Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, February 26

RACE 1: FLIRTACIOUS KISS (#3)

There’s little reliable form to analyze in this Aqueduct opener, so the public will probably gravitate towards lightly raced runners like The Glenmore or Bewps. Of that pair of second time starters, I prefer The Glenmore, who exits a decent race at this level. She was never a threat to winner Shaker Shack, but she stayed on well until the late stages while staying near the rail throughout. She has enough pedigree to suggest that added distance shouldn’t be an issue. I trust her more than Bewps, who didn’t show much ability or take any money when she debuted against maiden special weight company. The Asmussen barn has poor statistics with dropdowns of this type. The obvious alternative with route experience is Flower’s Fortune, but she’s hard to trust after fading badly in two consecutive starts. She’d be formidable if able to recapture the form she displayed on Nov. 22, but she may have gone the wrong way since then. I want to get a little more creative with longshot Flirtacious Kiss. She’s a player in this race based on her race two back when she finished fourth in a fast race for the level, earning a competitive 72 TimeformUS Speed Figure. The obvious problem is that none of her surrounding performances are as strong. Yet I can make some excuses, as one of those was in the mud, and last time she was wide against a strong rail bias, basically eased in the late stages. The stretch-out in distance is a question mark, but she goes out for an underrated trainer who is having a strong meet.

RACE 3: DARK STORM (#4)

This is a fascinating open claiming event for just a 6-horse field. First Line seems a little tough to like, but you can make a valid case for the other 5 runners in this lineup. The venerable 7-year-old Twisted Tom may no longer be the horse he once was, but he’s nevertheless maintained solid form into his latter years, carving out a niche for himself as a consistent performer at the NY-bred $40k/N2X condition. He’s now moving up in class slightly, but has been facing some strong fields in recent starts. However, it should be noted that he may not have run as well as it seems last time, as he benefited from a strong rail bias. That said, he has prior recent efforts that make him a major player, and he’s a specialist at this 9-furlong distance. Grumps Little Tots returns from a freshening since being claimed back by Rob Atras, who previously had him last summer. Atras got some solid performances out of this guy, especially considering the fact that he was taking the horse over from Jason Servis. He appeared to be back in top form last August when finishing a close third at this level with a 112 TimeformUS Speed Figure. While he regressed for new connections after that, the fact that he’s back with Dubb and Atras now has to be considered a good sign. I’m using him, but I’m more interested in a bigger price. Dark Storm got the job done last time out for a $16k claiming tag, which is a far cry from today’s $50k level. That said, he was meeting a slew of dropdowns in that heat, a few of which have already returned to perform well (Supreme Aura lost a $32k claimer by a nose with a 111 TimeformUS Speed Figure). While he’s achieved his best speed figures going a bit shorter, he did run well in his two starts going this 1 1/8 miles distance as a three-year-old. Furthermore, he possesses some of the best tactical speed in a relatively paceless race, so he could work out the right trip.

RACE 6: DIAL ME UP (#3)

Magnetique feels like the horse to beat based on her solid efforts at this level both last time out and in October of last year. She’s not the fastest horse, but she’s been relatively consistent since the trainer switch to Michelle Nevin, having run well in all four starts for the new barn. She has the tactical speed to make her own trip and she arguably is facing a weaker field than the one she met last time. I’m using her, but I am a little concerned that she’ll be a relatively short price in what is a competitive race. Her main rival is probably Barista Vixen, who would be tough to beat if able to repeat the 96 TimeformUS Speed Figure that she earned in her maiden victory last time out. While was a visually impressive winner going this distance, she was beating a field of questionable quality, as the two horses who finished directly behind her returned to run poorly. I’m skeptical about her ability to repeat that effort, but I will use her defensively. My top pick is one of two Linda Rice-trained runners in this field. Dial Me Up has to improve to beat this field and prove that she can handle a stretch-out in distance. However, Linda Rice’s statistics with this move suggest that she should be able to clear those hurdles. Over the past 5 years, Rice is 14 for 29 (48%, $2.79 ROI) with dirt stretch-outs first off the claim. It’s a good sign that she’s moving this filly up in class after she lost a $40k conditioned claimer. I was never her biggest fan when she was in Christophe Clement’s barn, but she’s supposed to play out as the controlling speed in this race, and that style has been dangerous over the past few weeks at Aqueduct.

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