Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, March 5

RACE 8: AMERICAN GENTLEMAN (#7)

Trash Talker could attract some support in this spot as he steps up in class to face N1X company. This isn’t the strongest race for the level, but it’s still a tougher field than Trash Talker defeated last time when he got loose on the front end here two weeks ago. He’s capable of running some competitive speed figures when things go his way, but he figures to get some early pressure here from Bustin Shout. I don’t trust him, and instead prefer horses that have competed against tougher fields at this level. That includes all three horses exiting the seventh race on Feb. 5. Castle Chaos is the one that figures to garner the most attention from that spot after finishing well to get up for third behind runaway winner Southern District. He got a little shuffled back on the turn, but that actually worked out for him because it allowed his rider to wheel him outside to the best part of the track. The inside was not the place to be on Feb. 5, as all of the best running was down out in the middle of the racetrack. For that reason, I want to give a shot to American Gentleman coming out of that race. A mile is probably too far for him anyway, but he was forced to gravitate towards the inside once he inherited the lead coming around the far turn, and he understandably faded late. I like the turnback in distance, and thought that he ran particularly well two back when closing after a wide trip to get up to win over Trash Talker. That’s proven to be a strong race, as the 5 runners who finished directly behind American Gentleman have returned to improve their speed figures in their next starts.

RACE 9: VENTI VALENTINE (#4)

Radio Days has been well-meant right from the start. She got bet down to favoritism in her career debut and didn’t disappoint. She then won as easily as could be over this track in December before tackling stakes foes in Florida. While she lost the G3 Forward Gal as the 3-5 favorite, she got bumped back to last at the start while the winner enjoyed a soft front-running trip. She’s always been cut out to go this far, and is consistently run the fastest speed figures, though it’s not as if she has a massive edge over this field. I expect her to be a very short price given the general hype around her, and I’m not sure her chances of winning are commensurate with heavy favoritism, though I do think she’s the horse to beat. Among the logical alternatives, I’m most against Magic Circle. She does figure to have a pace advantage, but I’m not thrilled her last race, in which she rode a rail bias and wasn’t able to improve on her top speed figure even with that boost. I prefer the two fillies drawn directly to her inside, and I’ll let price be my guide. I made Venti Valentine my top pick, since I do think she’s the second most likely winner. She was nearly perfect last year, beating NY-breds in her first couple of starts before just missing in the G2 Demoiselle. I thought that was a very game effort, in which she battled back valiantly after getting bumped in midstretch. She has been training in Florida through the winter and has looked strong in recent works, though there is a gap in her February training. The Jorge Abreu barn has been quiet lately, but that could just mean he’s gearing up with a spring push, which could kick off here. The other horse that I want to use is Morning Matcha. She’s run well in both of her local starts despite settling for second each time. Though she was unable to reel in Magic Circle last time, she was wide against the rail bias for the second half of that race. Turning back to the one-turn mile should suit her deep-closing style, though there isn’t much pace signed on. 

RACE 10: BOLD JOURNEY (#8)

There is a ton of early speed signed on in this Gotham, which could force the hand of Dean’s List most of all. This runner has to be ridden aggressively as he ships up from Florida and stretches out from a pair of 6-furlong events. I like the tenacity that this colt displayed last time beating the talented Dean Delivers, and he does have a pedigree to suggest that a mile should be within his scope. Pletcher doesn’t have particularly strong stretch-out statistics, and the early pace pressure could be his undoing. The logical horse to beat from a trip standpoint is Morello. He’s one of the few major contenders who has shown the ability to pass horses and finish strongly. I like the way he overcame a poor start in his career debut, and he stepped forward from a speed figure standpoint in the Jimmy Winfield last time. The problem is that he just seems a little too obvious, and could be overbet for that reason. The short price that I don’t want is Rockefeller. I thought this horse was fortunate when he won the Nashua two back, and I didn’t like his effort in the Sham last time when barely holding second despite getting a perfect stalking trip. My top pick is Bold Journey. My initial reaction to his last race was that he may not way to go this far, but a closer look at the TimeformUS Pace Figures for the Gander Stakes reveals that he made a significant middle move to break the race open. He paid the price for that early acceleration in deep stretch. This time I think he’s going to be ridden a bit more conservatively. He’s not supposed to have any trouble with the distance as a half-brother to Americanrevolution, and his speed figures are right in line with those of the main players.

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