Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, December 16

RACE 3: OUTASITE (#2)

I have no argument that Cees Get Degrees (#5) is the horse to beat as he makes his first start on the NYRA circuit. He’s been in excellent form recently, particularly since getting back on dirt in Kentucky this fall. The horse he defeated two back, Mr. Thunderstruck, returned to win his next start, improving his TimeformUS Speed Figure by 8 points. And last time he got run down by a pretty talented rival in what may have been a tougher race at this level. However, I am mildly concerned about the barn change, since David Jacobson is getting this horse from Jonathan Wong, who wins at a high rate. He also has plenty of other speed to deal with in this spot, including a few rivals who may have a bit more upside. Cousin Andrew (#4) figures to take some money once again after he was beaten as the favorite last time against claimers. He didn’t get the most comfortable trip that day, having to pause briefly at the quarter pole before rallying between rivals. He will appreciate any pace that develops up front, and he did win over a sloppy track at Saratoga in July. The likelihood of a wet track could be a concern for my top pick, Outasite (#2). This horse got run down when he returned from a layoff at this level last time. However, he had a right to need a start after having not raced in 9 months. He traveled well until the top of the stretch before just getting tired when put to pressure late. I think he’ll be fitter this time, and I don’t mind the rider switch to apprentice Madison Olver. He gets some weight off, and he seems like a horse who responds to a lighter touch, not requiring particularly strong encouragement when he has his mind on running. The pace is a concern, but at least he figures to be a fair price.

RACE 5: CAIRO SUGAR (#1)

It’s pretty obvious that Silver Skillet (#2) is a deserving favorite in this relatively weak NY-bred maiden event. She showed some potential despite settling for minor awards in her first couple of starts sprinting. She made a few moves before flattening out while racing greenly in her debut, and then was hindered by a somewhat tardy start next time. They took a shot in the Maid of the Mist Stakes last time and she was hardly disgraced despite proving no match for the top two finishers. She held off Gambling Girl for third, and that one returned to finish third in the G2 Demoiselle. If she’s going to get beat, I think it could happen from the front end. Cairo Sugar (#1) is an intriguing new face as she ship in from Parx. This filly was quite green in her first couple of starts, especially two back when she was lugging in badly through the lane. The addition of blinkers seemed to straighten her out last time when she switched into a new barn. She also appeared to appreciate the stretch-out in distance, as she battled on gamely all the way to the wire after getting headed in upper stretch. She is arguably stepping up in class despite trying state-bred company for the first time. Yet, that recent 80 TimeformUS Speed Figure puts her in the mix. Furthermore, trainer Alan Bedard sent out a 57-1 winner at Aqueduct in November using this rider. The one runner stretching out that I would want to use somewhere is Lavon (#3). She obviously has to run faster, but she’s been staying on well at the end of her sprints, and she’s out of a dam who was a dirt route specialist.

RACE 7: FUNNY JOKE (#1)

Printrack (#2) is the horse to beat and catch as he seeks to extend his run of good form since getting claimed by trainer Michelle Nevin. In addition to showing improved speed for this barn, he’s also displayed a newfound tenacity in each of his last two starts. He refused to yield when challenged through the stretch two back at Aqueduct. And last time he grudgingly gave way in the last eighth after setting a very fast pace. On TimeformUS Speed Figures, he actually improved to a 107 last time despite settling for second. A repeat of that performance will make him tough to beat, and it’s a good sign that he showed he can handle a sloppy track that day, as he’s likely to encounter similar going here on Friday. The main concern for Printrack is that there is other speed in this field to push him on the front end once again. One horse who should be attending the pace is Good Skate (#5). He’s not as fast as the favorite, but he did earn a competitive speed figure at Saratoga two back. His first start off the claim for new connections last time was disappointing, but he had little chance going 9 furlongs at the N1X level. I like the turnback and slight drop in class, and will be using him. My top pick is Funny Joke (#1). He’s another who is a little light on speed figures compared to Printrack, but I think he can do better here. I didn’t love the trip he got last time when he was just glued to the rail throughout in a race won by a horse who closed outside. That was also a pretty strong $35k claimer and I don’t think he’s meeting a much tougher field despite stepping up off the claim. Most notably, Rob Atras has claimed this horse for Michael Dubb, and they are 6 for 12 (50%, $3.31 ROI) first off the claim together over the past 5 years. He’s also getting this horse from a pair of trainers, Rudy Rodriguez and Orlando Noda, who have been in some slumps recently, whereas the Atras barn has been sending out many live runners lately.

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