Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, March 26


Pay Grade, a daughter of Tonalist racing for that sire’s connections, showed some of that runner’s stamina when staying on gamely to just miss at this level going the one-mile distance last time. She had dead aim at the winner in the stretch, but just couldn’t quite forge past while hanging on her left lead. She’s gotten some time off since then, missing some training time while wintering in Florida, but now returns to New York. Christophe Clement is 7 for 29 (24%, $2.72 ROI) off layoffs of 60 to 120 days in dirt routes. She doesn’t need to improve much on her last effort to be pretty tough here. I respect the favorite, but my top pick is second time starter Dorothy’s the Boss. This filly made a nice impression in her debut despite going off at 19-1. She didn’t have much early speed, but found her best stride when steered out into the clear for the stretch run, finishing best of all late. That race featured a strong early pace which set up her late run, but this rangy filly still gave some indications that added ground would benefit her. She’s bred to stretch out as a daughter of Laoban out of a dam who has produced a route winner. John Kimmel is just 3 for-41 (7%, $0.36 ROI) with maiden second time starters over the past 5 years, but he has been enjoying a strong meet. This runner gives every indication she’s ready to step forward.


Three of the top contenders in this $12,500 claimer exit the same Mar. 6 race won by Professor Snape. He’s back in here, as are Ninth Hour and Morgantown, who rounded out the trifecta behind him. Ninth Hour seems like the most reliable runner from that event despite narrowly losing as the favorite. He was in over his head two back, but his two other performances since returning from the layoff are both strong. He figures to get another nice stalking trip here, but he may have to run a bit better than last time. I do slightly prefer him to Morgantown, who had no excuse in his last race, and Professor Snape, who was best in his most recent start but isn’t the most reliable win candidate. I’m using all of them, but I want to go in a different direction for my top pick. Kosciuszko has clearly gone off form since he last won here in the winter of 2020. However, he’s nevertheless earned speed figures in his recent starts that suggest he can be competitive at this level. He’s simply been in over his head in most of his recent outings, just not good enough to win at the New York-bred $25k claiming level. While it might seem as if he regressed to be fourth last time, note that he was wide against a rail bias on March 13, so that effort was actually stronger than it appears. He merely needs to hold his form and he’s going to be a generous price with Mike Luzzi named to ride.


There’s a case to be made for every runner in this competitive optional claimer for 3-year-olds. The most accomplished runner in this field is Return the Ring, who drops in class after finishing a close second in the Jimmy Winkfield last time. He had every chance to get by winner Hello Hot Rod that day and was simply second best. That was a solid performance, but it only earned a 95 TimeformUS Speed Figure, and some others have already run faster. I’m using him, but others are more enticing, especially if they’re better prices. Some may be intrigued by the pair of 10-length victories recently achieved by Doctor K. However, that 110 TimeformUS Speed Figure he earned last time was achieved with the aid of a significant rail bias. He could be the controlling speed again here, but he’s likely to encounter a fair track and this is a far better field. I’m similarly skeptical of By George, who was visually impressive breaking his maiden here back in December. However, he also benefited from a rail bias in that victory, and showed none of that ability in his only other appearance at Gulfstream. He figures to be outrun by Doctor K early and it’s unclear if he’s comfortable stalking. I prefer a new face. Johnny Sack made his debut in a waiver maiden claiming event at Laurel, not in for the tag as a Maryland-bred. The temptation may be to downgrade him based solely on that, but he was actually facing a field of decent quality there and earned a strong 103 TimeformUS Speed Figure for the debut victory. He also ran very well within the context of the race, as he was off a bit slowly and made an early move into contention before taking over. He may need to step forward again to beat winners, but Jeremiah Englehart does well with this move. Over the past 5 years, he is 11 for 32 (34%, $3.28 ROI) with last-out maiden winners making their second career starts in dirt sprints.

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