Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, January 14

RACE 3: DANGEROUS EDGE (#5)

I expect Awesome Native (#7) to be a heavy favorite in this N1X allowance after winning his debut convincingly in December. He’s obviously the horse to beat, but the Jorge Abreu barn usually has its first time starters ready to fire their best shots on debut. His numbers are decent, but not quite as potent with second time starters, especially on dirt. He also was sitting right on top of a slow pace first time out and he could find himself chasing a much quicker early tempo this time. The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, with 6 horses shown ahead of Awesome Native in the early going. I won’t be surprised when he wins again, but I didn’t want to settle for a short price on him. Some may consider the Rudy Rodriguez entry as an alternative, but these types of couplings are often bad value. Between the two, I slightly prefer Major Spin (#2), who didn’t run that badly after blowing the start last time. He has some prior races that give him a chance, but this is a step up in class. My top pick is Dangerous Edge (#5). This horse has been pretty consistent ever since getting claimed by Rob Atras last year. He hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since winning two in a row against weaker company last summer, but he’s run well in his recent starts at this level. While his recent form might not suggest that shorter is betting, I actually like him getting the slight turnback to sprint distances. The last time he tried 7 furlongs he had little chance to close into a slow pace. Now he’s returning from a freshening at a time when the Atras barn has been hot, and he’s supposed to get a favorable pace setup.

RACE 7: LIAM’S FIRE (#3)

There is no shortage of early speed in this starter allowance affair, and the quickest of them all in the early going may be Ikigai (#6). This runner put in a big effort last time, as he set an honest pace and nearly hung on after taking a big lead into the stretch. However, now he could face early pressure from the likes of Upper Level (#4), who is always contesting the pace, and Fast N Fearious (#1), who has the speed to be involved when he breaks cleanly. I do think Ikigai is most dangerous of those who will be vying for the front end, but I prefer some rivals who can come from off the pace. The most logical of those is Blinding Light (#2). He’s not a deep closer, but he can be effective from mid-pack. I didn’t love his last effort when he was no match for Digital Future as the odds-on favorite, but that race did feature a slow pace that may have worked against him. My top pick is Liam’s Fire (#3). This horse was seemingly being given a race for fitness off the layoff when he was competing in that $12,500 claimer for the waiver, so I don’t want to hold that performance against him. He showed significant improvement last time on the cutback in distance, and I do think he’s generally shown himself to be a better sprinter. He put in a strong rally from off the pace last time, and he figures to get a similar setup once again. Some may dismiss him due to connections, but Amira Chichackly won a race yesterday and jockey Katie Davis has been riding well with limited opportunities.

RACE 9: WATASHA (#11)

I’m playing against likely favorite Patient Capital (#5). I don’t quite buy the sudden improvement that he showed last time at this level. He had a lot working in his favor that day, as he got to enjoy an uncontested early lead in a race where the pace completely held together. I think he’s better judged off his prior form, and those races hardly make him a standout here. There appears to be more speed for him to deal with this time, as longshots Mauritius (#1) and Chowda (#6) both figure to get aggressive rides. The other horse who figures to take money is Money Supply (#3), but I’m also skeptical of his chances. He got a great trip when sent off as the 9-5 favorite in the other division of that Dec. 18 allowance race, but he failed to produce a late kick in the stretch. I think he’s better at shorter distances than this, and he figures to be an underlay for popular connections. My top pick is Watasha (#11). He competed in that same race as Patient Capital last time, and finished 7 lengths behind that foe. Yet Watasha didn’t get the best ride that day, as he was rated off that slow pace, and only asked for his best once the leaders had gotten away from the pack. He’s better when he’s ridden more aggressively, and I would imagine that the connections will be looking for him to get into a better position from this far outside post. It’s only his second attempt at a mile, but he’s bred to go this far and actually finished well last time considering the situation. I also want to use some closers at bigger prices who could get in the mix from off the pace. Complete Agenda (#2) is returning just 7 days after winning a starter allowance race going this distance. Yet Linda Rice is 6 for 20 (30%, $2.97 ROI) with last-out winners returning in 5 to 10 days in Aqueduct dirt races over the past 5 years. He has plenty of prior efforts that make him competitive against this field. I would even use longshot Royal Tryst (#7), who was actually closing best of all in the other division of that Dec. 18 allowance race. He didn’t run as well in the slop last time, but he should appreciate the turnback in distance to a one-turn mile.

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