Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, March 4


Banyan Breeze looks formidable at first glance, but I think he’s a beatable favorite. The first inclination is to say he was just in over his head at the much tougher $32k claiming level and had a right to lose. However, he was terrible in that spot. The pace was on the slow side and he readily threw in the towel once asked for run. Aside from two races last fall at Finger Lakes, he’s basically a cheap claimer. His surrounding form doesn’t make him worthy of being a short price, and the quick drop in class is concerning. This trainer and rider also haven’t had much success on this circuit. Among those with Finger Lakes form, I prefer both Lohengrin Two and P J Advantage. The former is the clear speed in a race that the TimeformUS Pace Projector indicates may be favorable to the front-runner. He’s run reasonably well against slightly tougher competition in some recent starts and may just have found the right spot. P J Advantage has a similar look to Banyan Breeze, but he’s been claimed by James Ferraro, who has had some minor success claiming horses recently. They’re both interesting to me, but my top pick is Manifest Destiny. This stronger half of the William Younghans entry is clearly good enough to beat this field when at his best. The question is whether we’ll see his top effort, as he’s been a little lackluster since the move to Aqueduct. He did produce a career-best performance as recently as Oct. 17 when running down superior rivals at Belmont. While he hasn’t been competitive since then, he’s faced tougher foes on most occasions. Some may be bothered by his performance at this level last time, but now he’s reunited with Kendrick Carmouche, who rode him to that autumn victory.


Likely favorite Norman Queen took advantage of a strong rail bias when she broke her maiden off the layoff, but she backed up that performance last time. She just got run down as the 2-1 favorite  at this level, but she did all the heavy lifting on the front end in a race won by a deep closer. The Jeffrey Englehart barn has been on a roll lately, winning at a high rate over the last month or so. The cutback to 6 furlongs is to her benefit. Plus she’s drawn well outside of her main pace rivals, and she may be faster than them anyway. I’m not way against her, but I do think there are a couple of dangerous alternatives. Not among them is Tellaperfecttale. This filly will be tough if she repeats that 101 TimeformUS Speed Figure she earned last time. However, one has to decide if that’s a number that will be predictive moving forward. She beat a vastly inferior field and did so over a muddy track. None of her prior races make her even remotely competitive at this level, so I’m proceeding with skepticism. Cadeau de Paix is one of the other logical options. Some things went right for her, and others went wrong last time. Jose Ortiz gave her a great ride for a half-mile, as he hugged the rail until the quarter pole on a track that featured a strong inside bias. However, he guided her into the 3-path for the stretch drive, letting the winner come up the gold rail. She probably should have won that race, but would have done so with a bias-aided trip, so I don’t want to upgrade her too much. Her overall form is pretty solid, as she ran well against a speed bias two back, but she needs some pace to close into, as always. My top pick is Chloe Rose. She’s never been at her best over a sealed racetrack, so perhaps she just didn’t appreciate the going last time. You can also make an excuse for her performance two back, when she was asked to go a mile. Now gets back to an appropriate distance, and she’d be pretty formidable off her efforts for this barn from late 2021. She has tactical speed, but doesn’t need the lead to be most effective, and goes out for a dangerous barn.


Eloquent Speaker turned out to be quite the claim for owner/trainer Natalia Lynch, who was the only taker when she was risked for $45k on Dec. 11. She wheeled her back to win for a bigger pot just 6 days later, and then collected a stakes placing a couple weeks after that. Eloquent Speaker was aided by a track bias in that La Verdad on Jan. 2, riding a rail and speed bias to that narrow loss. Yet she still put a scare into a pretty good horse in Bank Sting. Lynch then astutely made the most of that recent stakes placing, entering her into the Fasig-Tipton February Mixed Sale where she sold for $200k. Now she’s back at Aqueduct, with new trainer Chris Englehart. She fits at this open N2X level off her last couple of performances, but that last effort is dressed up and it remains to be seen if she can hold her improved form for a new barn. At what figures to be a short price, I’m inclined to search for an alternative. The only other viable win candidates that interest me are both trained by Ray Handal. Rossa Veloce comes off a victory, but earned it against New York-breds with a perfect trip. I think last time was the opportunity to have her. I prefer Dealing Justice. There’s no doubt that she’s been disappointing since returning from a layoff late last year. However, she’s caught wet, sealed racetracks in all of those starts and she may not care for that going. She was also racing towards the inside last itme on a day that featured a strong outside bias, so that compromised by her chances. This time she’s supposed to be in front in a situation the Pace Projector pegs as favorable. She gets one more chance on a fast track.

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