Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, December 9

RACE 3: TEMPERMENTAL (#2)

There isn’t much compelling recent form in this race $25k conditioned claimer. Horses like Bunty Windermere (#4) andRiding On a Winner (#5) could be among the favorites, and neither one does a whole lot for me. The former is more of a turf horse, though she has run some competitive dirt races in the past. However, her biggest issue could be the 6 1/2 furlong distance, as she has pretty severe stamina limitations. Riding On a Winner also isn’t the strongest finisher, which she proved last time at Finger Lakes when she hung after appearing to have dead aim at the leader. She has faced some decent fields recently, but needs to get faster. I want to go in a different direction with Tempermental (#2). At first glance, it might appear that she’s off form. However, she really hasn’t had a fair chance in any of her recent dirt races. I’m not sure why the connections decided to stretch her out in distance over the summer as she’s run better sprinting. She was no match for a tougher field at Saratoga in August, and only finally got a chance to turn back last time. That was a tougher field for the level and she ran a lot better than it appears. She was traveling well on the turn, but the apprentice Jose Gomez made a bad decision to try to sneak through inside, where he got this filly completely stopped in traffic. Cheaper horses like this can’t regain momentum after such trouble, so I’m willing to forgive her lack of finish. Now she’s cutting back even further and is getting a rider upgrade to Dylan Davis.

RACE 7: LADY MILAGRO (#6)

This N1X allowance event strikes me as being more difficult than it appears at first glance. Some may be tempted to default to short prices with bigger speed figures, but I’m skeptical of them all. That particularly applies to Speaks for Itself (#5), who looked like a potential stakes horse when she made her debut here last April. However, that hasn’t proven to be the strongest race in retrospect, and she appeared to have retained none of that brilliance or speed when she made her return from a layoff last time. I’ll let her beat me. Pharoah’s Heart (#7) is another who could attract support as she returns from yet another layoff for new connections. This mare clearly had real ability towards the start of her career, when she earned some massive speed figures facing stakes foes in California. However, she didn’t look quite the same when she returned for a new barn last year. She did have serious traffic trouble in the stretch back in June, but she should have won her two starts prior to that. I also find it odd that she only sold for $35k to her current connections at a recent auction. Among the potential favorites, I’m most interested in Leeloo (#4), who ran well against a tough field of New York-breds in the Iroquois last time. She doesn’t need the lead and has generally been in solid form since returning from a layoff this summer. Yet I want to get a bit more creative here. Lady Milagro (#6) doesn’t look particularly competitive with this field based on her most recent efforts over the summer at Monmouth. However, she may be one of these horses that just wakes up in the winter at Aqueduct. That’s what happened last year, when she significantly improved as soon as she got to Aqueduct and maintained that form through the winter. She held well after setting a fast pace in the Ruthless, and then earned a strong 103 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that allowance win last February as a newly turned 3-year-old. She obviously needs to build on that form to contend here. Yet she’s going to be a big price, has a strong recent workout showing, and gets back Eric Cancel, who always rode her aggressively in the past.

RACE 8: SYNTHESIS (#4)

It’s hard to fault the recent form of likely favorite Amundson (#5). He comes into this race having paired up back-to-back top speed figures at the ripe age of six. He had to work hard for that $40k claiming victory two back, and didn’t get much respect from the bettors when he stepped up against N2X optional claimers last time. Yet he improved again off the claim for Linda Rice, displaying improved early speed before lasting late. The one criticism I can lodge is that he has gotten away with moderate paces in each of those last two victories, and he could face more pressure from the likes of Fire Sword here. Though, he’s drawn well outside that foe for a barn that has enjoyed a strong few months on this circuit. I’m trying to beat him with the likely second choice Synthesis (#4). This gelding would obviously be a serious threat to the favorite if he runs as well as he did when winning that N2X race in late September. He did have some things go his way that day, as he was wide throughout on a day when the rail appeared to be dead. That said, it was encouraging to see him fight back for the victory after getting headed in mid-stretch. He never really had a chance in the Fall Highweight last time as he was riding the rail taking kickback in last in a race that didn’t feature a particularly fast pace. The stretch-out to 7 furlongs should suit him, and he’s generally been in strong form ever since cutting back in distance earlier this year. I would be mildly surprised if anyone else won this race, though Market Alert (#7) has been an overachiever and could improve off the claim for Rob Atras.

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