Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, January 22

RACE 1: CINDY’S CHOICE (#5)

Laochi wheels back just 6 days after losing as the 7-5 favorite here on Sunday. However, she had some things working against her that day, as she ran into a live first time starter in winner Stone Creator and also was wide on a day that featured a rail bias. She had run well in her two prior starts, finishing ahead of today’s rival Bank On Anna in that stallion series stakes two back. She doesn’t possess the upside of some other lightly raced runners, but is logical in her current form. That said, I do prefer Bank On Anna of the favorites. She was entered as an MTO in her debut and put in a pretty good effort. She battled early and fought with the well-meant winner late despite getting pushed down to the rail in the late stages. The inside path was not the place to be on Nov. 12, so the effort may be even better than it looks. They threw her into the deep end of the pool last time and she wasn’t totally disgraced. I’m using her prominently, but I’m most interested in her main pace rival. Cindy’s Choice figures to offer better value and could be the quickest of them all early. The most notable thing about this filly is her start reaction time. In her last couple of races she’s nearly beaten the gate, breaking about a length ahead of her competition. She actually ran well after that fast start two back, but was compromised by drifting down to a dead rail. Then last time Eric Cancel decided to rate her after her typical fast start, and she lost position on the turn before finishing up decently in the last eighth of a mile. There’s more ability here than her results so far would indicate, and she figures to get a more aggressive ride from Trevor McCarthy.

RACE 7: CORE CONVICTION (#5)

The pace scenario of this Jazil changes a bit with the announcement that Empty Tomb is expected to scratch to await an ambitious assignment in the Pegasus World Cup. That could make things a little easier for his primary pace rival Core Conviction, who may now play out as the controlling speed. This 5-year-old gelding has taken a long time to come around, but he’s quickly ascended to this level since breaking his maiden in just his second start last November. He’s undefeated on dirt and showed that he had some stamina to go along with his ample speed last time. That was a strong pace for a mile at Aqueduct, and he turned back multiple challenges to win against a salty field. The running line makes it seem like he was stopping at the end, but he was actually digging in during the late stages and was never letting his pursuers past him. While he doesn’t have the most convincing damside pedigree to get the distance, he’s by versatile sire American Pharoah and physically seems like a horse that could handle it. Furthermore, Chad Brown is an excellent 9 for 17 (53%, $3.34 ROI) with last-out winners in dirt routes at Aqueduct over the past 5 years. His main rival appears to be First Constitution, who is seeking his first victory in the United States. This Chilean Group 1 winner has developed into a nice horse under Todd Pletcher, but he was a little disappointing last time when losing as the favorite to Empty Tomb. The stretch-out to 9 furlongs doesn’t figure to pose a problem, but he isn’t exactly helped by the scratch of Empty Tomb. I still prefer him to Forewarned, who is trying to repeat his upset victory in the Queens County. It all came together for him that day, as he got a strong pace ahead of him, and was closing wide over a track that was favoring outside paths. It’s unlikely he’ll be as fortunate on Saturday. 

RACE 8: THINKING IT OVER (#3)

This second attempt at running the Franklin Square has attracted the same nine fillies as last week with one additional entrant, Captainsdaughter. Moam could vie for favoritism off her debut win at Saratoga. While she has positive experience at the distance, she got a great trip that day, closing into a quick pace. I’m not sure that was the strongest field and I wonder where she’s been for the intervening months. Among the short prices, I prefer Leeloo, who just looks like the horse to beat off her impressive maiden triumph last time out. She may have moved up on the sloppy track, but she had shown some promise in her debut as well. She figures to be forwardly placed early but doesn’t need the lead, and she comes in with the fastest last-out speed figure. Sterling Silver beat Leeloo in her debut and would benefit from a quick pace up front if a few of these fillies decide to knock heads on the lead. She has a right to step forward for a barn that rarely has their firsters cranked up to win on debut. I’m using both of these, but my top pick is Thinking It Over. This Ray Handal trainee was touted on debut when she won an off-the-turf affair against a pretty decent field. She had worked impressively coming into that race and delivered, wearing down a fellow first time starter through the lane. Horses have come back out of that race to run reasonably well and I like that she showed the ability to rate. She’s continued to post some fast workout times in the mornings, and I think she’s another who has a right to step forward in her second career start.

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