Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Sunday, February 20

RACE 4: JOYCEE HAZ PIZZAZ (#7)

Mr. Pete figures to go favored here as he ships in from Parx to Aqueduct, where he’s had very little success in prior attempts over this track. He does sport a consistent set of recent speed figures, and he’s always been a horse who knows how to win races. That said, the drop in for $12,500 is a little concerning considering that he’s likely to get claimed. I also don’t totally trust the Parx and Penn National form. The same goes for Ragtime Blues, who was in poor form on this circuit before getting a win at Parx last time. I need to see it again as he ships back into this circuit. I’m more interested in some alternatives. Manifest Destiny makes some sense on the class drop. He would obviously beat this field if he ran back to his effort on Oct. 17 at Belmont. He hasn’t been as effective since then, but he’s also caught much tougher fields at the state-bred $25k level. The drop in class should benefit him. However, the lack of pace and stretch-out to 7 furlongs may be significant obstacles. My top pick is Joycee Haz Pizzaz. This 5-year-old has the tactical speed to get in front or be sitting right on top of the pace. He’s coming off a loss at the $8k level, and is now moving up. That said, he’s going out first off the claim for Wayne Potts and owner Peter Tournas, who have had some success together recently. Potts in particular is in the midst of a strong last month, winning with 5 of 16 runners (31%) for a $4.48 ROI. I like Trevor McCarthy getting back aboard, and this horse certainly has prior races that would make him formidable.

RACE 6: WRITER’S REGRET (#2)

Bustin Timberlake is clearly the horse to beat based on his two races last year for trainer Charlton Baker. However, he has many questions to answer as he returns from a lengthy layoff. Baker has decent stats off layoffs, but this horse is likely to go favored off the flashy numbers he posted when last seen. I thought he ran particularly well on Mar. 20, since he was forced to chase an extremely fast pace that fell apart and never stopped trying. He’s a deserving favorite, but I think there are plenty of other intriguing contenders at better prices. The problem with many of the other horses I want to consider is that they don’t possess any early speed. That’s the case with T Loves a Fight and Durkin’s Call, who were both compromised by a speed-favoring track last time. However, they now find themselves in a race with a pretty murky pace scenario. Our Man Mike exits a career-best effort, but he also is a deep closer and benefited from a very fast pace last time. Daddy Knows is an intriguing contender as he moves up in class. He has the right running style, but I’m concerned that 7 furlongs is too short for him. I’m going for a bigger price with Writer’s Regret. I know that this horse looks a little slow at first glance, but he as a very impressive winner at Finger Lakes two back. He faced $25k claimers last time, but that was a strong field for the level and he was hardly disgraced checking in third. I like the confidence as he moves up in class and he has the speed to lead this field early. Ralph D’Alessandro trainees tend to outrun their odds at this meet and this one should fly under the radar.

RACE 8: WINNERS LAUGH (#7)

More Graytful and Seven Lilies look like the two who should vie for favoritism in this New York-bred optional claimer, the second division of today’s sixth race. More Graytful comes off a career-best performance when winning at this level last time with a 113 TimeformUS Speed Figure. He’s stretching out to 7 furlongs today, but he’s handled this distance in the past. He’s very much the horse to beat in his current form, but I think there are some question marks as he exits the Rob Atras barn. Ray Handal is having a great meet, but Atras really seemed to have the key to this horse and I wonder if he’ll regress here. He faces an Atras-trained rival in Seven Lilies, who is also in fantastic form right now. He ran out of ground when closing into a slow pace last time, and that’s come back as a strong race. Water’s Edge returned to win with a strong speed figure. Seven Lilies just missed at this level two back, and he should relish the slight turnback to 7 furlongs. They’re both dangerous, but I’m most interested in Winners Laugh as an alternative. He finished sixth of seven runners in his return to the races last time, but he ran a lot better than the result indicates. That was a wicked pace and he outdueled the very fleet Steam Engine on the front end before both succumbed to closers. He earned a strong 112 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that performance, a number that puts him right on par with the two favorites. He figures to move forward off that return and he’s drawn well outside of his main pace rival.

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