Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, April 22

RACE 3: PIECE OF MY HEART (#3)

The speedy #1 Miss Brazil returns from a lengthy layoff in this optional claimer. She showed real promise early in her career, posting a 110 TimeformUS Speed Figure to break her maiden before putting in admirable efforts against stakes foes. She was second by just a half-length behind top filly Search Results in the Busher, before turning back successfully over the summer. However, she was put away for the rest of the year after a disappointing effort in the Victory Ride. Tony Dutrow is just 1 for 16 (6%, $0.31 ROI) off 180+ day layoffs over the past 5 years. She’s a notoriously good work horse, and appears to have logged some fast drills for her comeback. Yet she has to break cleanly from the inside, and she could get some pressure from #2 Oxana in the early stages. That Time Hills trainee won her first couple of dirt starts like she might be something special, but her speed figures sunk as she moved up in class. She was no match for the talented Glass Ceiling last time, and benefited from an inside trip on a rail-biased track. She’s dangerous if she can outrun the favorite to the lead, but I still prefer others. My top pick is #3 Piece of My Heart. This mare settled for third at this level last time, making her first start off the claim for Danny Gargan while also returning from a brief layoff. She was a little chilly on the board that day, going off at 7-1, and she put forth a merely decent effort. She got a good trip stalking the pace but could never get close to the winner while passed from behind in the last furlong. Hey Mamaluke did return to win a stakes, as did Easy to Bless, who was off the board. Following a quiet few months, Danny Gargan has gone 12 for 36 (33%, $2.42 ROI) at all circuits over the past 60 days. It feels like the barn is waking up, so I view this mare as the chief threat to the favorite.

RACE 7: HOBOKEN JACK (#1)

#7 Big Castle is clearly the horse to beat in this bottom-level N2L conditioned claimer. He’s run recent speed figures that make him a standout against his foes, most of whom have already had many chances at this level. Big Castle has shown subtle improvement since the claim by Horacio De Paz, as he was hampered by a slow start and inside trip two back. He followed that up with a solid third-place finish in a fast race at the $25k level. Now he drops and appears to have landed in a very favorable spot. My one concern is that he doesn’t possess much early speed, and there is very little early pace in this affair. The only alternative that I can build a case for is #1 Hoboken Jack. This 3-year-old has been in terrible form since the claim. However, he did run reasonably well to break his maiden last fall, beating the subsequently improved Bossmakinbossmoves. I can understand him not showing up in the NYSS stakes since he was a longshot that day. He was arguably worse last time, but he was wide the entire way on Jan. 27, which may have featured a rail bias. Now he’s dropping in his return from a 3-month layoff. Most notably, the Danny Gargan barn was still in a bit of a cold spell when this horse last ran. Over the past two months, Gargn is 12 for 36 (33%, $2.42 ROI) at all circuits, so it feels like the stable is waking up. He figures to be the controlling speed from the inside, and the front end hasn’t been a bad place to be on this track recently.

RACE 9: LUCKY MUCHO MAN (#1)

If #3 B C Glory Days is going to be the favorite in this spot, I want to look elsewhere. This 4-year-old gelding has obviously run fast enough to win at this level, but most of his competitive efforts came earlier in his career. It feels like his form has tailed off recently. Furthermore, he’s switching back to turf and I haven’t liked any of his grass races that much. He did earn some decent speed figures against maiden special weight company, but he was never a threat to win any of those races despite getting good trips. Most of the alternatives are trying this surface for the first time, but that makes it a more interesting race to handicap. #10 Johnselectricride, the second choice on the ML, does have some turf pedigree. However, he’s going to take money based on his last dirt race and I think there are more interesting options at bigger prices. One horse I definitely want to consider is #8 Silent Running. He faced a good field in his debut when he passed some tired rivals to get up for fifth. He didn’t fare as well in his second start in February, but was stuck down on a dead rail for much of the way. He’s better than his form indicates, and I’m intrigued by the surface switch. While there isn’t a ton of damside turf pedigree, his sire A Shin Forward was a Group 1 winner on turf in Japan. I’m using him, but I put another first time turfer on top at what I think will be a bigger price. #1 Lucky Mucho Man strikes me as one that should appreciate the surface switch. He admittedly hasn’t done much running in either race to date, but he has a high-stepping, loping action to his stride that is often a hallmark of turf horses. Mucho Macho Man is a deceptively strong turf influence, getting an excellent 15% winners from his turf route starters, and the dam also won on turf. He’s drawn well inside and Jose Lezcano retains the mount.

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