Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Monday, February 21

RACE 2: GINNSU WARRIOR (#5)

This 3-year-old claiming event is a real puzzle, as you can make a valid case for all of the 6 runners. I can immediately narrow things down to 4 horses, as I’m not a fan of Bustin Pietre or Not Yet Charlie. The former has really tailed off in his last couple of starts and just hasn’t grown up since his 2-year-old season, whereas the latter broke his maiden in a weaker race at Finger Lakes. I’m more interested in runners drawn outside. Turnpike Bob is arguably the one to beat off his last race. He had things his own way up front, but beat a pretty good horse in Heartness. That rival returned to win his next start with a 91 TimeformUS Speed Figure. He just has to deal with the speed of Bustin Pietre and Ready to March as he turns back. Always Charming makes some sense as he gets needed class relief. These underrated connections have done some good work with young horses during the past year, though I’m a little concerned about the stretch-out to 7 furlongs. The distance shouldn’t be an issue for my top pick, Ginnsu Warrior. This colt actually ran pretty well going 5 furlongs in his career debut before he was immediately stretched out in distance. He hasn’t run as fast as some other rivals, but he is getting some class relief after returning in a $50k claiming race last time. He was racing on a dead rail that day after getting away to a very awkward start. He figures to move forward off that performance since NYRA paddock analyst Maggie Wolfendale noted prior to his last race that he was still on the heavy side.

RACE 3: HIGH COMMAND (#4)

P J Advantage is obviously the one to beat as he plunges in class down to this $8k bottom level. It seems a little sudden for a horse who has done well for these connections. However, he’s now a 7-year-old and he’s coming off a pretty unproductive season at Finger Lakes by his standards. He’s likely to get claimed in this spot, but he’s not a guarantee to win if he doesn’t improve on his last race. He was facing much better company that day, but he never lifted a hoof. I have trouble taking him at an expected short price. Fleet Warrior looks like the main rival given his ample early speed. He failed at this level last time but that was off a layoff, and he got involved in an honest pace before fading. He shouldn’t get as much pressure up front this time and his best races clearly make him good enough. I’ve seen enough of alternatives like Winning Drive and Summer Bourbon, who have had their chances recently. I’m instead going in a different direction with a bigger price. High Command looks inferior at first glance, but he’s had some excuses. He was way against the track last time when stuck right down on a dead rail on Feb. 5 in a race dominated by outside runners. Prior to that he actually ran fine at this level, finishing ahead of Fleet Warrior, albeit with a good trip. I think he fits here, and he’s going to fly under the radar given the human connections involved.

RACE 7: MOAM (#7)

Yo Cuz seeks her second consecutive stakes victory as she breaks from the outside post in this Maddie May. This is undoubtedly a tougher field than she met last time in the New York Stallion Series, but she did run well to win that race. She showed vastly improved early speed in taking the lead and opened up impressively in mid-stretch before the margin was cut down late. Morning Matcha, who was second, returned with another good effort in the Busanda, validating Yo Cuz’s form. She makes sense, but I thought she could go favored in a very competitive field. Reigning Chick exits a good third in the aforementioned Busanda, but she got a fortunate trip, riding the gold rail most of the way. I think she’s a little dressed up off that result, but she does have some talent and has clearly relished added ground. Three horses exit the Franklin Square Stakes. Sandy’s Garden and Thinking It Over could take some money after finishing second and third in that spot, but I thought both benefited from ground-saving trips. Thinking It Over is a little more appealing, since she came off the rail to rally in the lane, but she has to handle the stretch-out to a mile. The runner that I want out of the Franklin Square is Moam. She was off slowly and then sluggish in the early going, dropping well off the lead. While she wasn’t far off the rail early, she had to angle to the center of the track to launch her run around the far turn. She lost by 15 lengths, but I still thought she did well to pass over half the field over that biased surface. Now she’s stretching out in distance, which is what she’s bred to relish. She’s a half-sister to stakes-winning router Sharp Starr as well as multiple route winner Papa Shot. Horacio DePaz is 7 for 23 (30%, $2.47 ROI) with non-firsters trying a route for the first time on dirt over the past 5 years. 

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