Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Sunday, February 5


Likely favorite Check Engine Light (#1A) showed some promise in her career debut last summer at Saratoga, closing belatedly for fifth behind the highly-touted Prank. She returned from the layoff in December and just didn’t seem comfortable racing inside of horses on the far turn, appearing to get discouraged after getting put in tight quarters in the stretch. That might not be an issue on the stretch-out, but I am a little concerned that race she’s exiting might not be that strong. The winner and runner-up returned to regress in their subsequent starts by 10 and 33 TimeformUS Speed Figure points, respectively. She’s a contender, but perhaps not the most appealing option at a short price. Balpool (#5) is a horse that I was interested in when she was entered to make her second start sprinting back on January 15, but she was a vet scratch that day. I’m a little concerned about the stretch-out to a mile as she now targets this one-mile maiden event instead. Her debut was better than the result indicates, as she got off to a rough start, breaking slowly and getting bumped. She actually did well to make some progress through the lane after racing a bit greenly, since that race didn’t feature much pace. Rob Atras doesn’t have the best statistics with second time starters, so I’m inclined to explore other options. My top pick is Tryinmyheartout (#3). She actually took some money on debut, going off at 7-2 in a race that featured plenty of interesting first time starters. She maintained contact with the leaders on the backstretch, but couldn’t keep up on the turn, dropping out of contention by the quarter pole. However, she didn’t completely throw in the towel, and was staying on well at the end with big, steady strides. I get the impression that added distance is really going to be this filly’s friend. The dam won going a mile and is a 3/4-sister to G1 Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A. P. Additionally, her second dam Hollywood Story was a multiple G1-winning dirt router. She gets a rider upgrade and I’m expecting a much better effort.


Likely favorite Sheriff Bianco (#6) looks pretty formidable based on his recent set of speed figures. Ever since switching back over to dirt for Linda Rice, he’s been on quite a run, reeling off three victories in a row before just missing at this level last time. Despite losing that recent race, he seemed to handle the step up in class, taking a good run at winner Pirate Rick, who came back to win again. The big question for him is the stretch-out in distance. His best half-sibling is Never Gone South, who was stakes-placed going a mile but was a bit better sprinting. Linda Rice is 10 for 44 (23%, $2.17 ROI) with non-maidens making their first route attempt on dirt over 5 years. He’s the one to beat, but there are some other viable options who are proven at the distance. Main rival Winit (#3) can be his own worst enemy, as he tends to break sluggishly from the gate and often proceeds to get rank soon after. Kendrick Carmouche had seemingly figured him out in his recent starts, but he won’t be riding on this occasion, just announced to be off his mounts for 3 to 4 weeks. It’s also a concern that Kimmel now decides to add blinkers, which could work against a horse that already tends to get keen. I’m going in a different direction with Uncle Moonlight (#2). This 6-year-old had really come into form in the middle of 2022. He ran deceptively well off the layoff on Apr. 22 when against a track bias before breaking through his N1X condition with a commanding score on Belmont Stakes Day. That effort earned a career-best 119 TimeformUS Speed Figure, though he may have been a bit aided by the track profile early in the day. While it’s not a great sign that he went to the sidelines in his best form, his return last month for these same conditions wasn’t so bad. He contested an honest pace that came apart and battled back pretty gamely through the stretch for fourth. He has a right to do better second off the layoff and the price should be fair.


Golden Code (#5) could go favored here as he returns from a lengthy layoff for Todd Pletcher. This colt showed some ability here last winner when breaking his maiden by over 10 lengths before finishing a good third in the Grade 3 Gotham. However, he failed to handle a stretch-out in distance in the Wood Memorial and now hasn’t been seen since. Todd Pletcher is 15 for 68 (22%, $1.38 ROI) with horses off layoffs of 180 days or more going from routes to sprints on dirt. I won’t be surprised when he runs well, but I didn’t need to default to him at a short price. Another runner who could take money from a powerful barn is Tin Pan Alley (#2). He returns from a similar layoff for Chad Brown after putting in a dull effort as the favorite in the Mike Lee last year. I’m just a little skeptical of this runner’s overall quality, since the maiden race that he won last March hasn’t proven to be quite as strong as it might have seemed at the time. The “now” horse in this field is My Man Matty (#6), who steps up against winners for the first time. This lightly raced 5-year-old took a while to get to the races, but he ran into a very good rival on debut and moved forward last time when beating winners. He fits from a speed figure standpoint and merits respect. My top pick is Writer’s Regret (#7). He comes out of a race at this level last month won by Warrior’s Revenge, has won 8 of his last 9 starts. No one was in the same league as that rival, but I thought this 5-year-old battled on gamely for second after stalking the pace. That was his return from a layoff and he has a right to step forward in his second start back. He’s always most dangerous when he can make use of his early speed and he’s drawn well outside of his main pace rivals. Trainer Ralph D’Alessandro can fly under the radar at Aqueduct, and is 20 for 163 (12%, $3.80 ROI) on dirt here over the past 5 years. 

This entry was posted in Race Previews. Bookmark the permalink.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s