Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Sunday, January 16

RACE 2: STENCIL (#2)

Boss Cara and Summary Judgment could vie for favoritism here, and I don’t find either option particularly compelling at short prices. Boss Cara will attempt to stretch out to 7 furlongs as she drops back in for a claiming tag. She got the job done for this same claiming tag against maiden foes two back, but she was beating a very weak field that day. She wasn’t disgraced when meeting a tougher group of winners last time, but she got a pretty good trip riding the rail the entire way. I still prefer her to Summary Judgment, who is dressed up off her last-out victory. That was a terrible field of $20k maiden claimers and she was never seriously challenged after getting loose early. That race earned a strong 96 TimeformUS Speed Figure, but the few horses that we’ve seen run back out of that race have significantly regressed in subsequent starts, calling into doubt the quality of that affair. I want to find a viable alternative and Stencil seems like such a runner. This filly hasn’t run quite as fast as the two aforementioned fillies in her prior starts at Woodbine, but now she’s making her first start on dirt while first off the claim for Rob Atras. Atras wasn’t the one to claim her at Woodbine last time, but he’s done good work with new acquisitions for these owners recently. This is a horse who could have been entered for a $16k tag and no one would have batted an eye, so it seems like a good sign that she’s pegged at $40k. While this filly has never run on the dirt, she has all dirt breeding. Algorithms is a strong dirt influence, and her dam is out of multiple Grade 3 winning dirt router Brushed Halory.

RACE 5: ROCCO STRONG (#4)

Royal Realm is a deserving favorite as he drops back down in class to a claiming race after picking up minor awards at the starter allowance level in his last two starts. He was simply second best to the talented Texas Swing that day and was justifiably favored when he came back at the same level last time. He was never beating No Burn, who ran a surprisingly fast race. However, I thought this horse was a little dull in defeat, after getting good early position. A repeat of either of his last two speed figures still make him formidable here, but I’m most interested in an alternative at a better price. Rocco Strong ran a strong race going this distance back on Oct. 17. The problem is that his surrounding performances don’t quite measure up. That said, he has had some excuses in his last couple of starts. He actually had tactical speed in that Nov. 11 affair, but his rider allowed him to lose position in the opening furlongs, and he couldn’t rally into a slow pace. Then last time he steadied in traffic coming out of the chute and then never looked comfortable striding awkwardly over that sloppy track. I like him stretching back out in distance and it’s encouraging that the blinkers also come off. I’m hoping Dylan Davis can give him an aggressive ride, as he seems to do best when he’s forwardly placed. I’ll primarily use him with the favorite, and with Purple Hearted and Big Castle in exotics.

RACE 8: ITS COLD IN DEHERE (#6)

Miss Leslie is obviously the horse to beat as she attempts to win her fourth in a row. However, she will be seeking to take her strong mid-Atlantic form to Aqueduct, and is arguably facing the toughest field she’s encountered along the way. The 108 TimeformUS Speed Figure that she earned last time makes her tough here, and she was a convincing winner of that Carousel Stakes. However, TimeformUS has that day at Laurel coded as dark blue, indicating that it was a track strongly favoring closers. She doesn’t figure to get as much pace to close into this time, and she goes out for a trainer who has had much more success at Laurel than he has at NYRA. Battle Bling is an alternative worth considering as she makes her first start off the claim for Rob Atras and Michael Dubb. She ran well to just miss going a mile last time, but she was also with a track bias, as she was outside all the way on a day when the rail was dead. Overall I’m not sure that she’s quite of this quality, though she could improve for the new connections. My top pick is Its Cold in Dehere. This mare has turned into a different horse since they stretched her out in distance this summer. She’s quickly ascended out of mid-level claiming races and has now earned her shot in stakes company by winning three of her last four starts. She beat some strong rivals in that Sep. 16 win at Churchill and was a visually impressive winner last time. I like that she owns good tactical speed in a race that lacks any confirmed front-runners. Linda Rice has made some expensive claims recently, and this seems like one that could pay dividends right away.

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