Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, January 6


I suppose Vallarand (#4) is the horse to beat as she drops back down in class after trying a slightly tougher $35k conditioned claimer last time. She’s been in solid form since switching into the barn of Rob Atras, twice finishing second at this distance. She was perhaps a little unlucky when she finished off the board two back, as she didn’t get the best trip that day. I don’t have a major problem with her, and view her as a deserving favorite. I much prefer her to a runner like She Caught My Eye (#2), who beat a weak field when she won in the mud last time. This is a much tougher spot, and she hasn’t exactly shown herself to have the strongest constitution, sometimes failing to show up at all against more advanced foes. I want to go in a different direction with some runners who have had more experience. Gagliano (#5) is a little hard to trust from a win standpoint, since she’s won just twice in 39 starts. Yet she is in the best form of her career right now, having registered a dominant victory two back before closing for third at a higher level last time. She has a chance to rebound on the class drop. My top pick is Miss Chamita (#6), who possesses a similar running style. She lacks some early speed, but is generally finishing well at the end of her races. I thought she put in a nice effort to just miss two back with a solid speed figure. And last time she didn’t get the best ride from her 10-pount apprentice pilot, going very wide on the turns against a much stronger field than this. She’s getting appropriate class relief for a trainer who has shipped some live runners to the circuit.


I’ll be interested to see how the public approaches this New York-bred optional claimer, as I had a very tough time making a morning line for this race. I suppose Full Moon Fever (#3) could attract support off his victory at the N1X level last time. However, I have some doubts about that 107 TimeformUS Speed Figure that he earned, which were validated when runner-up Simply failed to run back to that effort on Thursday. I do think this 5-year-old is in strong form right now, and Mark Hennig has generally done well with these Windylea Farm horses, sporting a positive ROI for that owner over the last 5 years. Yet I want to go with runners who already have experience at this level. Six Percent (#8) may have been facing a tougher field when he finished third at this level in October. Both Curlin’s Wisdom and the filly Truancy are talented New York-breds, and he took a good run at them in the stretch before settling for third. Yet the time away since that start is a slight concern. Wild Banker (#1) comes off a victory in a similar spot last time, and is back in for the $45k tag here. Yet he got a great trip that day, sitting off a fast early pace before wearing down the leaders in the stretch. He’s handled a one-turn mile in the past, so I’m not that concerned about the cutback in distance. Yet I prefer one of the horses who finished just behind him that day. Baldizar (#9) is the most lightly raced member of this field, and is one of the few in here who still has some upside. I wouldn’t put much stock in his modest speed figure for that allowance victory two back, as he was always well in hand while coasting to victory. He stepped up his game last time, earning a career-best 108 TimeformUS figure. However, he wasn’t able to withstand early pressure going the 9 furlongs in a race where all of the fractions are color-coded red. While Heman Harkie didn’t make any major mistakes riding him that day, I thought he may have let this horse do a little too much in the early going. I like the slight turnback in distance for him, and I believe Jose Lezcano can work out a smoother trip from this outside draw. The other horse that I want to use prominently is Advanced Strategy (#5). He’s making his first start off the claim for Linda Rice, who is 13 for 29 (45%, $3.12 ROI) with this move over the past 3 months. He’s run his best speed figures on the turf recently, but he’s handled dirt in the past and should appreciate stretching back out after trying 6 furlongs last time.

RACE 9: WINIT (#5)

I don’t have a major knock against Curlin’s Wisdom (#9), who has just been in great form ever since breaking his maiden. He’s finished in the exacta in each of his last 6 starts, winning 4 times, while improving his speed figures on almost every occasion. He lost to today’s rival I Am the Law (#4) two back going 9 furlongs, but he rebounded from that defeat last time, showing that he possessed the sharpness to handle the cutback to today’s one-mile distance. A repeat of that last performance will make this Linda Rice trainee awfully tough for this field to handle, and he’s drawn well on the outside once again. Yet I think Winit (#5) is every bit as talented as the favorite and has the best chance to upset at a slightly better price. The biggest concern for this horse is the trip, since he can be a bit of a goofball. He tends to break slowly and get rank in his races, often ignoring his rider’s cues. That propensity to break slowly makes it difficult for him to be effective in two-turn routes, where the field goes directly into a turn. That said, he still ran better than his fourth-place results might indicate in both that Sep. 29 allowance and last time in the Discovery. His slow starts are not as much of an issue gong a mile, as he has the long straightaway to get into position. Kendrick Carmouche rode him perfectly two back when he last tried this distance, and I believe a similar effort on both of their parts could get the job done here. The only other horse I want to consider is Manor House (#7), who has run well fresh before and returns from another layoff. His best efforts put him in the mix, but he is stepping up to meet a tougher field while going out for a new barn.

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