Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, December 17

RACE 2: LEDDY (#7)

Linda Rice has entered a pair of runners in this N1X allowance. Scilly Cay (#6) is the one who looks more immediately appealing off his third-place finish against starter allowance foes last month. He met a very good rival that day in Greeley and Ben, who returned to win the Fall Highweight in his subsequent start. However, the runner-up came back to regress and I wonder if that race may be a little overrated. I also find it interesting that Rice’s top stable jockey Jose Lezcano lands on her other entrant Leddy (#7) after riding both runners in their most recent starts. Leddy disappointed when he tried this level last time, but I didn’t think he got the best trip that day. He came on the track wearing front bandages for the first time (something to note on Saturday) and just seemed to react badly to drawing the inside post position. He failed to attain a forward position early and just steadily got shuffled back along the inside. He then had trouble straightening out when attempting to run through kickback in upper stretch. All things considered he didn’t run that badly, and I find it encouraging that Rice is opting not to drop him in class. He seems like a horse who does better racing outside of rivals, so this wide draw should suit him much better. He’s my top pick, but there are some others to consider. Digital Future (#3)would obviously be a serious threat if he ran back to his last performance, where he dominated a group of starter allowance foes. He clearly has some dirt ability and is thriving in the Ray Handal barn, but he could have a tougher trip coming his way with more speed signed on here. Handsome Cat (#2) is a bit more intriguing to me, as he makes his second start off the claim for David Jacobson. He was game to rally for the victory at Penn National last time. I also wouldn’t put much stock in his prior effort at Los Alamitos, since he completely botched the start, leaving the gate about 5 lengths behind the field. He’s capable on his best day and will appreciate any pace that develops up front.

RACE 6: TAPIT TRICE (#3)

Two runners exiting the Nov. 6 maiden race at this level figure to attract plenty of support here. Summer Cause (#2)achieved the better result, despite failing to take much money in his debut. He ran a pretty professional race for a newcomer, quickly getting into a stalking position and making a far turn move to briefly challenge the leader before settling for second. He’s a good-looking colt who appears to have some real ability, but I prefer Tapit Trice (#3). He finished behind Summer Cause in his debut, but arguably ran just as well as that foe. He got away to a tardy start, but advanced willingly into the far turn despite racing in heavy traffic. He ultimately found room between horses in the stretch, lengthening his stride nicely once in the clear. He then proceeded to gallop out past the top two soon after the wire. This expensive son of Tapit could be a potential stakes horse for next year if he continues developing. He has the pedigree to back him, being out of a 3/4-sister to BC Juvenile Fillies winner Jaywalk. Furthermore, Todd Pletcher is 24 for 61 (39%, $2.15 ROI) with maiden second time starters making their second route attempt on dirt over the past 5 years. I also have some interest in another second time starter, Slip Mahoney (#6), who stretches out in distance. He did well to make a few moves during his debut and only hit his best stride late after switching leads in mid-stretch. He seems like one that is cut out to relish more ground, by Arrogate out of the Grade 1 Spinster winner Got Lucky. Brad Cox can sometimes get overbet in these situations, but I expect this horse to take a step forward.

RACE 9: BUSTINO SANTINO (#2)

The main source of value in this Great White Way division of the NYSS is to play against Vacation Dance (#11). He figures to vie for favoritism off a couple of superior turf efforts, but he’s never run on dirt before and has more of a grass pedigree on the dam’s side. I just never want to take horses like this at short prices, and his presence will drive up the odds on a few others. Jackson Heights (#1) is probably the horse to beat off his victory at this distance in the Bertram F. Bongard. He was a huge price that day off mediocre form coming in, and didn’t exactly run to the same level in the Sleepy Hollow next time out. That said, he was somewhat compromised by a slow pace last time, and he appears to find himself in a more favorable situation here. I’m not against him, but I do think there are a few maidens in this field who have real chances to be effective at better prices. My top pick is second time starter Bustino Santino (#2). This gelding by Bustin Stones took money to be 6-1 on debut and showed ability despite completely blowing the start. He broke a step slowly and was bumped hard between horses, putting him far behind the field in the early going. He didn’t get to do any serious running until the stretch, but put in a nice late rally to get up for third when asked. His dam was a router, so I don’t mind the slight stretch-out in distance. He also isn’t catching the toughest field for this kind of race, so I don’t mind the step up in class. The other maiden that I want to use is Zapruder (#5). He’s wheeling back on short rest after competing just 9 days ago, but I thought he showed that dirt might be his preferred surface that day. This horse had hinted at having some ability in his turf debut when he only hit his best stride in the last quarter mile after racing greenly. He was again unprofessional in his second start, but I liked the way he made up ground on the turn before flattening out late. He now gets blinkers and will appreciate any pace that develops.

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