The first thing one must do when handicapping this race is decide how to handle Bustin Timberlake (#2). If he repeats that 119 TimeformUS Speed Figure that he earned last time, the rest of this group is probably running for second. The obvious question is, where did that come from? The temptation is to just say he rode the rail, but that’s not exactly true. A close viewing of the head-on reveals that he was never on te rail early, or on the far turn, only dropping down to the inside path after he had decisively moved to the lead in the stretch. We do sometimes seem some unusually fast races at Aqueduct that are never replicated, but I get the sense that this horse is doing very well at the moment. I’m not against him, but I’m also reticent to take a short price on him. I do prefer him to the other horse coming off a blowout “victory” of the unofficial variety.
Steam Engine (#3) crossed the wire well in front at this level last time, but he actually rode a strong rail almost the entire way and also fouled a few of his foes in the process, including today’s rival Dark Money. I think Steam Engine caught lightning in a bottle last time and I’m against him in this spot with more speed signed on. I prefer some horses who can stalk or come from off the pace.
My top pick is MORE GRAYTFUL (#6), who gets needed class relief after facing a much tougher field at the open N2X allowance level last time. He actually ran pretty well considering his trip, as he was chasing 3-wide the entire way over a rail-biased surface. He still received a strong 112 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that performance, suggesting he’s back in the form we saw out of him when he won at this level last November. He can be effective from a stalking position and should work out a good trip. At a bigger price, I’d also use deep closer Double Shot. He ran well to be third last time behind the loose-on-the-lead Steam Engine, and he defeated today’s favorite Bustin Timberlake two back. However, he needs a fast pace and may not be quite good enough even if everything works out perfectly.
Exacta: 6 with 2,3,4,7,8
Trifecta: 6 with 2,7 with 1,2,3,4,7,8