Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, April 23


The early placement of #3 Forwardly on debut was the exact opposite of what his name suggests. After a slow break, he settled at the back of that 12-horse field and stayed there until the quarter pole. He did launch a move in upper stretch, but had far too much ground to make up, only passing some tired runners late. This horse was a vet scratch at Gulfstream in January, but has worked diligently before and since then, as Brown runners tend to do. His recent workouts have been in company with today’s uncoupled mate Balthus, and this colt was going easier in their Mar. 11 gate drill. He certainly has a right to improve, but needs to show some more early initiative given the lack of pace in this affair. Like Brown, Todd Pletcher has a couple of runners in this field. I strongly prefer #1 Analogy of the pair. This Shadwell-bred runner sold as part of that entity’s dispersal. There’s not much immediate pedigree, but his dam is a 3/4-sister to Dubai World Cup winner Almutawakel. He made his debut for Pletcher at Gulfstream last month and was pretty chilly on the board. Analogy had an eventful journey as he broke last and moved up while going wide into the clubhouse turn. He couldn’t make much impact after that, but stayed on decently. Pletcher is 3 for 24 (13%, $0.95 ROI) with 3-year-old maiden second time starters in turf routes at NYRA over 5 years. He’s worked well since then, particularly on Apr. 9 when going much better than his company. I also suspect he could play out as the speed with a clean break. There are some positives with #5 Grand Cay, who is improving for Shug McGaughey. However, I was less impressed by his last replay at Tampa than I expected when I saw the running line.


This New York-bred allowance turf sprint looks very wide open. The favorite, whoever that may be, is likely to be lukewarm, as most of the major players are returning from layoffs with inconsistent prior form. #3 Uncle George figures to be among the public choices, and he did run well at this level when last seen on turf in mid-November. That said, he got a pretty good trip that day and still couldn’t quite break through at this level. He’s a deep closer who is always going to be up against it if the pace fails to develop. His lone victory on debut came in race that completely fell apart, and he might need another such a setup to get back to the winner’s circle. #1 Deep Cover makes some sense as he returns to turf. A dirt experiment failed over the winter, but he did run well in his career debut over this course and distance. The problem is that he was allowed to set a pretty slow pace that day, and there is other speed to deal with this time. #4 Cotton has a right to do better as he returns for Mark Casse. He got a nightmare trip at this level when finishing ninth behind Uncle George in his 2021 finale. His form prior to that had been solid, and I’m not convinced that the 6 furlongs is out of his scope. I’m instead going for a new face at this level. #9 Sandrone looks a little slow based on speed figures, but that’s not surprising given that he was a 2-year-old last season. I thought he lacked some finish in his first few starts last season, appearing to hang in the late stages of his races. Yet that wasn’t a problem once H. James Bond added blinkers for his juvenile finale. This horse broke out of the gate alertly in that Dec. 2 event, and ran with a newfound aggression, drawing away impressively once asked for his best in the lane. That version of Sandrone is not out of his element against this field, and it’s very possible that he’s further matured over the winter.


The two horses with the best form at this level are probably #3 Liberty Flame and #5 Royal Currency. I don’t have anything particularly clever to point out about either of them, as they’re both logical contenders. I do think this is a slightly tougher race than Liberty Flame encountered last time, and she could take money based on the apparent rider upgrade to Kendrick Carmouche. Royal Currency had her chance as the favorite last time and just couldn’t quite hold off Carbon. I’m not sure she necessarily gets better with the stretch-out to 7 furlongs, but she does come in with the fastest speed figure. I’m interested in a couple of second time starters who each have a right to improve. The more logical of the two is my top pick #7 Capital Gal. I wouldn’t say that she had a poor trip in her debut last month, but it was a learning experience. She wasn’t in the most comfortable position early, between and behind horses while taking kickback. She never looked totally comfortable trying to rally on the turn and only lengthened her stride in deep stretch when she finally got steered outside. She figures to move forward from that unveiling and the slight stretch-out to 7 furlongs will suit her. The other horse that interests me a bit is #8 Cerretta. She didn’t do any meaningful running in her career debut, but was very green and just looked like a horse who needed the race. It’s unclear how much ability she has, but H. James Bond is 6 for 30 (20%, $3.02 ROI) with maiden second time starters in dirt sprints over the past 5 years. I suspect there’s a little more than meets the eye to this one and could be enticed to use her at the right price.

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