RACE 4: KITH (#4)
There isn’t much reliable form in this low-level maiden claimer. The horse to beat is probably Bourbon Rising, who is dropping down from the $40k level into this $20k maiden claimer, but doing so off a couple of poor performances. He would obviously be tough to handle if able to recapture the form that he displayed three back when he was third behind superior rivals Lokoya Road and This Ill Defend. However, he’s clearly regressed since then, and didn’t even have a wet track excuse when he lost last time, beating just one horse home. He may win this if he merely holds his form, but I want to veer in a different direction if he’s going to be the favorite. My top pick is Kith, who actually finished just ahead of Bourbon Rising when they met in that Jan. 31 race. Kith put in an odd performance that day, as she traveled well early and appeared to have more run than he gave, racing greenly through the stretch. That was his first start with blinkers, so perhaps he needed a race to get accustomed to he new equipment. A drop in class down to this level resulted in a similar result last time out, but at least he was staying on well at the end of that race going 6 furlongs. I’m intrigued by the stretch-out for this runner, so he typically finishes well in his sprints and gives the impression that added ground shouldn’t be a problem. He wouldn’t have to improve much to beat this field, and I trust him more than his main rival. The others are all hard to recommend, though I suppose some of the younger 3-year-olds still have upside. Lotsnlotsofchrome did take a step forward last time and may have more improvement in him, though it’s a tall order to face older runners at this time of year.
RACE 7: TIMELY TRADITION (#7)
I’m not trying to beat the likely favorite Timely Tradition, who appears to have a class and ability edge over this field. This 7-year-old mare has been in career form since getting claimed by Ray Handal and her current owners around this time last year. She achieved a stakes-placing in the Iroquois three back at Belmont, a race in which she was arguably best after moving early into a quick pace. She disappointed at Laurel after that, but she got back on track last time, finishing a solid second at this level. While she was only going 6 furlongs that day, she was facing a better field, as winner Letmetakethiscall was in the midst of a win streak, and third-place finisher Madam Meena has since won a couple of races out of town with solid speed figures. It’s been a long time since Timely Tradition has gone as far as a mile, and Ray Handal does not have strong statistics with this move. However, she has handled the distance in the past, and figures to work out a good stalking trip from her outside post. She appeals to me more than the likely second choice Stand for the Flag. This mare put forth her best effort since leaving Jason Servis’s barn last time, finishing a closing second for Rob Atras. At this level. While she got a speed figure that certainly puts her in the mix, she received a good pace setup that day and was never a serious threat to the winner Gone Glimmering. I’ve never been her biggest fan, and feel that she would need everything to go her way to find the winner’s circle here. I considered an alternative like Persisto, but she’s just significantly slower than Timely Tradition, and is in questionable form based on her last couple of starts at Aqueduct.
RACE 8: RAINBOW GAL (#6)
The two fillies likely to attract the most support in this finale are the 4-year-old Love That Face and the 3-year-old Big Tony’s Girl. The former may merely need to repeat her solid second place effort at this level on Feb. 12, in which she fell just a length short after setting the pace. However, she only earned a modest 75 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that performance, and now she’s meeting a deeper field which includes a few 3-year-olds with greater upside. Furthermore, she’s never been the most reliable runner, and that most recent runner-up finish followed a series of poor efforts. I prefer Big Tony’s Girl, who faces older rivals for the first time after hitting the board in each of her prior three starts against claiming company. While she was beaten by a substantial margin finishing third at this level last time, she was compromised by a two- to three-wide trip on Feb. 14, a day that featured a significant rail bias. She had previously run he same 75 TimeformUS Speed Figure as Love That Face earned when she was second two back on Jan. 23, and she arguably has more upside than that foe. I’m using her prominently, but my top pick figures to be an even better price. Rainbow Gal debuted against tougher $40k maiden claiming foes on Jan. 30. She broke very awkwardly at the back of the pack, spotting the field several lengths in the opening jumps. She eventually straightened herself out and was staying on well in the lane, passing rivals as the field crossed the wire. That performance was flattered when winner Shaker Shack returned to finish a good second against winners in her next start with an improved speed figure, and another runner has returned to win. I expect a step forward in her second start for Bruce Levine, who has been on a roll at Aqueduct. Levine has finished in the exacta with 10 of 18 starters in the past month, with 5 of those winning.