RACE 5: HOWE STREET (#5)
Those with experience do very little for me in this first division of two 7-furlong maiden events. #4 Torpedo Run just can’t seem to finish off his races, even after traveling well to the quarter pole last time. #6 Cathedral Beach showed some promise in his debut, but he’s gone backwards since then. I instead want to focus on the first time starters. #1 Efficiency sold for $290k as an early yearling, and has presumably been gelded since that time. Gun Runner is a 24% debut sire, and the dam was a dirt winner who was stakes-placed on turf. This is her first foal to race, though the dam is a half-sister to a multiple G3 turf winner. Chad Brown is 8 for 29 (28%, $2.28 ROI) with first time starters on dirt at Aqueduct over the past 3 years. The last gate work matches Higher Quality, who starts in today’s first race. There are some things to like, but I’m a little more interested in others. My top pick is #5 Howe Street. This homebred is by 8% debut sire Honor Code. The unraced dam has produced 4 foals, all of which are winners. The best of those is G3-placed turfer Conviction Trade, though this colt is also a half-brother to dirt sprint winner Equal Pay. Jorge Abreu is 11 for 37 (30%, $3.61 ROI) with first time starters in dirt sprints over the past 5 years. Howe Street has been working pretty well down in Florida. That Feb. 11 drill was in company with Busher winner Venti Valentine. He was second best to that one but held his own under pressure. I also would give a look to #7 Sugar Gray Leonard. Maclean’s Music is a good debut sire and Brittany Russell knows how to prepare a first time starter. It’s a good sign that this one is shipping up for the race.
RACE 6: DOWNTOWN CONNECTOR (#1)
#7 Awesome Aaron figures to be a heavy favorite in this second division of two 7-furlong maiden events on this card. He just ran like a horse who needed a start in his debut. He was ridden early and just flattened out through the stretch going 6 furlongs. Chad Brown stretched him all the way out to 9 furlongs for his second start and he took a big step forward. The blinkers seemed to give him added focus, as he traveled in the bridle early before taking over at the head of the lane. He got run down late, but he ran a winning race. The turnback makes plenty of sense for a son of Practical Joke, and he figures to be tough to handle if he merely holds that form. I prefer him to likely second choice #2 Check That Chip. He had legitimate trouble in the debut and showed improvement last time. However, I don’t think effort is going to beat the favorite, so he probably needs to take another step forward to win. My top pick at what should be a better price is #1 Downtown Connector. He got sent off at large prices in all of his starts at Fair Grounds this winter. He stayed on mildly when beaten less than 3 lengths in his sprint debut in December and has failed to step forward since then. However, he’s gone longer in those two subsequent starts and hasn’t gotten ideal trips either time. He was shuffled back at the start two back, and encountered a similar situation last time, as he raced out of position early. That’s probably why blinkers are going on here, to get him more involved early in his races. I like the turnback and he’s arguably getting some class relief, since this isn’t the toughest field for the level.
RACE 9: WATER’S EDGE (#2)
#3 My Boy Tate and #4 Lobsta figure to vie for favoritism once again after finish within a length of each other in their last two meetings. Lobsta got the better of his older foe in the New York Stallion Series stakes back in December. My Boy Tate appeared to turn the tables on him when he crossed the wire ahead of Lobsta in the Say Florida Sandy. Unfortunately, the stewards deemed that My Boy Tate caused interference and he was disqualified from that win. They both stretch out to a mile here, which shouldn’t bother either one. Lobsta excelled going a mile early in his career and My Boy Tate is actually the defending champion in this race, though that is his only career victory at a mile. I slightly prefer the consistency and grit of My Boy Tate, though he typically goes off at a short price. Lobsta may also have a pace advantage here, since there isn’t much front-running speed signed on. They’re both logical, but I think there are others worth considering. I’m not completely against Michelle Nevin’s other 8-year-old entrant #5 Our Last Buck. He had a legitimate excuse when wide two back and last time faced tougher open company foes. Yet I want to go to a new face at this level for my top pick. #2 Water’s Edge moves up to stakes company for the first time after working his way through his state-bred allowance conditions. I like the way David Donk has managed this colt, gradually stretching him out in distance as he’s risen in class. He’s a hard trier who never gives up without a fight. That attribute was on display last time when he dug in gamely to fend off a late challenge going 9 furlongs. The cutback to a mile should suit him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Jorge Vargas gets aggressive from this inside draw. He’s quick enough to contest the pace, and he appeared to do well last time leading the pack with blinkers added.