Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, November 11


This New York-bred optional claimer is an intriguing convergence of horses on the downswing and those on the upswing. To put it more explicitly, it pits horses racing for the $45k optional claiming tag against those who fit the allowance condition and may inherently have more upside. The two high-profile contenders in for the tag are Graded On a Curve (#8) and Therapist (#9). Both can easily beat this field if they show up with their best efforts, but it’s fair to have some questions about their current form. Graded On a Curve is arguably more trustworthy as he drops in class after putting in some respectable efforts against open company. However, he’s surely seen better days and is drawn outside in a paceless affair. That lack of pace could compromise Therapist even more, as he has absolutely no early speed. He also comes in off a poor effort in his first start off the claim for George Weaver, who quickly drops him down to nearly half the price for which he acquired him. I want to go in a different direction. Among those who fit this allowance condition, Grape Nuts Warrior (#4) and Catch That Party (#5) both make sense. The former recently finished a narrow second at this level, and the latter flew him to just miss second into a slow pace. I would use both, but I’m more interested in a horse with a different profile. Battle Scars (#1) is running one condition up, as he’s still eligible for the N1X level. However, he’s not out of place here based on form and his connections probably want to get in a race before turf season ends, since he’s been rained off the turf or stuck on the AE list recently. He ran a huge race coming off the layoff last time, closing into a slow pace while racing wide against a strong rail bias. He had been competitive with Grape Nuts Warrior when he competed here last year, and he’s going to be a much bigger price than that foe this time. Like others, he could be compromised by pace, but I’m hoping Kendrick Carmouche gets a little more aggressive from this inside draw.


I’m skeptical of horses who could take money in this spot. I suppose the public has to bet some money on Tough Street (#5), who comes in off a 12-length maiden romp for Chad Brown. That was the best performance by her career, and she earned a speed figure that makes her competitive against this field. However, I’m pretty skeptical that she can repeat it on the class rise while stretching out to a mile. She also has to deal with the early speed of Monshun (#4), who figures to keep her company on the front end. Mia Bea Star (#6) seems like the most logical alternative based on her recent form. She’s run fast races in each of her last two starts, twice settling for second behind the superior Know It All Audrey. However, I’m a little concerned that Randi Persaud is squeezing the lemon dry as she makes her third start in the last 15 days. She’s also never been the most reliable win candidate at 3-for-36 lifetime. I want to go in a different direction with Chaysenbryn (#3). She finished Mia Bea Star last time, but the slight turnback to 7 furlongs was more suitable to that foe. Chaysenbryn much prefers this one-mile trip, and she’s run some of her best races at Aqueduct in the past. She had a light summer schedule, but seemed to maintain good form off the slight layoff last time and could now be set for a step forward.


All of the short prices in this high-level allowance seem flawed. Linda Rice sends out a dangerous duo with complementary running styles, either one of which could go favored. I prefer Piece of My Heart (#2), since she figures to sit a good trip off a pace that the TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting will be fast. However, she just seems a little too obvious, ripe to get overbet based on that viewpoint. She does have some of the best speed figures in the field, but she’s not exactly a convincing win candidate, having lost her last 15 races in a row. Rice’s other runner Fouette (#1) might have a higher ceiling than her stablemate, but she’s just difficult to trust. She ran a big race to clear the N2X condition back in May, but that was after getting to control a slower early pace. Since then she’s run well in a few starts, including two races on turf. However, she hasn’t had that same spark that she showed first time out for this barn. She also could have a difficult trip coming from her rail draw. Dealing Justice (#5) and Self Isolation (#6) are other pace players who could factor here, but neither one seems like an ideal fit for this spot. I’m instead getting more creative with Sister Annie (#4), who could be the biggest price of anyone in this field. She looks too cheap on paper, moving up to this level after getting claimed for just $32k last time out. However, that was a stronger race than the speed figures indicate, and she ran well to hang onto second. She’s competed in similar optional claiming races before, on both dirt and turf, and performed admirably. Seven furlongs feels like it could be a perfect distance for her, even though she’s never tried it, as she’s been successful going both shorter and longer than this. Furthermore, over 5 years Mertkan Kantarmaci is an impressive 15 for 60 (25%, $2.48 ROI) first off the claim with horses moving up in claiming price by 50% or more on dirt.

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