Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Thursday, January 19

RACE 5: DOUBLE SHOT (#6)

It’s hard to trust anyone in this New York-bred $25k claimer, as most of the contenders have seen better days. That’s particularly true of Microsecond (#4), who returns from a lengthy layoff for Rudy Rodriguez while switching back to dirt. He actually did run decently on dirt early in his career, and actually debuted sprinting for Rudy, but he’s particularly hard to trust in this spot. I would also be quite skeptical of Quickflash (#2) as he’s been claimed away from Natalia Lynch, for whom he had most of his success, and makes his first start off the claim for the low-percentage Cleveland Johnson. Yet at least Johnson is running him back on very short rest, in hopes of achieving a similar performance to the one he put forth for Lynch just 7 days ago. I’m not completely against him, but I have trouble taking a short price on him. There appears to be plenty of speed in this race, as at least half the runners in this field do their best work when they’re forwardly placed. That should work to the benefit for Rudy Rodriguez’s other entrant Masked Marauder (#8), who is cutting back to the right distance after trying two turns at Parx last time. I don’t love his overall form, as he did beat a weaker field two back, but he could get the right trip. My top pick is Double Shot (#6), who is another that would appreciate some pace up front. I’m encouraged that Chris Englehart is moving him up in class off the claim even though he might appear to be going off form. His recent efforts aren’t quite as bad as they look, since he got left at the start two back and then was too aggressively ridden when making an early move along the rail last time. He’s better when he can drop back and make one run, and that’s how Eric Cancel figures to pilot him here. These two have had a good rapport in the past. Double Shot has won at this level before and he typically handles wet tracks. 

RACE 6: CAERUS (#3)

I’m reticent to take a short price on likely favorite Ragtime Blues (#5), who is dropping in class as he makes his first start off the claim for Linda Rice. This barn has been pretty potent off the claim recently, but I take it as a negative sign that Rice is dropping this horse in for $20k after picking him up for $32k last time. He just narrowly lost that last race, though I didn’t think he had much of an excuse, as he got away with moderate fractions before getting run down late. This is a softer spot, but I’m a bit skeptical that he recapture the form that we saw from him in the second half of last year. I have similar questions about Mi Tres Por Ciento (#2), who earned some flashy speed figures off the claim by Jeffrey Englehart last summer. Yet he didn’t run well last time at Parx and is now dropping in for a tag as he returns from a layoff. This barn has poor statistics off layoffs of any kind and I’m a little concerned that he may revert to being the cheaper animal we saw early last year. I’m more interested in a couple of rivals at bigger prices. F F Rocket (#6) seems pretty logical as he drops back into a claiming race. He ran well at this level last fall before his connections got a little ambitious in starter allowance company. His last effort isn’t as bad as it seems, and he figures to be a square price. My top pick is Caerus (#3). This horse is getting a notable trainer switch away from Bonnie Lucas, whose runners have struggled to be effective on this circuit over the past several months. On the other hand, new trainer Randi Persaud has been enjoying one of the most successful periods of his career, so this feels like a significant upgrade. Caerus didn’t run that badly at a similar level a few weeks ago and he has plenty of back races that would give him a shot here if Persaud can rekindle some of that form.

RACE 7: GAGETOWN (#1A)

Chad Brown holds a pretty strong hand in this N2X allowance optional claimer. Dr Ardito (#2) is the slightly more accomplished of his two runners, having won 4 starts in a row after finishing second in his career debut. Yet he’s also had some pretty significant layoffs during that streak and comes into this race off an 8-month break. That alone isn’t reason to be too skeptical, as Brown has fantastic statistics off layoffs of this type. The turnback in distance is a minor concern, but he is bred to go shorter and seems like one that should be well suited to this 7-furlong distance. I slightly prefer him to stablemate Nabokov (#6), who has the recency edge. He comes off a career-best 112 TimeformUS Speed Figure performance, and he’s won going this 7-furlong distance before. Yet I thought he was supposed to win last time when he had dead aim on the leader and just seemed to hang in the late stages. Among the short prices, I’d much rather take the Brown pair than the Pletcher-trained Saint Tapit (#8). Perhaps shortening back up to sprints will wake him up, but I’m concerned that he’s completely failed to show up in two of his last three starts. He does run like a horse that may prefer less ground, but he’s also never really progressed since his brilliant debut effort and will take money based on his pedigree and reputation. I want to go in a different direction in my search for value. While I normally try to avoid endorsing entries, I like Gagetown (#1A) as the stronger half of the Lynn Cash pair, and I don’t think his entrymate is going to drive down the price too much. This horse has plenty of back class, having won a stakes as a 3-year-old before placing behind talented runners Stilleto Boy and Flash of Mischief. He didn’t hit the board in his first start off the claim for Lynn Cash, but I thought he ran pretty well within the context of the race, rated behind a slow pace in tight quarters early. This is the kind of runner that can do well in the Cash stable over time, if not first off the claim. I like that he’s named a local rider in Jose Gomez and think we’re going to see a step forward at what should be a fair price.

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