Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, November 19


I suppose Justifiable Belle (#2) could vie for favoritism here as she gets back on the turf. She ran pretty well in her debut when finishing second behind the talented Xigera. However, she did work out a perfect trip that day. I won’t hold her subsequent dirt performance against her, as she’s now getting back on the right surface. She’s not exactly interesting, but she is a contender. I would also give a look to Self Confident (#4), who ran well in her turf debut at Kentucky Downs, albeit against a weaker field. She lost as the favorite last time at Keeneland, but may still have upside for Shug. Chad Brown has entered two in here, and both make some sense. Hay Stack (#7) could take more money after being well supported in her first couple of starts. She was green on debut when lugging in through the stretch behind subsequent stakes winner Pleasant Passage. Yet I would have liked to see more of a step forward from her last time, when she just seemed to lack the turn of foot to get involved. Tangential (#1) is perhaps a little more interesting as she switches over to grass for the first time. She didn’t run that well in her debut, but I find it interesting that Brown goes directly to grass with this daughter of Justify, who has had some initial success as a turf sire. She moves like one that should take to this surface. My top pick is a different first time turfer. Quarrel (#6) has been meant for grass since the start of her career, though the connections did run her both times that she got rained off the turf earlier this fall. She actually showed ability on debut over a good, sealed track before running poorly last time over a fast, harrowed one. From a wagering standpoint, I don’t care about that last race, since she’s supposed to move up on grass. Speightstown is obviously a solid turf sire, and this filly’s female family is full of turf influences. The dam was stakes-placed on turf, and she’s a half-sister to multiple turf winner Daunt. I expect her to be forwardly placed throughout on the stretch-out in distance.


Three-year-olds appear to have the upper hand in this N1X allowance affair over 11 furlongs. Dripping Gold (#2) is the horse to beat after narrowly losing at this level last time following an eventful journey. It initially appeared as if Jose Lezcano was going to go forward with him out of the gate, but he ultimately reined him in to rate, which caused Dripping Gold to get rank. This horse can be a little high strung by nature, so fighting him probably didn’t help matters. All things considered, he did well to get up for third, just missing by a neck. I expect him to run well, especially if Jose Lezcano makes better use of his tactical speed from this inside draw. My top pick is another 3-year-old. Constitutionlawyer (#7) also handled the 11-furlong trip two back in a different race at this level. He got a great trip from Dylan Davis that day, right up until they got to the quarter pole. Davis tried to take the inside path, but cut things a little too close, as this horse brushed the rail multiple times just as he was making his move, costing himself valuable momentum. One could argue he might have won that race if not for the incident, and he was probably meeting a better field that day. He was certainly meeting a better group of horses last time in the Hill Prince, when he ran well to finish a narrowly beaten fifth, just a half-length out of second-place. He’s really come to hand as a turf horse recently, I don’t mind this rider switch to Joel Rosario. The one other horse I would want to use at a much bigger price is Hail to Thee (#9). This lightly raced gelding may simply not be good enough, but he had no chance in his lone prior attempt against winners last time, when he reacted very badly to getting put in tight quarters soon after the start. His debut was impressive, and he strikes me as one that will want to run all day.


Potential favorite Steady On (#8) has looked like a different horse ever since stretching out around two turns. However, he has benefited from great trips in both recent victories. He got to set a slow pace when breaking his maiden two back, in a race where the runner-up was a little unlucky. Then last time he was stalking the pace while riding an advantageous rail path in a race dominated by horses who raced inside. He earned a massive 117 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that performance, and a repeat of that number makes him the horse to beat. However, he’s going to be a short price, especially with Irad Ortiz riding, and he still has some questions to answer at this level. I much prefer Todd Pletcher’s other runner Grand Sonata (#2). This colt drops out of a series of graded stakes attempts, and may just be landing in the right spot. With the exception of a poor effort in the Saratoga Derby, he’s been pretty consistent throughout his 3-year-old season. He got a good trip in the Hill Prince last time, though he did angle off an advantageous rail path in upper stretch to make a run down the center of the course. He has once again lucked out at the post position draw, and figures to be running late if any pace develops up front. The horse who hit the wire with him in the Hill Prince, Wicked Fast (#5), is also one to consider. He got a great ride from Trevor McCarthy that day, as he just hugged the rail into the stretch, cutting the corner before slicing through traffic late. He ultimately ran out of ground, though I thought Grand Sonata ran a little better overall. Wicked Fast is obviously doing well since getting claimed by Mike Maker over the summer. Though, his deep-closing style does make him more pace dependent than some others.

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