RACE 1: REGISTER (#5)
I’m not trying to beat Register (#5) in the opener. This ridgling went off as the biggest price in his debut but arguably ran a winning race in defeat, as he had a much tougher trip than the winner. He broke well but got squeezed back to last soon after the start. He then became keen racing at the back of the pack, even running up on the leaders’ heels approaching the stretch. He briefly lost momentum when he had to wheel outside with a quarter to go, but he nevertheless finished best of all to get up for second. There’s obviously talent here, and he seems like one that should appreciate a bit of added ground. His main rivals are all first time starters. Among those I’m most afraid of the Chad Brown trained Treaty Obligation (#7), a son of excellent debut influence Maclean’s Music. The unraced dam hasn’t yet produced much, but she is a half-sister to Grade 1 turf winner Instilled Regard, and this is the female family of Heavenly Prize. Chad Brown is 14 for 52 (27%, $2.02 ROI) with first time starters in Aqueduct dirt sprints over the past 4 years. I would also use the Pletcher trainee Gotta Connect (#1). Some may view this colt skeptically due to his low purchase price, but I didn’t mind his OBS sales workout and there is some decent pedigree in the second generation of his female family.
RACE 7: SYNTHESIS (#9)
There isn’t that much speed signed on in this Grade 3 Toboggan, which makes the two front-runners in this field especially dangerous. The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring horses on or near the lead, and depicts Pirate Rick (#2) and Little Vic (#8) well clear of their rivals in the early stages. Between the two, I prefer Pirate Rick. This gelding is returning on very short rest, just 6 days after he impressively beat an optional claiming field here. Yet this is what Lynn Cash does, and he’s had success bringing horses back on short rest. Pirate Rick is in the form of his career right now, and has proven that he can be effective with the pace is fast or slow. The stretch-out to 7 furlongs is a slight concern, but he can’t be ignored in his current form. Little Vic has won at the distance, but I have some doubts about the quality of the Gravesend, which he lost by a nose. He was game to re-rally between horses that day, but I think he needs to do better here. The only horse that I really want out of the Gravesend is Three Two Zone (#1). He didn’t run his race that day, but it wouldn’t be the first time that he’s needed a start coming back off a layoff. He’s probably a bit better at the 7-furlong distance and he figures to be a much more enticing price than last time. My top pick is Synthesis (#9). He didn’t quite run his race the last time Jacobson tested him against graded stakes company in the Fall Highweight, but that race didn’t exactly flow in his favor. He was too far back early and was never put in position to make a run by Jose Ortiz. However, I like all of his surrounding races. He was on the best part of the track when he won that allowance race back in September, but I liked the grit he displayed in the last sixteenth as he fended off Happy Farm. He wasn’t beating the strongest field in his most recent victory, but I liked the way he relentlessly stayed on after a wide trip. He’s won his last 3 attempts at this 7-furlong distance, and I think Turkish jockey Gokhan Kocakaya will prove a good fit for him, since he’s aggressive and this horse needs a strong ride. The David Jacobson runners have generally been running well over the past month or so, and he used to be very dangerous with these types of horses.
RACE 9: AMERICAN GRANT (#1)
Bourbon Chase (#3) has well in all four starts, but remains a maiden despite going off at short prices each time. He was touted on debut when he got run down at 4-5, and that was a just a preview of things to come. To his credit, he has been beaten by some legitimate rivals along the way. However, he didn’t have much of an excuse last time when just hanging in the late stages going this distance. Todd Pletcher is a trainer who tends to get these types to break through pretty early, so it’s a negative when they continue to fall short. I nevertheless slightly prefer him to the other horse who will take money, Factually Correct (#5). This speedy colt put in a big effort two back when checking in third behind the talented duo of Mariachi and subsequent stakes winner General Banker. However, I thought he was supposed to win last time when getting run down by a first time starter. His speed figures suggest he’s faster than Bourbon Chase, but now he’s stretching out an extra furlong to try the mile, and it’s unclear if added ground benefits him. Plus Rudy Rodriguez barn has been struggling to post wins so far at this meet. I want to get a little more creative with the lightly raced American Grant (#1). This gelding was off a bit slowly and lacked speed on debut, but was staying on late while no match for a runaway winner. The result was similar in his second start, where he also displayed a bit of greenness, trying to lug in through the stretch. Dylan Davis rode him pretty tentatively late, but the horse did gallop out well past the wire. He’s a big son of Commissioner who gives the impression that added ground will help him. I also think the addition of blinkers will help a horse who I suspect has more natural talent than he’s yet displayed in the afternoon.