RACE 4: CUT THE CORD (#4)
#1 Forty Two Ace has been in great form as of late. He easily defeated maiden claimers off the layoff in January, and was claimed out of that race by Charlton Baker. This horse has continued to move forward in the new barn, upsetting a starter allowance field two back. He then lost at this level last time, but was beaten by a good one in Dr. Ardito. I still thought he should have put up more of a fight that day given that he was setting a very slow pace. A repeat of either of those performances would make him pretty tough here, but you do have to take a pretty short price. His main rival could be #6 Straight Skinny. This gelding has plenty of early speed, but he’s drawn well outside of his main pace rivals. He exits a victory at the $25k conditioned level, out of which third-place Make It In Ny returned to win. He hasn’t been the most consistent sort, but he’s capable of earning competitive numbers on occasion. Now he’s claimed by Tom Morley, who is 11 for 49 (22%, $2.86 ROI) first off the claim over the past 2 years. He’s also getting a significant rider upgrade to Trevor McCarthy. My top pick at a bigger price is #4 Cut the Cord. He’s the new face in the group as a 3-year-old facing older rivals for the first time. He didn’t earn a particularly fast speed figure when he broke his maiden last year at Finger Lakes, but he did some nice things in that race. He has since improved despite not being much of a factor against stakes foes. Barese, the winner of his last two, is pretty good, and this colt just got discouraged when the pace sped up on the far turn. His dam could run all day, so he’s certainly bred to handle the distance even though he disappointed last time.
RACE 6: MODERN MIDAS (#7)
#4 Tin Pan Alley figures to go off as the clear public choice in the maiden special weight as he returns from a lengthy layoff. This colt made a favorable impression in his lone start last summer at Saratoga. He was off to a slow start but launched an eye-catching middle move to reach contention before flattening out slightly in the late stages. He’s since been flattered by winner Rotknee, who recently won the Damon Runyon Stakes. Chad Brown is 5 for 10 (50%, $3.17 ROI) off 180 to 360 day layoffs with maidens on dirt at Aqueduct over the past 5 years. I’m hardly against this horse, but I wouldn’t want to take too short a price on him against a very competitive field. I would take a stand against #12 Eminency, who could also attract some support. This horse has competitive speed figures, but he’s had his chances at short prices in each of his last two starts. I instead prefer a couple of other second time starters. My top pick is #7 Modern Midas. This horse was off to a very rough start in his career debut, as he got bounced around between horses and completely knocked off stride. He settled at the back of the pack and just made some minor progress to run up into fourth. He looked like one who needed the race, as he hung on his left lead for the entire stretch drive. He’s a candidate to show more early speed in his second start. Plus Jeremiah Englehart is 9 for 35 (26%, $3.37 ROI) with maiden second time starters in Aqueduct dirt sprints over 5 years. The other second timer that interests me is #8 Flower River. This colt debuted against a tough open company field in his debut and didn’t run as badly as the result would indicate. He’s worked fast both before and since that debut race, and I think it’s a good sign that Trevor McCarthy keeps the call. There was a time when trainer Tony Dutrow was pretty dangerous with second time starters. Most of the firsters don’t do much for me, but I do think #10 Touch of a Buzz is slightly interesting off that fast three-furlong drill in early March.
RACE 9: ROSEBUG (#1)
This Cicada only drew 6 entrants, but you can make a case for every runner in this highly competitive field. Five of the 6 fillies are coming off last-out victories, including Oaklawn shipper #6 Lady Scarlet. She will be a handful in this spot if she repeats her last effort, in which she beat a solid allowance field with a field-best 104 TimeformUS Speed Figure. The major problem with her is that she was 18-1 that day and figures to be a much shorter price here despite the fact that she’s arguably stepping up in class. Furthermore, she’s a runner with early speed in a race loaded with other front-running types to her inside. I’m not against her, but I preferred some other options. Both #4 Lady Milagro and #5 Monshun are very swift and should contest the early pace. I don’t want to completely dismiss the former filly despite the fact that she beat weaker last time, as she has really improved lately for Carlos Martin. Monshun figures to attract more support off her impressive debut victory last summer, but she has a lot to prove in her return from the layoff. Given the amount of speed signed on, I landed on #1 Rosebug, who could play out as the closer in this field. She had two legitimate excuses last time when soundly beaten in the Busanda. She just doesn’t want to go 9 furlongs, and she was racing wide against a strong rail bias. She was impressive breaking her maiden in her prior start, and she showed that she can effectively close from off the pace in her career debut at Saratoga last summer. Bill Mott is 5 for 17 (29%, $3.81 ROI) with 3-year-olds turning back from routes to sprints on dirt in stakes over the past 5 years. She’s my top pick. The other horse that scares me at a bigger price is #3 Exxaltress. She hasn’t run as fast as some others, but I thought she ran well chasing outside last time on a day when the rail may have been a slight advantage. More notably, Chad Brown is a remarkable 13 for 18 (72%, $4.22 ROI) with last-out maiden winners on dirt at Aqueduct over the past 2 years.