Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, December 11


Mister J T figures to attract some support here after finishing third in his return to the dirt last time. This David Donk trainee has run well in each of his last three dirt sprint starts, with two of those coming last spring. However, I wasn’t thrilled with the field he faced last time, and I think there are some more interesting options among his rivals who are dropping in class. The one that interests me most is Rye Runner. This horse has not raced on dirt since the first couple starts of his career as a two-year-old in which he participated in two of the best maiden special weight races contested anywhere in the country last year. He finished behind the very talented Olympiad in his debut, and his second start on Oct. 11 has produced 5 stakes winners, including Greatest Honour, Miles D, and Bourbonic. Rye Runner obviously didn’t do much running in those spots, but at least he showed some early speed before retreating. I’m not sure why they brought this son of Upstart back on turf this year, but now he may just finally be returning to the right surface. I would also use another dropdown who may get somewhat overlooked. Run White Rabbit also faced much better company in his prior starts against maiden special weight foes, even when he was racing at Parx two and three back. He got in a prep on turf last time and now switches back to dirt for the Juan Vazquez barn, which won four races on Friday’s card. However, Vazquez typically fares much better with short prices than he does longshots on this circuit.


He may not go favored due to the low-profile connections, but Manifest Destiny is the one to beat if he’s able to repeat his last effort. This 7-year-old gelding has gone in and out of form several times over the past few seasons, but he’s run well a number of times for this trainer. He was ridden by a series of low-percentage riders coming into the last race, and the switch to Kendrick Carmouche made a massive difference, as he guided him up the rail to victory. The problem is that I liked him that day at 12-1, and he figures to be a shorter price off that win. He’s also been off for about 8 weeks since then, which is somewhat of a concern for a horse who generally runs frequently. I do still prefer him to some other short prices. I don’t trust Just Right, who finished behind Manifest Destiny two back. He did improve last time at Charles Town, running down a good horse in Nico. Yet I’m not sure if that performance has clear implications for today’s race. I want to look toward some bigger prices in what is a very competitive field for the level. My top pick is Dream Bigger. He’s a little hard to trust in his current form, but I’ve noticed subtle improvements in each successive start since he’s returned from the layoff this year. He got cooked in a wicked pace two back at Belmont, and then last time he got engaged chasing in a 4-way duel down the backstretch. He got outrun to the quarter pole but still stayed on gamely in a quality field for the level. Mertkan Kantarmaci does a good job with claiming types, and this horse may be able to control on the front end. I’d also be willing to give another chance to Doublepour, who seemed to lose focus when he was bumped early in the race last time. He had run well against a track bias two back and can factor here if he runs back to that effort.


There is quite a bit of speed signed on in this competitive claiming event. Musical America, Daddy Knows, and Mexican Wonder Boy all do their best work from the front end, so something has to give. The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a fast early pace, which should set things up for a closer. Among the speeds, I’m most interested in Musical America, who gets significant class relief after facing tougher last time. However, he faces a tough task from a trip standpoint with both speed rivals drawn to his outside. Hammerin Aamer figures to sit a good trip just in behind the speeds, and he’s probably the horse to beat. This gelding has been in great form since getting into Gustavo Rodriguez’s barn. He’s moving up in class to meet a tougher field this time, but he’s been running competitive speed figures and already beat two of his main rivals last time out. Dark Storm is another to consider out of that race, as he was trying to make a wide run into the race on a day when the rail may have been a slight advantage. He’s been claimed back by George Weaver, who had this horse when he was in better form earlier in his career. He’s a candidate to rebound. Yet I’m most interested in a bigger price. Microscope needs some help up front to be successful here, but he figures to get it. He’s been competing in some reasonably tough New York-bred optional claiming races and he’s run deceptively well on a few occasions. That was the case last time when he was ridden to stay in contact with the field early and held his ground through the lane over this same distance. He’s run some of his best races over wet tracks in the past and there is rain in the forecast for Saturday. He likely needs to produce his best form to beat this field, but he’s dropping to the right class level and has some things working in his favor.

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