Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Sunday, December 12

RACE 3: FEATHERS ROAD (#6)

Five of the seven runners in this maiden field exit a common race at this level on Nov. 14. Forty Comets may be the one you want from that affair, as he beat four of today’s rivals in finishing second last time. He actually broke on top, and got a good stalking trip that day, finishing well at the end. His TimeformUS Speed Figures have been pretty steady, so I’m not sure it’s fair to expect any major improvement in his fourth start. Yet now he adds blinkers, so perhaps we’ll see him show more speed. I’ve seen enough of runners like B C Glory Days and Brew Pub, both of whom have had more chances to break through at this level. I instead want to look at one of the new faces who isn’t coming out of that Nov. 14 affair. Lindros is interesting as he gets back on dirt off the layoff, but trainer Cathal Lynch has poor numbers off layoffs with dirt sprinters. My top pick is Feathers Road. At first glance it might seem like his sudden improvement came out of nowhere last time out, but he had run better than it seems in his first two starts. He chased an honest pace in the slop first time out while going out for a barn that rarely has horses cranked up to win their debuts. Then he got an eventful trip in May, steadied out of position soon after the start. He finally got a decent trip last time and put in a strong effort to get up for second, albeit on turf. Yet I think he showed enough ability in his dirt debut to be worthy of strong consideration here.

RACE 7: MATOULA (#5)

This starter allowance event looks pretty competitive, though it could feature a strong favorite in Exotic West. From a speed figure standpoint, she’s a standout in this race off her recent efforts at this level. However, all of her starts since the claim by Gary Sciacca have come on the turf. She has run comparable speed figures on dirt in the past, but the most recent of those was earned against weaker company in an off-the-turf event at Saratoga. If she can seamlessly transfer her turf form back to dirt she’s unlikely to lose this race. Yet I want to proceed with some caution if the price is short. There are some intriguing Kentucky shippers in the mix who could take some money. My Girl Lexi ran well to win against a weaker field at Indiana Downs two back, and she was since claimed out of a Churchill runner-up finish by Linda Rice. I respect the confidence being shown, and she has run all of her best races in dirt routes. Blushable perhaps has more upside as she moves up in class off a win at Churchill. However, I’m not thrilled with her prior form and would prefer to use her underneath. My top pick is Matoula. She looks a little cheaper than some of these, but she’s been in great recent form since returning from a layoff and stretching out to a mile. She upset a maiden field over a fast track two back, and then was a commanding winner in the slop last time, earning a pretty fast speed figure for the level. There’s a pretty murky pace scenario to this race, and I think she could work out a fair trip just on or near the lead once again. Furthermore, Mertkan Kantarmaci is an excellent 13 for 44 (30%, $2.50 ROI) first off the claim with horses coming off wins on the dirt over the past 5 years. 

RACE 8: CORE CONVICTION (#1)

Adare is arguably the horse to beat off his last couple of performances, but he’s not the most appealing wager given his 1 for 14 career record. He’s certainly lost his fair share of races at this level, but I don’t want to be too hard on him for settling for second in his last couple of defeats. He ran a winning race two back at Belmont and was just run down by the superior Miles D, who went on to win the Discovery in his next start. And last time he didn’t get the smoothest trip, checking in second behind Untreated, who also looks bound for stakes in the near future. His two main rivals hail from the Chad Brown stable. Winter Pool figures to take more money as he ships in from Kentucky. This horse ran well in both prior NYRA starts at Saratoga over the summer, just missing in July before winning a starter allowance in controversial fashion. The speed figures he received for those efforts suggest that he should be able to make the transition to this N1X level. He arguably was best racing for this condition at Keeneland last time, when the short stretch of that one-mile configuration worked against him in a slow-paced race. My one concern is that he may be better around two turns, and there isn’t a ton of pace in this field. I prefer Brown’s other runner Core Conviction. This gelding had trained well as a younger horse but was a little disappointing when he debuted on grass at Guflstream last winter. He returned from a long layoff last at Aqueduct and relished the switch to dirt, putting in a dominant performance. That was a tough day to make speed figures, but his TimeformUS Speed Figure of 119 is the highest in this field. That number got some confirmation when runner-up Waxman returned to win with an improved number. Chad Brown is 8 for 25 (32%, $2.21 ROI) with last-out maiden winners in dirt routes at Aqueduct over the past 5 years. This horse should be the controlling speed from the rail.

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