Mystic Night (#6) will probably go favored here as he drops in class back to the N2X allowance level. He was surely overbet in the Queens County last time when pounded down to even-money despite facing a strong field of seasoned stakes performers. That said, he still ran poorly that day, unable to take advantage of an outside bias while significantly regressing from a speed figure standpoint. The bottom line with him is that he’s been favored at odds of 9-5 or less in his last four starts and has lost all of them. You can make some excuses for him, but his form has nevertheless been declining ever since that amazing performance to win here last March. This is among the softest fields he’s met recently, but I have to let him beat me at what figures to be a short price.
I’m also against Hammerin Aamer (#1), who steps up in class after beating $40k claiming foes off the claim last time. He’s been steadily improving ever since last fall, but at some point there has to be an upper limit to his progress and I feel like he probably reached it last time. He’s also had little success going this 1 1/8 miles distance. I’m most interested in two horses.
My top pick is PRIORITIZE (#5). His recent form leaves something to be desired, but he actually closed decently into a moderate pace two back, and then lost all chance at the start last time. Dec. 31 was also a day that was favoring speed types, so he was doubly compromised. He was claimed out of that race by Rudy Rodriguez, who is 21-for-65 (32%, $2.18 ROI) first off the claim in dirt routes at Aqueduct over the past 5 years. Furthermore, he’s getting to stretch back out to his preferred 1 1/8 miles distance, and he’s being reunited with Eric Cancel, who rode him when he was in peak form.
At a bigger price, I also want to use Croation (#7). Tony Dutrow doesn’t have the strongest numbers off the claim, but this horse has plenty of back races that put him in the mix. He wants to run all day, so I like stretching out to two turns, and he was compromised by a moderate pace that held together last time.
Exacta Key Box: 5 with 4,6,7
Trifecta: 5 with 6,7 with 1,2,4,6,7