Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Thursday, December 1

RACE 7: SWEET MYSTERY (#9)

I’m taking a stand against likely favorite Know It All Audrey (#7) here. She’s obviously in great form right now as she seeks her fourth victory in her last 5 career starts. However, she’s also benefited from great trips in a few of those races, particularly her last two victories. She got to stalk a slow pace two back when beating an inferior field over 7 furlongs. And last time she just controlled on the front end over another soft field for that level. She’s getting a serious class test as she moves into this far more competitive N2X allowance, and she doesn’t figure to offer much value with Irad Ortiz aboard. I much prefer her main rival Sweet Mystery (#9). She was the last filly to beat Know It All Audrey, having done so on Oct. 9. She tried to stretch out around two turns in the Empire Distaff last time, but she probably doesn’t want to go that far. That was also a tougher spot than this, and she didn’t have the best trip. She got shuffled back heading into the clubhouse turn and then was a little keen racing out of position down the backstretch. She made a decent move into contention on the far turn before flattening out. She figures to benefit from the turnback and I just think she’s more naturally talented than the favorite. I would also use some of the runners drawn towards the inside. Caragate (#3) finished just ahead of Sweet Mystery in the Empire Distaff last time, but she probably appreciated that longer distance a bit more. She can compete on the drop but does have to raise her speed figures slightly. I would even use Bustin Bay (#2), who didn’t get the best trip when shuffled in traffic behind a slow pace last time. She did run a big race going this distance back in August at Saratoga and will be a fair price this time.

RACE 8: FAR AWAY LOVE (#3)

I acknowledge that Missy Greer (#4) is the horse to beat as she seeks to make it two wins in a row on dirt. However, she had all the best of it last time when setting a moderate pace over a sloppy track that she clearly relished. That seemed like a stronger field than it turned out to be, as one of her main rivals Spiked failed to handle the surface, and others have come back to run poorly out of that race. She could be the controlling pacesetter once again, but I need her to prove it to me at a much shorter price this time. Among the expected short prices, I much prefer Tap the Faith (#5). I’ve like this filly all along, though her development did seem to stall earlier this year when competing over wet tracks in the spring. She showed some signs of life at Monmouth two back, and then took a big step forward off the layoff last time, rallying for third into a slow pace. I still would have liked to see her finish up through the wire with a bit more enthusiasm, but she had done plenty of work prior to that point. She has a right to step forward second off the layoff and still has upside at the end of her 3-year-old season. My top pick is the horse who finished just behind Tap the Faith last time. Far Away Love (#3) was also compromised by the slow pace, as her rider elected not to use her early speed after she broke a step slowly. Many horses who worked out her trip, riding the rail taking kickback, would have thrown in the towel. Yet she continued to battle on down inside and was actually finishing better than Tap the Faith across the wire. That last performance represented progression from her U.S. debut, and I think she can move forward again here. She has more early speed than she’s shown in either start in this country and I would like to see Junior Alvarado get a little more aggressive with her here. I believe she’s as talented as anyone in this field but just needs to get more involved early.

RACE 9: SPECTATORLESS (#5)

I imagine that Voliero (#4) will take money on the big drop in class. Yet he’s a total unknown on the dirt and will take money off superior turf speed figures. The Jose Camejo barn looked pretty dangerous coming into this meet but their runners have underperformed lately. Camejo is just 7 for 43 (16%, $0.92 ROI) over the past two months, and 3 for 19 at Aqueduct during that time. If this one is a short price, I want to look elsewhere. I don’t have a major knock against Forever Wicked (#3), who has just been in solid form lately. Randi Persaud has actually been having a pretty good few months by his standards, and this gelding has continued to run well for the barn. He’s dropping down to the right level and has landed in a race that appears to feature some pace. I prefer him to Russian to Win (#10), who could also take money off some competitive speed figures at Gulfstream. He’s surely not impossible, but I thought others were more interesting. My top pick is Spectatorless (#5). At first glance, it might seem that this runner’s form is heading in the wrong direction. However, I can easily make excuses for his recent losses. He blew the start two back, robbing him of any chance he might have had. Then last time he again broke a bit slowly, but proceeded to rush up through the field to take the lead through some fast early fractions. He paid the price late, but nevertheless ran a lot better than the result indicates. Now he’s getting a subtle but significant rider upgrade to Romero Maragh and dropping to a more appropriate class level.

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