a race where both worked out good trips. Dark Money since registered a blowout win at the same level on Feb. 13, but he was beating a weak field and benefited from a strong rail bias. These horses are both contenders here and have back races to support their strong recent form. But they do have to deal with each other on the front end while facing some classier rivals. I want to lean in a different direction. I could make a case for Seven Lillies, who tries to win this condition again after drawing off by 4 lengths in a similar spot on Jan. 30. He rebounded from a poor effort in the mud, essentially validating his strong performance for Rob Atras back on Dec. 19. If he maintains his current form, he’s a major player. Yet he does require some pace to set up his late run. I prefer class dropper Blindwillie McTell. Some will claim that he’s been badly off form, but the reality is that he’s run decent races but has just struggled with consistency against tougher company. He hasn’t faced New York-breds since the 2019 Albany, and he’s met some good horses at the open N1X allowance level, including stakes winners Yaupon and Our Last Buck. He wanted no part of a mile last time, and now he’s getting the class relief he needs and turning back to a more appropriate distance. If he’s going to rebound, this is the right spot.

RACE 8: BOO WHO (#2)

This maiden claiming finale looks totally wide open, and I’m not particularly thrilled with those who figure to take money. Horses like In the Zone and Beatthatflew could attract some support after hitting the board at this level on Jan. 8. They each found themselves in a tougher spot last time behind the runaway winner Writer’s Regret and were well beaten, but nevertheless earned respectable speed figures in a race that came up very fast. I’m a little skeptical than those numbers from Jan. 28 will be predictive moving forward, so I’m looking elsewhere for value. Firster Majestic Sky makes some sense. While he sold for $100k as a yearling, he clearly was bought back by his breeder at some point, so it might not be as much of a negative as it seems that he’s debuting for a $25k tag. Yet I find some others more intriguing. The horse that you should want most out of that Jan. 8 affair is Cape Cod Gem, since he was setting a fast pace that fell apart and may have had some trouble in the stretch. He figures to be a square price, as should my top pick Boo Who. This Gary Sciacca trainee didn’t have a major excuse in his debut, but he was facing a better field at the $40k maiden claiming level. Also-rans like What’s My Category, Writer’s Regret, and Scotto have all returned from that race to do better in subsequent starts. He’s getting some subtle class relief for his second start and shows a fast workout in the interim. He feels like one that could get overlooked here and has as much right as anyone to step forward.

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