Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, March 19

​RACE 2: TAKE IT OFF (#4)

Overdressed will be a prohibitive favorite in this spot as she makes her New York debut while dropping in class. Many of her recent speed figures are significantly higher than those of her competitors, and she’s been achieving those numbers against superior competition. The winner of that Nov. 28 affair would go on to win the Silverbulletday with a 99 TimeformUS Speed Figure, and the winner of her last race earned a 95 TimeformUS Speed Figure in her subsequent start. Overdressed is a two-time winner in a race where all of her rivals only have a single victory, and she’s handled a variety of venues, so she shouldn’t have much trouble with this Aqueduct surface. I’m hardly against her, but I do think she faces one significant rival with a chance to upset. Take It Off is getting needed class relief after fading at the starter allowance level last time. Her speed makes her dangerous here, as she seems quicker than main pace rival Investment Grade, and is more lightly-raced than the favorite. She rebounded from an overmatched debut performance with a solid win second time out, leading throughout in the mud. While she was soundly defeated against winners last time, that was arguably her best effort to date, as she contested a quick pace and only faded in the last furlong. Her 80 TimeformUS Speed Figure stacks up well against the favorite, and the quality of that race was confirmed when the runner-up returned to win. Furthermore, Tony Dutrow has been having a fantastic meet, finishing in the exacta with 13 of 20 starters.

RACE 3: WILD BANKER (#5)

Too Early seems like the horse to beat as he attempts to better the pair of runner-up results that he achieved in his last two starts at this level. He lost nothing in defeat behind the vastly improved Advanced Strategy two back, and last time was simply second-best to superior stablemate Cold Hard Cash. He’s earned some strong speed figures for those efforts, and he now finds himself in an easier spot. Furthermore, he projects to work out a great trip up close to the front in a race that lacks much pace. He’s a deserving favorite, but he has had his chances and probably doesn’t have much more improvement in him. I’m hardly against him, but I do think there are some others to consider at better prices. Yet likely co-favorite Tiergan is not one of those. While this 5-year-old has obviously improved in his last two starts, he was aided by a perfect ground-saving trip over a rail-biased course last time. The 97 TimeformUS Speed Figure that he earned for that performance doesn’t put him in the same league as the Linda Rice-trained favorite. I instead prefer the other logical player Wild Banker. He’s also making the move up in class, but he’s earned that right after a pair of solid performances against claimers. He was much the best two back on Jan. 8 when he made a premature move into a fast pace and still held on over the in-form Dust Devil. And then last time he had no right to get as close to the superior rival Twelfth Labour as he did, but he made a relentless rally from off the pace, racing off an advantageous rail while closing into slow fractions. He’s in great form right now and he’s getting a positive rider switch to Kendrick Carmouche.

RACE 7: CENTAVO (#3)

Civil War is the horse to beat as he plunges in class out of the Grade 3 Withers into this starter optional claimer. While he was never a threat to Withers winner Risk Taking, he did see out the demanding distance, passing a few rivals in the stretch to finish sixth. The 95 TimeformUS Speed Figure that he earned for that performance is the best number in this field. However, it remains to be seen if that improvement was due to getting pulled along by superior competition. His prior effort at this level on Dec. 31 was fairly lackluster, and he’s likely to see a similar sloppy surface like the one he encountered that day. I’m using him, but I think this is a pretty wide open affair with many contenders. There are seven recent maiden winners in this field, and many of them appear to still have upside. Blu Grotto and Noctilucent earned reasonably quick speed figures in their victories, but both must prove that they can be as effective stretching out to a mile. Judge Bern seems a bit more trustworthy as he comes off a New York-bred maiden special weight victory, but he may require some pace to close into. I’m taking a shot with Centavo. This chestnut colt was slowly coming around in his sprint races this winter before exploding with an easy open lengths victory last time when stretched out to a mile. He was off the pace briefly after an awkward start before taking over on the backstretch and sailing clear late, geared down at the end. That 83 TimeformUS Speed Figure doesn’t put him that far off the favorites, and he arguably could have run faster last time. The concern is that he was beating a woefully weak field, but perhaps that doesn’t matter and he’s just putting it all together. Runner-up Tapit’s Flashback has returned to validate that form with two solid subsequent efforts, and third-place finisher Ohyoudidn’tknow won his next start with an improved speed figure. Centavo has the tactical speed to work out a decent trip and will be a square price.

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