Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, December 17

RACE 6: ROOSKI (#9)

Slow Crossing could go favored after winning her debut at Belmont. She lacked some early speed getting into stride despite a hustling ride, but responded when put to serious pressure while angling wide off the turn. There were some big gaps behind her in a strung-out field, so she may have run well even if there wasn’t much behind her. She’s bred to have ability as a half-sister to solid New York-bred performers Too Early ($218k) and John’s Island ($413k). The only slight negative is that she’s offered for a tag once again even after that solid debut victory. I prefer her to Rudy’s other runner Saratoga Kisses, who beat an awful field when she broke her maiden. No More Mischief could also attract support but she comes out of a slower race for Todd Pletcher. Lady Milagro is a bit more interesting at a square price since she has run deceptively well in a few of her defeats and has a chance to improve returning to dirt. Yet my top pick is Finger Lakes maiden winner Rooski. This filly began her career on turf, putting in a series of respectable efforts against NY-bred maiden special weight foes. She switched to dirt at Finger Lakes last time and delivered a solid 78 TimeformUS Speed Figure while winning easily by 7 lengths. While she’s by good turf influence Tourist, her damside pedigree is geared more towards dirt. The Jeremiah Englehart barn had been quiet at NYRA for the past few months, but he is 9 for 21 (43%, $3.98 ROI) with last-out maiden winners in NYRA dirt sprints over the past 5 years.

RACE 7: FREE ENTERPRISE (#2)

Graded stakes-placed 4-year-old Answer In is clearly the one to beat as he drops in class. He was facing a tougher group last time when first risked for an $80k claiming tag in October. He tried to rally through the lane, but couldn’t make up much ground in a race dominated up front. Prior to that he was compromised by a slow pace at Saratoga, though he clearly didn’t show up that day. He was running races earlier this spring and summer that would crush today’s opposition. However, the substantial drop is a concern, as his best days may be behind him. Cox is a decent 19 for 61 (31%, $1.63 ROI) with horses dropping in claiming price by 50% or more in dirt sprints over 5 years. I’m not way against him, but I don’t need to pick him at a short price. Alcools responded well to the change of scenery when Peter Miller shipped him to NY earlier this year. He put in a career-best effort to win in the slop on July 3, though got claimed away that day. After one start for low-profile connections at Saratoga, he was claimed back by the same ownership group and transferred to Chris Englehart. He got right back on track, winning at this level in September. I’m not sure why they tried turf last time, but now he’s back on the right surface. I’m using him prominently, but I’m interested in another horse out of that Sep. 16 race at this level. Free Enterprise was once a promising runner for Chad Brown but he had lost his best form long before he was claimed away from that barn this summer. He really didn’t regress much at all for Jeffrey Englehart in his first two starts for the new stable. He raced competitively against Alcools and Happy Farm, who are both players here, before winning at Penn National two back. While some might get down on him for the loss at Finger Lakes, he was beaten by a pair of runners who are in the midst of strong seasons at that track. He’s now placed appropriately for his return to NYRA and has the tactical speed to work out a trip.

RACE 8: FIRING CAROL (#7)

This is among the weakest open N1X allowance events that you’ll see contested on the NYRA circuit, so I want to approach it with an open mind. I suppose Eloquent Speaker is one of the horses to beat as she wheels back in 6 days off the claim for Natalia Lynch. She got back on track with one of her better efforts off the layoff last time, but I don’t fully trust her to repeat that performance as she returns on short rest. The TimeformUS Pace Projector shows Bastet on the lead in a situation favoring the front-runner, but it’s pretty hard to endorse her winning at this level even off an improved effort for Ed Barker last time. She’s just a little cheap and has never been that reliable. Jades Gelly would be a perfect fit for this race off her dirt efforts at Saratoga this summer. She’s gone the wrong way recently but perhaps she’s just been looking to get back on the main track. I think she’s most interesting of the logical players, but I want to get more creative. Firing Carol may be tough for some to endorse given her trainer’s winless record on the year and the fact that she’s ridden by a low-percentage jockey. However, she’s run some of the best speed figures in the field, and she’s one of the only horses in this race with experience against legitimate allowance company. She faced some very good horses in Caramel Swirl, Glass Ceiling, and Goodnight Olive in her recent starts at this level. She didn’t get particularly close to any of those foes, but she did run well enough to pick up minor awards on a few occasions. Her last couple of races look poor, but she doesn’t want 9 furlongs against Grade 3 company and last time she got caught in traffic and kickback when making her run. She figures to be a square price and she can certainly win this with her good efforts.

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