Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, January 21

RACE 2: ACTUARY (#4)

One-time Derby trail buzz horse Bezos has never really panned out. He was transferred out of the Bob Baffert stable, and subsequently had little success for Rodolphe Brisset in Kentucky, failing to hit the board in any of his starts in the second half of 2021. This was one of many expensive claims made by Linda Rice during the fall in Kentucky. However, she hasn’t had much success with her new acquisitions as of late, or just in general at this meet. The drop in class off the claim is not a good sign, and he figures to face early pressure from Bar Fourteen to his outside He’s the class of this field and clearly capable at his best, but I can’t trust him at a short price. I feel the same way about Uno, who could also take money here. This horse began his career like a future stakes winner, but his form has steadily declined since that debut win. He was against rail biases in his last two losses, but it’s hard to use that as the only excuse for losses by a combined 44 lengths. Perhaps Bar Fourteen can wire the field, as he did do some running last time – albeit without the rider. He crossed the wire some 2 seconds ahead of the field, just 120 pounds underweight. However, he’s also a little hard to trust, especially going this one-mile distance. Therefore, I’m getting creative and taking a shot with Actuary. This British-bred gelding has actually transferred his turf form to dirt in recent starts. The problem is that he was never particularly effective on turf, having failed to make an impact in any of his U.S. starts. He couldn’t even produce results for top claiming trainer Rob Atras, who let him go for $16k last time. That said, Antonio Arriaga is an underrated trainer, who is 6 for 21 (29%, $4.23 ROI) first off the claim in dirt routes over 5 years. This guy’s recent speed figures actually put him in the mix, and he didn’t get the best trip last time when Kendrick Carmouche overcommitted to an inside path. If the race falls apart, which seems very possible, he could pick up the pieces.

RACE 4: MUCHO SUNSHINE (#7)

Jerusalem Gates is obviously the horse to beat as he drops in class. However, I’m reluctant to accept a short price on this horse for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the Linda Rice barn has been very cold as of late. She did collect a win on Thursday’s card with a horse riding the rail bias, but for the most part her runners have underperformed at this meet. Furthermore, this horse has had consistent issues at the gate. He routinely breaks slowly, and he’s now done it in both starts since returning from a layoff recently. The stretch-out may help, but I’m skeptical we’ll see him produce a top effort at what figures to be a pretty short price. The problem is that the other logical contenders aren’t all that appealing. Breaking Stones is probably the main rival, and he does seem like the second most likely winner if Jerusalem Gates stubs his toe. However, he got a good trip last time and just had no punch through the stretch. Furthermore, he usually takes more money than is really merited so I’m anticipating an underlay on him as well. I want to shop for some value so I’m taking a shot with Mucho Sunshine. He exits the same two races as Breaking Stones, and he really didn’t run that much worse than that rival on either occasion. Mucho Sunshine was forced to rate from an inside post position last time and was put in an uncomfortable spot on a couple of occasions before rallying in the stretch. I expect him to be more aggressively ridden with the rider switch to Luis Rodriguez, and I actually think this horse has improved recently with the stretch-out in distance.

RACE 6: GOLANI BRIGADE (#1)

There’s plenty of speed in this $25k claimer, but Steam Engine could be the so-called “speed of the speed” as he makes his first start off the claim for Rob Atras. This gelding is always sharply away from the gate, and rarely isn’t in front at the first call. His last couple of starts have been on the dull side for him, but he got involved in a very fast pace that fell apart last time. It’s not a great sign that he’s dropping in for $25k after getting claimed for $45k, but Rob Atras places horses where they can win, and this is probably just the right spot. I view him as the horse to beat, and he could make things tough on the other speed types. Dark Money could sit a good trip from just off the pace under apprentice Jose Gomez, who has been riding very well as of late. However, he was beaten for a cheaper tag last time and really just has that one effort from November at Belmont among his recent starts that makes him a serious player here. I prefer Golani Brigade. This runner’s recent form at Finger Lakes is solid. He ran particularly well last time when he survived a very fast early pace to hold off a couple of closers. That form was flattered when third-place finisher Fitzpatrick returned to run well at Aqueduct in a tougher spot. Golani Brigade has plenty of prior speed figures that make him competitive at this level and Jeffrey Englehart’s horses have run reasonably well at this meet despite the fact that he has just one win coming into this week. I’m hoping Dylan Davis can work out a stalking trip from the rail draw.

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