RACE 4: WAHEEL (#6)
Perhaps the first time starters will attract support in this maiden claimer given the lack of credentials among those with prior form. How You Feeling seems like the most dangerous of those. His dam was a decent dirt sprinter who was stakes-placed on synth. She’s produced 4 winning foals from 5 to race, topped by this colt’s full-sister Impazible Donna, an allowance-level NY-bred dirt sprinter. Bruce Levine is 3 for 16 (19%, $2.43 ROI) with first time starters in maiden claiming dirt sprints over 5 years. I prefer him to Joe Gonzalez, who is a full-brother to solid dirt sprinter Dark Money, who has earned over $400k on this circuit. Chris Englehart does a decent job with firsters in maiden claiming events, but I feel that both of these horses could get overbet just because they’re new faces. Among those who have run, He’sgottashortfuse makes some sense. I can be forgiving of the first start, since it came against a tougher maiden special weight field. He didn’t take any money that day and just ran along in mid-pack while sitting in the two-path before fading in the stretch. Jan. 22 was a day that featured a strong rail bias, so he was somewhat hindered by racing off the inside path throughout. My top pick is Waheel. He earned a field-best 81 TimeformUS Speed Figure in his career debut, the only knock being that it came at Finger Lakes. Transferring form from that circuit to NYRA is often easier said than done. However, that race got some validation when the winner returned to finish second next time with an improved figure. Waheel was badly overmatched in his local debut last time in a race dominated by the talented Impressionist. He was also very wide on a day when the inside paths were an advantage. How he gets significant class relief for his third start and will be a handful if he can get back to anything resembling that debut effort.
RACE 5: SUMMER BOURBON (#4)
Gran Casique is the horse to beat as he makes his first start off the claim for Rob Atras. This barn is 13 for 34 (38%, $2.32 ROI) first off the claim in dirt sprints at Aqueduct over the past 5 years, and this runner would be awfully tough to beat if he moves forward for the new barn. He ran well when last seen at a tougher level in December, setting the pace before just getting nailed late by a deep closer. However, he was a vet scratch since then, and now he’s dropping down to the $10k level after over two months off. There are obviously some red flags here, and it’s also a concern that this gelding hasn’t done that much winning throughout his career. Dream Bigger also makes some sense as he drops in class out of a much tougher spot. He was never going to be competitive with an improved Dark Money or the classy Steam Engine last time, but he wasn’t disgraced in finishing fifth. The class relief figures to benefit him, but he will also take some money and it’s not as if his recent form makes him all that formidable. My top pick is Summer Bourbon. He’s coming off a poor effort in his first start off the claim for Mike Miceli, but he didn’t get the right trip. Jan. 22 was one of many days at Aqueduct that featured a strong rail bias, and Summer Bourbon was always two- to three-wide that day. He also seemed to get discouraged early in the race when he was outrun and out of position. This time I’m expecting him to be more forwardly placed. He’s getting needed class relief and I think he’s had subtle excuses in each of his last two starts. Furthermore, Mike Miceli is an excellent 8 for 23 (35%, $3.29 ROI) second off the claim over the past 5 years.
RACE 6: AIR ATTACK (#2)
I’ll be interested to see how the public approaching this confusing $40k claimer. I could see horses like Chris and Dave or Two Thirty Give taking money. The former is coming off a poor effort, but he was facing a much tougher optional claiming field that day and now gets needed class relief. His prior effort, in which he defeated today’s rival Two Thirty Five, makes him a logical player. He’s never had much success going this 9-furlong distance, but he projects to get a good trip either setting the pace or just stalking Pioneer Spirit. Two Thirty Five is another who hasn’t won going 1 1/8 miles, but he’s run well over this trip, placing in graded stakes going this far earlier in his career. He exits a good effort when second to the in-form Hammerin Aamer at this level last time out. He had an excuse for his poor effort two back when he blew the start, and otherwise his form for Jeffrey Englehart is solid. The runner who I’m against at a relatively short price is Plot the Dots. This gelding ran well two back in the Manfuso, but I think the speed figure came up a little high for the horses involved. His two surrounding efforts since returning from a layoff have been poor, and I don’t like that he’s dropping in for a tag for the first time at NYRA – it’s often a sign that connections are trying to get a horse claimed before they really go off form. My top pick is Air Attack. I know his recent form has been abysmal, but the reclaim by Rob Atras has to be respected. In his lone prior start for the Atras barn last year, Air Attack won by nearly 9 lengths with a 113 TimeformUS Speed Figure. He briefly held his form for John Toscano when they ran him back quickly in the Stud Muffin, but he regressed thereafter. He’s always been best going 9 furlongs, so I like him getting back to that distance. Furthermore, Atras is 6 for 14 (43%, $2.83 ROI) first off the claim in 9-furlong dirt routes over the past 5 years. He requires a form reversal to conquer this field, and I think the signs point to that being a real possibility.