RACE 3: BOSSMAKINBOSSMOVES (#1)
A repeat of that 100 TimeformUS Speed Figure that #6 Never Early posted in his return from the layoff will likely put him right back in the winner’s circle here. However, he had all the best of it that day, setting a slow pace while facing a much weaker field. The two horses who finished directly behind him came back last week to each regress by 14 points in their next starts. Never Early was going out for a hot barn that day, though new trainer Jeffrey Englehart is 8 for 19 (42%, $2.44 ROI) first off the claim over the past 3 months. He’s the horse to beat, but I would be wary at a very short price. I see two viable alternatives. One of those is #5 Silipo, who makes his first start off the claim for Linda Rice. This horse was on a steep upward trajectory earlier in the winter, before things fell apart in his last race. Yet the connections may have squeezed the lemon dry, as he was making his third start in just 29 days. Now he’s had about 7 weeks to recover since his recent disappointment. This barn has been a little cold, but the horse fits very well in this spot and is dangerous if any pace develops up front. The same can be said of my top pick #1 Bossmakinbossmoves. He was a visually impressive winner when he broke his maiden here in late December, making a powerful move off the far turn to draw clear impressively. He hasn’t been quite as effective since then, but he did catch a tough field in the Gander. I expected a better effort dropping down to this level last time, but Trevor McCarthy could never seem to maneuver him into the clear, as he tried to rally behind horses in his first start with blinkers. I like the cutback to 7 furlongs, since he figures to get more pace ahead of him, and he ran well sprinting early in his career.
RACE 5: UNCLE’S GEM (#9)
There are many ways to go in this wide-open NY-bred allowance event. The horse to beat may be #10 Palace Gossip, who will try to play catch-me-if-you-can on the front end as she returns from a layoff for Tony Dutrow. This marks her first start against winners, but she earned a strong 103 TimeformUS Speed Figure for her maiden score over this course in November. She could face some early pace pressure from first time turfer #2 Ready A. P., who figures to attract support based on her improving dirt form. While More Than Ready can obviously get turf runners, she doesn’t have much grass pedigree on the dam’s side, and I’m dubious that she’ll be a playable price. Among those with turf experience, I’m more interested in a couple of runners I pegged at 6-1 on the morning line. One of those is #5 Fontanafredda, who didn’t win either of her turf starts last year, but ran well on both occasions. She blew the start of her turf debut at Saratoga but rallied well for second. She then had a wild trip in her second start, steadying early before getting spun extremely wide on the far turn. She showed improved tactical speed in her dirt maiden win last year, so perhaps she’ll be more forwardly placed in her return to grass. My top pick is #9 Uncle’s Gem. She had her chances at this level last year and failed to break through. However, she put together a pretty consistent set of speed figures that make her competitive in this return. I like her tactical speed for this spot and think she could fly under the radar with so many new faces in this field. Linda Rice is an excellent 8 for 32 (25%, $2.97 ROI) off layoffs of 120 to 240 days in turf sprints over 5 years, and she’s 3 for 6 at Aqueduct within that sample. The other horse that I’d want to include, only if she’s a big price, is #11 Ofalltheginjoints. This filly may attract support merely due to the recent hot streak for the George Weaver barn. However, I like her getting on turf first off the claim. While her damside pedigree could go either way, she struck me as a turf type in her muddy track debut and I think she could take a step forward switching to this surface.
RACE 6: QUESTION MY SANITY (#2)
The adage “bad horses win bad races” could certainly apply to this lackluster maiden claiming affair. My goal here is to shop for the right price, because I’m not keen to support an unappealing runner at short odds just because the standard of competition has declined. #5 Bird Ruler could go favored as he stretches out in his second start off the layoff, but he’s hardly one to trust. He earned one speed figure that would make him formidable here in November 2020 for his previous barn. Since then his form has declined and he hasn’t been competitive in a single dirt race. He could wake up on the class drop, but isn’t at all tempting as the favorite. #7 Nicholas James will get some support merely due to his lack of flaws, as the only first time starter in the field. However, it’s tough to debut going a mile and he figures to lack value going out for a barn that often touts their runners. A few of these exit the first race on March 19, but I can’t take 0-for-31 maiden #4 Alite, nor am I excted by the inconsistent #3 My Boy Colton. So I’m going to look a little farther back in that field for a possibly clever – or questionably sane – idea. #2 Question My Sanity has finished far back in both career starts, including that aforementioned March 19 race at this level. However, he did display marked improvement from his debut, in which he barely participated. This 3-year-old gelding actually caught my eye warming up on track last time, as he’s not a terrible looking specimen. He’s obviously on the slow side, but this son of Bodemeister has some substance to him and may just be a horse who needs to race into fitness. He figures to be a massive price, but he’s far from impossible if he improves again by a similar amount.