RACE 5: MOVIE MOXY (#4)
Melting Snow (#1) figures to go favored as she seeks her fourth victory in a row, this time off the claim for trainer Charlton Baker. The barn has had recent success with this move, but I think this mare’s form is a little dressed up. She was beating much weaker fields for cheap claiming prices in December and January, and then last time was arguably a little disappointing despite getting the job done as the 4-5 favorite. She does look like the controlling speed from the inside, but this is a significant step up in class and I think she’s going to be overbet. Her obvious rivals appear to be Mia Bea Star (#3) and My Sweet Wife (#7). The former doesn’t win very often, but she typically shows up with a good effort and has been in solid form for Randi Persaud. My Sweet Wife hasn’t run as fast as those two, but she had been in solid form for Michelle Nevin. Yet, like the favorite, I thought she took advantage of some vulnerable fields and it’s not a guarantee that she’ll be as effective for a new barn. My top pick is Movie Moxy (#4). Her recent speed figures aren’t on par with the favorites, but there are reasons to suggest that she’s capable of turning things around here. Her last effort isn’t nearly as bad as it seems, since she threw her head at the start and left the gate lengths behind the field. She actually ran on pretty well for second considering that poor beginning, and almost surely would have won with a clean break. She was competing against weaker that day, but she’s now been claimed by Linda Rice, who confidently moves her up in class. Rice is 15 for 35 (43%, $2.49 ROI) first off the claim with horses going from sprints to routes on dirt at Aqueduct over 5 years. The barn has also been sending out nothing but live runners lately, and the price figures to be fair.
RACE 6: BIG ENGINE (#3)
I am a little concerned that scratches could alter the complexion of this race. Morning line favorite Sheriff Bianco (#4)doesn’t seem like a guarantee to participate as he wheels back in just 5 days, and it seems unlikely that David Jacobson would run both horses that he’s entered since they possess the same front-running style. Sheriff Bianco is the one to beat if he runs, since he’s been in excellent form for Linda Rice ever since switching back to dirt. Though he was beaten as the favorite here last Sunday, he actually ran one of his better races in defeat, and the cutback shouldn’t bother him. His main rival appears to be Nova Rags (#8), who will attempt to break through this level for the fifth time in a row. Recently he’s settled for second, but he’s been beaten by good horses in each of those last two starts. He will also benefit from any pace that develops up front, and it seems likely the early tempo will be fast if the race holds together. A quick pace would also benefit Linda Rice’s other entrant Big Engine (#3). He finished 6 lengths behind Nova Rags when they met here in December, but he just got too far back in the early stages. He was also trained by Rudy Rodriguez then during a time when the barn was in a slump. Now he’s been claimed by Linda Rice, who is 19 for 47 (40%, $2.81 ROI) first off the claim at Aqueduct over the past 5 months. She has had success with this horse before, and he’s run speed figures in the past for Rice that would make him very competitive against this field. As long as the race isn’t torn apart by scratches, he’s supposed to get the right setup and should be a square price.
RACE 8: BOLD JOURNEY (#7)
You have to admire a horse like Warriors Revenge (#4), who has won 8 of his last 9 starts. He proved that he’s no Finger Lakes wonder when transferring that form to Aqueduct last time. Perhaps he didn’t care for the sealed track when he initially came to this circuit two back, but he looked like a different horse last time, finishing powerfully after stalking the pace. He was flattered when runner-up Writer’s Regret came back to win last weekend with an 114 TimeformUS Speed Figure. He now moves up in class, but he fits well on speed figures and has the versatility to sit off the early leaders. Furthermore, Mark Hennig is 15 for 62 (24%, $3.00 ROI) with Windylea Farm horses at Aqueduct over 5 years. The one concern for him is that there is plenty of speed signed. Among the other pace players, More Graytful (#3) seems most intriguing. He would be tough for this field to handle if able to run back to the 114 TimeformUS Speed Figure he earned at this level over a year ago on New Year’s Day 2022. He was in great form for the Rob Atras barn back then, and he’s since gone the wrong way after a couple of claims. Yet it’s fair to say that he was overmatched at the open N2X level when he tried it twice for Michelle Giangiulio last year. He’s obviously had some issues, but is dropping to a realistic level and figures to be a fair price. My top pick is Bold Journey (#7). Some could argue that he’s been a bit of a disappointment overall, given the way he started his career last winter. However, it does feel like he’s starting to turn things around lately. He beat a weak field when he broke through the N1X condition back in November. Yet he was a commanding winner that day, and he’s actually stepped up his game since moving to this tougher level. He was simply beaten by some tough rivals in those last two starts, but did run on well after a poor start last time. He probably isn’t meeting as tough a field here, and it appears that Eric Cancel is a good fit for him with so much pace signed on.