RACE 1: CLASH A. J. (#6)
Badgerville figures to take money here as he ships up from Florida to make his debut, especially after Pletcher won with a similar runner on Saturday. He’s by 13% debut sire Gormley, and there really hasn’t been much production on the dam’s side. Todd Pletcher is 6 for 28 (21%, $1.81 ROI) with first time starters in maiden claiming dirt sprints at NYRA over the past 5 years. The workouts down in Florida may not look that fast, but he’s held his own with workmates in the mornings. Eddie the Great and Wild Carp Diem could also take some money coming off decent efforts at this level. The former cuts back to 6 furlongs, but I’m not sure that’s really to his benefit since I thought he put forth his best effort going a mile last time. Wild Carp Diem was chasing outside against a rail bias in his last start, but both of his dirt efforts have come over sloppy tracks and I’m a little concerned about whether he can transfer that form to a fast surface. I want the class dropper. Clash A. J. is probably just getting the class relief he needs after going off at big prices against maiden special weight company in all of his prior starts. He put forth his best effort two back when just missing at 63-1 odds. He did get a great trip and pace setup that day as the entire race was falling apart late, but he still ran well against a much better field. It may look like he regressed last time, but he was outside on Jan. 22, a day that featured a strong rail bias. This is much softer spot, and he’s unlikely to go favored due to the low-profile connections.
RACE 2: HOLDTHEFLIGHT (#5)
The two likely favorites in this spot are Charger and Good Culture. I can’t take the former at a short price for a few reasons. Firstly, the Linda Rice barn has been very cold lately at Aqueduct. She’s claimed a lot of horses during the past few months, and this is one of the few horses who has actually won coming into her barn during that time. However, he had to go to Parx to collect that victory, and then last time was fortunate to ride a gold rail at Aqueduct. I think he’s vulnerable at a short price. Good Culture is a little more appealing, since he wasn’t totally with the bias last time on Jan. 16. He was outside for most of his trip before angling down to the rail in the stretch and passing horses late. My biggest issue with him is his general lack of early speed, which usually finds him settling for a minor award. I wanted to think outside the box a little bit, and there are a couple of new faces to consider. One of those is Narmer, but I’m not quite convinced of this Laurel shipper. He put forth his best effort at Penn National two back against a suspect field and was awful last time. I’m more intrigued by Holdtheflight coming in from Parx. This runner’s prior form isn’t exactly that compelling, but he’s a very interesting claim by a sharp trainer. Penny Pearce has a lot of success at Parx, and she’s done well with a few recent starters that she’s shipped to the NYRA circuit. This chestnut gelding is a pretty big horse who has handled multiple surfaces racing in the Midwest. It feels like he has a little more ability than his past performances might suggest, and he’s ambitiously spotted for his first start out of the new barn.
RACE 3: MAKINGCENTS (#6)
Equal Measure comes in off a competitive speed figure, which was earned finishing second at the $32k level last time. She was no match for the impressive winner Customerexperience that day, but it was a good sign that she ran so well in the return to dirt. The problem is that she was riding the gold rail for part of that trip, which may have enhanced her performance. I wanted to see it again. Some may considered Greatest Love, who goes first off the claim for Linda Rice. She was against the track last time when closing for second, but that was a soft field and she’s unproven going this far. I’m more interested in a couple of New York-breds in this field. Choose Happiness never looked totally comfortable over that sloppy track last time, but she had run well in her prior start when overcoming a rail trip on a day when that wasn’t the place to be. She’s a rebound candidate with Trevor McCarthy taking over the reins. Yet my top pick is Makingcents. She clearly hasn’t looked like the same horse after her 3-year-old season. However, I thought she showed some signs of life when dropped in for a tag against NY-breds last time. That Dec. 19 race was a strangely run affair where they set a glacial early pace before sprinting home. Notably, this mare was glued to the rail the entire way on a day when all the best running was done on the outside. That effort may be better than it looks, and she figures to be the controlling speed from the outside this time. It’s the last chance for this once classy runner.