Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Thursday, December 2

RACE 1: RATIONAL CHOICE (#4)

Waxman looked like a promising sort when he made his debut at Saratoga. That’s proven to be a strong race, as winner Pipeline just missed in a stakes next time, and third-place finisher Cody’s Wish has since reeled off three consecutive victories. However, this guy has regressed in two subsequent starts. Waxman never looked comfortable over a sloppy track at Keeneland two back, but maybe it wasn’t the going, as he displayed similar antics last time at Aqueduct. He was engaged early but came off the bridle and dropped back to last before rallying again for second. He certainly has the talent, and perhaps blinkers will give him the added focus he needs. Yet he’s not the easiest one to trust at a short price. There is no shortage of intriguing alternatives in this field. Rock Sugar can improve stretching out, American Law may be getting back to the right surface, and Mandatory showed talent over this course last winter. Yet I’m going in a different direction with Rational Choice. This colt put forth a decent effort in his career debut last season, closing mildly for second over this one-mile distance. He took some money for his second start in the slop, but never looked totally comfortable over that surface and was eased up late. This horse looked like a gangly sort who needed to grow into his frame last year. He’s been off for a long time, but he’s been training steadily for this return. Chad Brown is a decent 13 for 50 (26%, $1.67 ROI) with maidens off layoffs of 180 days or more on dirt over the past 5 years. He’s a player here with routine improvement from his debut.

RACE 5: BUILT TO LAST (#4)

Buckortwo and Sandrone figure to vie for favoritism once again after finishing a nose apart, second and third, in each of their last two starts. Buckortwo has just edged out Sandrone each time, but it’s not as if either one is landing in an easier spot here. They’ve both already had their chances to break through at this level and I’m not sure it’s reasonable to expect significant improvement from either one. I’m especially skeptical of Sandrone, who has struggled to finish in the last eighth of a mile twice in a row after threatening to win at the eighth pole. Among the alternatives are three intriguing second time starters. My Friend Duke and Red Fortress both finished fourth behind the two favorites in different maiden events over the last two months. My Friend Duke raced more recently and closed mildly after a 3-wide trip. I suppose he has some upside, but I think Red Fortress is more likely to move forward. This Maclean’s Music gelding blew the start in his debut and lagged far back before making a run through the stretch. He greenly hung on his left lead yet was still making up ground late. Linda Rice’s runners often improve with experience and I think this horse will run much better this time. Yet I’m instead going with a second time starter who is switching surfaces. Built to Last debuted on dirt just 13 days ago for Mark Casse in what appeared to be a fairly strong maiden event. He showed decent early speed but faded late behind a pair of well-meant first time starters. Now he returns for new trainer Tom Morley and gets on turf. He’s bred to handle this surface as a son of Freud out of a City Zip mare who was herself best on turf despite never winning. Second dam Lizzie Toon was a stakes-placed multiple turf winner, so there’s plenty of pedigree for this surface. He possesses more early speed than My Friend Duke or Red Fortress, and could be the one to catch under Dylan Davis.

RACE 9: CONSTITUTIONLAWYER (#6)

Authorize is the one to beat after nearly getting the job done in his one-turn debut at Belmont. He took all the money that day despite Bill Mott’s mediocre record with first time starters going long on the dirt. This colt had clearly been training well for his debut and he ran to that support, leading every step of the way before getting nailed by a more experienced rival at the wire. His early speed should serve him well from this inside post, but now he has to stretch out to a demanding 9 furlongs. Added distance isn’t supposed to be a problem given his pedigree, but it’s just one reason to keep an open mind rather than default to short-priced favorite. Dr. Levy figures to be a solid second choice after closing well in his sprint debut at Belmont. He’s being asked to negotiate an additional 3 furlongs here just four weeks after that debut run, but he finished like a horse who should relish added ground. The problem is that he went off at 25-1 that day, so he was quite a surprise for a barn whose live runners usually take money. His pedigree doesn’t conclusively say that he’s supposed to want this far, so I’d proceed with caution. I want to take a horse coming out of a different race. Constitutionlawyer had trained well prior to his October debut at Belmont, but was asked to go a demanding 1 1/16 miles for his unveiling. While he lost by 11 lengths, I actually thought he showed some ability that day. He didn’t get off to the smoothest start, and he made a nice middle move once put to pressure at the the three-eighths pole before flattening out. I think this horse has some ability, and he ran like one that may have just needed to gain some fitness. 

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