Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, January 1


Cazilda Fortytales looks like a standout in this race based on the 105 TimeformUS Speed Figure she earned for her recent 10-length score against claiming company. A repeat of that performance will probably get her to the winner’s circle once again. However, I’m a little skeptical that she can duplicate that effort against tougher company. That win came as part of a 4-victory day for her barn, and I’ll be interested to see if those horses recapture the form from that afternoon. There’s plenty of other speed signed on, and I think she faces a legitimate pace rival in Thegoddessofsnakes, who figures to keep her honest on the front end. Cadeau de Paix would love to see a battle up front as she will be coming from off the pace. She moved too soon going a mile last time and will appreciate the turnback in distance today. She’s a contender, but I prefer the upside of Violent Vixen. This filly has shown speed in her last couple of starts, but she’s capable of sitting off the pace as well. I thought she ran well two back after setting an honest pace, and last time she won easily with something left in the tank. Charlton Baker has found a good spot for her to try winners, and he is 5 for 25 (20%, $2.74 ROI) with last-out maiden winners in NYRA dirt sprints over 5 years. 


I’m not trying to beat likely favorite Impressionist. This gelding put in a big effort in his career debut, closing resolutely for third despite a poor start. He really did get slammed coming out of the gate and found himself last in a 12-horse field heading down the backstretch. He showed real determination to overcome traffic and all of that kickback. While he did flatten out a bit in the last furlong, but had every right to get tired. Impressionist is bred to be a good one as a half-brother to Grade 1 Arkansas Derby runner-up Conquest Mo Money ($510k), and all of this dam’s foals have been runners. Atras is just 1 for 16 (6%, $0.73 ROI) with maiden 2nd time starters over 5 years, but there haven’t been many quality horses in that sample. I would expect him to show more speed this time with a cleaner break. His main rival may be Relate, who finished just behind him last time. This colt went for a whopping $685k at the OBS April sale last year after working a quarter in 20 3/5 seconds. However, it took him a while to get to the races and he was a little chilly on the board in that Dec. 5 debut, going off at nearly 5-1. He showed good early speed from the rail and looked like a real threat when he switched outside at the quarter pole before flattening out late. He should have gained some fitness from that run, though he had a much better trip than today’s rival Impressionist. Though Steve Asmussen is just 1 for 16 (6%, $0.35 ROI) with maiden second time starters in Aqueduct dirt sprints over 5 years.


Likely favorite Cooke Creek has yet to run a bad race through three starts. He handled a sprint in his debut, but he clearly is one who has relished the added ground. He arguably faced a tougher field last time in the Grade 3 Nashua and acquitted himself admirably. He raced wide every step of the way and still tried to take a run at the eventual winner late before getting turned away. This long-striding son of Uncle Mo should handle further in the future, but he tackles the same one-turn mile distance here, and makes plenty of sense. I’d also use Mr Jefferson. This son of Constitution has been improving with every dirt start, and was much the best over allowance rivals two back. He tackled the big boys in the Remsen last time and wasn’t disgraced in finishing fourth after issuing a challenge at the quarter pole. Turning back to a one-turn mile should suit him and he’s reunited with the jock who won aboard him twice last year. I’m somewhat against some others who could go off at short prices like Ohtwoohthreefive and Hagler. The former has never tried dirt and is taking a shot on this surface after a series of turf races. While he is by good dirt influence Union Rags, his female family is all turf breeding. Hagler was disappointing in victory last time and I’m not convinced that he’s cut out to handle this one-mile distance. My top pick at a bigger price is Unbridled Bomber. This colt didn’t show much ability at the start of his career, but he’s slowly but surely come around since stretching out in distance. This big, goofy son of Upstart has needed some time to develop mentally, as he didn’t seem to be all that focused through the first three starts of his career. Yet something clicked into place last time, as he raced more in the bridle and showed real determination rallying up the rail to break his maiden. That 96 TimeformUS Speed Figure makes him a player here, and he’s on an upward trajectory. If the pace heats up, expect him to be staying on late. Though, the track has to be playing differently than it was on Thursday and Friday.

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