Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Thursday, December 9

RACE 1: DOC DOC ROCK (#2)

Caragate is arguably the horse to beat off her runner-up effort going a mile last time. This daughter of Arrogate clearly improved with the added ground, and did well to overcome a poor start that left her at the back of the pack early. All things considered, she put in a decent rally to get up for second and figures to be very competitive here with a similar performance. Some may be deterred by the low-profile connections, but she’s been steadily improving and catches a mediocre field for the level. Her two main rivals exit the same Oct. 23 maiden event going 6 furlongs. Many will probably want Wicked Lady from that affair, since she was just making her career debut. Breaking from the rail, she stalked a moderate pace and stayed on mildly once swung into the clear in upper stretch. Her pedigree gives mixed signals regarding the stretch-out, as her dam was unraced and both other foals were pure sprinters. However, we have seen some progeny of Unified handle dirt routes in a small sample, and Ken McPeek has adequate numbers with this move. That said, I prefer Doc Doc Rock from that race. She’s been a bit of a disappointment, losing her debut at even-money before again failing at 2-1 in her second start. However, she finally showed some signs of life getting back on dirt last time, changing up her running style to come from off the pace. She put in a mild stretch bid, just unable to get past Wicked Lady for third. Yet I’m optimistic about the stretch-out for her. She has the breeding to handle it on the dam’s side, as her dam and best sibling both wanted to go longer distances. This filly showed promise in the mornings over the summer and I think she’s now landing in the right spot.

RACE 4: NOBLE THOUGHT (#5)

Ashaar is getting some seismic class relief as he drops out of some very tough N1X allowance events into this bottom-level $8k claimer. In his last two starts he’s been beaten by the likes of subsequent Discovery winner Miles D and the promising Untreated, who appears to have stakes in his future as well. However, Ashaar wasn’t competitive in either of those races, quickly retreating on the far turn after chasing the pace each time. Class relief of this order is supposed to wake up a horse like this, and he has plenty of prior efforts that make him tough here. However, he needs to show that he’s still capable of finishing a race. His main rival appears to be Magnetron, who switches back into the Rob Atras barn after a campaign at Finger Lakes. The main reason to like this gelding is indeed the trainer switch, since he improved on his Finger Lakes form when switching into Atras’s barn last winter. His recent efforts are merely mediocre, but his races over this course last year give him a chance. I want to go in a different direction with Noble Thought. He’s spent the majority of his career racing on turf, but he actually sports a pretty admirable dirt record. In 12 dirt starts, he’s won 5 times and hit the board on 9 of those occasions. He’s clearly not quite as good as he once was, but I thought he showed some subtle signs of life switching to dirt last time. That 9-furlong race was dominated on the front end through slow fractions by winner Blewitt. Noble Thought was the only horse to make up any ground from the back of the pack and he was finishing best of the rest late. He figures to get more pace turning back to a mile in this spot, and Gustavo Rodriguez has sent out some live runners lately.

RACE 6: GREATEST LOVE (#4)

Oxana is a deserving favorite as she drops back down into allowance company. She wasn’t disgraced finishing a decent fourth in the Grade 2 Prioress two back, losing her best chance when she was unable to make the early lead. And I wouldn’t be too hard on her for her loss at Penn National last time, since she ran into a rival in great form. Winner Just One Time had earned a 109 TimeformUS Speed Figure in her prior start and was able to get the jump on Oxana in their matchup. This time this daughter of Uptowncharlybrown figures to be aggressively ridden away from the gate. As long as she shows up with a merely decent performance she’ll be tough for this field to handle. However, it is of slight concern that her speed figures have been declining in a race where some others appear to be on the upswing. Some may consider Bold Confection to be her biggest rival, but I have some doubts about the quality of the fields she’s been beating at Parx. She got a crafty ride when she won in the slop last time, as Kendrick Carmouche snuck up the rail to beat a very weak field for the level. I suppose she can improve again for a dangerous trainer, but I wanted others at bigger prices. My top pick is Greatest Love. Rob Falcone has solid statistics off the claim generally. Notably, he’s 3 for 12 (25%, $2.51 ROI) off the claim with horses moving up in claiming tag by 50% or more, and 6 of those 12 were in the exacta. Greatest Love got a weird trip and ride last time, as Kendrick Carmouche surprisingly took her back soon after the start. She was moving up like a winner on the turn, but appeared to get slapped in the face with a rival rider’s whip, which caused her to get spun wide into the lane. She actually recovered well to get up for second, validating her improved form from Monmouth. I like the aggression off the claim and she’s not far off the main players here from a speed figure standpoint.

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