Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Thursday, April 21


I’m somewhat against the short prices in this spot. #6 Lanfrankophile can obviously win again after beat a field at this level last time. However, you missed your chance to have her at bigger prices and now her form is totally exposed. #5 Rooski’s form is decent enough, but it doesn’t feel like she’s moving forward at all. I’m also concerned about the stretch-out to 7 furlongs for a filly who hasn’t been the best finisher. I can make the strongest case for morning-line favorite #4 Tweaqued, who should appreciate the slight cutback after trying a mile last time. That race came up reasonably fast, and second-place finisher Waters of Merom has already come back to win against a better field. However, I don’t really want to trust these connections at a short price. Therefore, I want to explore some of the alternatives. #1 Amore Fire is the one that interests me most. She comes in a little light on speed figures, but she ran well enough to break her maiden as a 2-year-old last September, defeating the decent next-out winner Saratoga Kisses. Since then she returned rom a layoff in the same race that Lanfrankophile won. While she didn’t have a terrible trip, she got outrun to the lead in one of the few races on March 19 where the pace actually came apart. She also got pushed down inside, losing some momentum in a race where all of the significant running was done in outside paths. Now she gets a rider switch to the aggressive Jose Gomez, so I expect her to the be the main speed from the rail. Notably, the Bonnie Lucas runners have continued to perform well since the start of Wayne Potts’s suspension. I also would give a look to #3 Classic Vinman from that same race. She got pace to close into, but had some trouble in the early stages and was forced to alter course multiple times while trying to close. She needs to take another step forward, but has more upside than most in here and will be the biggest price.


There aren’t too many reliable options in this NY-bred optional claimer, as every horse in this field is either coming off a layoff or making some kind of surface switch. Among those is #6 Saint Selby, who scratched out of a dirt race at this level last Saturday to instead make his turf debut in this spot. He does have some turf pedigree as a son of Kantharos and a half-brother to turf winner Voliero. However, this isn’t trainer Rob Atras’s forte and he will take money off dirt form. #4 Valmont makes a certain amount of sense as one of the layoff runners with turf form. He won over this course and distance to close out his 2021 campaign, beating state-bred $25k claimers with a solid speed figure. However, he got an absolutely perfect trip that day. He had always been a cut below the best at this N2X level prior to that, so I’m hesitant to take him at a short price. Christophe Clement has a pair of entrants in this spot. #3 Panster is sure to attract more support as he returns from a layoff after winning at the N1X level last December. He’s earned some decent speed figures on the turf and has proven that he handles this distance. However, he got a great setup when he won last time and figures to get bet down with the hot-riding Javier Castellano retaining the assignment. I’m actually far more interested in Clement’s other runner #9 Swashbuckle. This 4-year-old’s form is a little spotty, but do note that he’s run his best race when fresh – in his career debut and when he came back off a similar layoff last spring. He was a notoriously difficult horse to handle and ride early in his career, so I’m intrigued that he now returns as a new gelding. He ran pretty well at this level when last seen in November against a tougher field than Panster faced. He just needs some pace to develop, which could happen with #10 Bustin Shout in the mix. I like that Bruce Levine trainee switching back to turf, but he’s not the easiest horse to trust given his inconsistent winter form. I considered both, but assumed Swashbuckle would be the much better price given the presence of Jose Ortiz on Bustin Shout.


I can’t take another short price on #3 Cost Basis after he was off the board at 3-5 in a 5-horse field last time. He still earned a strong 115 TimeformUS Speed Figure for the effort, but that number may be on the high side, as horses who finished ahead of him all returned to regress significantly in their next starts. He’s obviously capable at his best, but he’s never been a win machine. Furthermore, Chad Brown is just 2 for 15 (13%, $1.04 ROI) with blinker additions with 4YO+ on dirt over the past 5 years. The other horse likely to attract plenty of support is #2 Jaxon Traveler. It might look like he lost some consistency over the winter, but note that he was slammed from both sides at the start of the Fire Plug two back, which would explain why he was so far back early. He rebounded last time with a strong effort in the Not for Love, just missing to the talented Whereshetoldmetogo. He appears to own the best early speed in this field and seems committed to making the lead having drawn inside of Cost Basis. He ran far better than #6 Big Engine when they met last time. That rival was successful at this level two back when he upset Cost Basis, but he got a perfect trip that day coming up the rail. It’s hard to see him getting as ideal a setup here. I want to go in a different direction with #5 Our Last Buck. I can make some excuses for this 8-year-old’s recent results. He actually ran well last time in the Haynesfield, making a middle move on the turn before flattening out. Prior to that he faced better in the Stymie and was wide against a bias in the Alex M. Robb going a distance that he’s never quite handled. Now he drops back into an optional claimer, and his most recent attempt in a similar spot resulted in a second-place finish to eventual BC Sprint winner Aloha West last summer. That was also his last start on Lasix, which he gets back here. He’s capable of beating a field like this at his best, and figures to be a square price.

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