Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Thursday, December 16

RACE 2: ARISTOCRATIC (#2)

Mi Tres Por Ciento is the horse to beat as he makes his first start off the claim for Linda Rice. His performances from this meet last year would absolutely crush this field, but there are some question marks surrounding him based on his recent form. He just hasn’t looked like quite the same horse since returning from a layoff in July, and needed an additional 3 months after that start before returning this fall. He was claimed for $40k by Linda Rice at Keeneland, but now drops to $25k after another 7 weeks on the shelf. He can obviously win, but I’m skeptical at a short price. I don’t want a fellow short price like Fast Break, woke up for Rob Atras last month and is now claimed off that barn. The same goes for Baby I’m Perfect, who got a great trip to win going 7 furlongs last time out, but is unproven going this short. I instead want to look for some better options at more enticing prices. I would use Rejected Again, who gets needed class relief after facing tougher foes at the N1X allowance level. His form has declined recently, but he may not have appreciated turf or a sloppy track in his last two starts. My top pick is Aristocratic. I know his recent performances don’t quite measure up to those of the favorites, but he’s had valid excuses. He spent much of the year in the barn of a trainer who just doesn’t win on this circuit, ridden by a jockey who often gets way too aggressive. He was claimed by the sharp Gustavo Rodriguez barn last time and put in a better effort, rating on the front end before getting run down by a sharp foe late. He’s since been claimed by Charlton Baker, who doesn’t have great statistics with this move but generally does a good job with the horses who come into his care. He’s the primary speed form the inside and has plenty of prior races over this strip that would make him tough.

RACE 4: IT’S MANDATORY (#1)

The two likely favorites Therisastormbrewin and Profusion both come off good efforts. Therisastormbrewin drops slightly in class after checking in third at the $35k conditioned claiming level last time. He dueled for the lead that day and was negatively affected when drifting down to a dead rail in the stretch. That said, he was also competing over a muddy track, which he seems to prefer to fast going. He also figures to face pace pressure once again, as speedy rivals Spectatorless and A Colt Named Susie will also be looking for the lead. Profusion has improved in his last two starts going a mile, but he caught a very weak N2L field last time and is moving up in class of the claim for Linda Rice. The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace so I want to give a long look to some closers. The most logical of those is Mandatory Payout, who moves up in class after being protected off the layoff last time. Yet I’m more interested in his similarly named foe It’s Mandatory. This Jeffrey Englehart trainee has spent much of his career racing on turf, but he’s clearly a better dirt horse and his overall form looks stronger once you parse out the grass races. He beat a decent group at Finger Lakes two back, and then ran better than it appears at Parx last time. That was a decent field and he did well to close for fourth after being badly compromised by a very slow pace. I like that he picks up Dylan Davis for his NYRA debut, and I’m not too concerned that he’s part of an entry since stablemate Jaa Mode doesn’t figure to attract much support. 

RACE 8: CONVERTIBLE FREEZE (#11)

Workingman’s Dude is the one to beat after twice checking in third at this level. He had legitimate trouble in his career debut, but rebounded nicely in his second start, showing improved early speed before fading. He again performed well last time, taken off the pace by Jose Lezcano before rallying in the stretch. That was going 7 furlongs so he just has to stretch out an additional eighth of a mile here, and he looks like one that should handle the distance. I have more faith in him getting the mile than Devious Banker, who arguably owns the best dirt races in this field. He was a solid third on debut behind the superior Who Hoo Thats Me, and then was compromised by a two-wide trip against a rail bias on Oct. 22. A repeat of those efforts makes him a major player in this spot, and he goes out for the underrated Cleveland Johnson barn. However, he has more of a sprint pedigree and I’m somewhat skeptical of him handling a mile. My top pick is Convertible Freeze. This colt ran like one who badly needed the experience in his only dirt start, as he was off slowly and just looked unfocused racing at the back of the pack. He has subsequently improved in two turf starts, but I’m not sure that he’s necessarily a turf horse. He was making a move two back when he got guided into traffic in the stretch. And last time he was ridden pretty conservatively, not angled into the clear to hit his best stride until it was too late. I like him switching back to dirt, as progeny of Connect have combined to win 8 of 36 (22%) dirt route attempts. Brad Cox also has solid numbers with maidens going from turf to dirt routes.

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