Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, February 17


This $20k claimer looks fairly wide open, as none of the short prices stands on solid ground. Blue Paynt (#3) may be the default public choice as she drops down in class out of a series of tougher races. She ran well in her first couple of starts on this circuit late last year for Mertkan Kantarmaci, but she’s since gone the wrong way. I generally want to be skeptical of horses like this, who seem to be dropping out of necessity rather than intention to win. The good news is that she is getting the chance to stretch back out in distance, as she seems more comfortable at this one-mile trip. There are other class droppers to consider, but most of them aren’t in great form. Vallarand (#2) at least seems like she belongs at this level after winning a $25k conditioned claimer two starts ago. They got a little too ambitious off the claim with her last time, as she wasn’t competitive with a tougher starter allowance field. She’s running back on short rest, but is now in a more realistic spot. My top pick is Mariah’s Fortune (#5). She’s another who has competed cheaply before and may have just been placed over head in some recent starts. She had little chance in an open N1X race when last seen on this circuit in October. Since then she’s competed twice at Parx, where Rudy Rodriguez doesn’t have much success. She ran fine two back but then was never involved last time while riding the rail on a day when that might not have been the best place to be. She’s now placed at an appropriate level, and the TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting that she’s quick enough to make the early lead. Rudy Rodriguez is 13 for 52 (25%, $2.46 ROI) with horses going from allowance to claiming races on dirt at Aqueduct over 5 years. 


Among those with experience, Refuah (#7) is clearly the one to beat. However, this 10-start maiden is a little tough to trust after having settled for minor awards in all of his recent starts. He’s finished second or third in his last 7 races. Last time he actually went favored and was in position to win at the quarter pole before deferring to the eventual winner. He’s the one to beat, but he’s hard to take on top. Among his main rivals are a pair of first time starters. The one that figures to take money is Spirit of St Louis (#3), a 4-year-old gelding going out for Chad Brown. He’s very well-bred, being a full-brother to G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Bar of Gold. It’s clearly taken him a while to get to the races, and Chad Brown is 4 for 12 (33%, $1.10 ROI) with 4-year-old and older first time starters on dirt over 5 years, with all of the winners being odds-on favorites. He makes sense, but I didn’t want to take a short price on him either. Squid Gamer (#6), the other first time starter, is a little interesting. He sports some decent workouts and is bred to go this far, being a half-brother to allowance types Klickitat and Evaluator. Yet I preferred some experienced rivals with upside. I considered Tie Breaker (#5), who switches into the capable barn of David Duggan for the first time. I wish he had done some more running in his prior starts, but he is bred to stretch out. My top pick is Olympic Dreams (#1). This horse barely lifted on a hoof in his turf debut last year, but he’s not even bred for that surface. He seems like one that’s taken a while to mature, but he did show some signs of life off the layoff switching to dirt last time for Pat Quick. Though he finished behind a few rivals he meets again here, he got a very wide trip and traveled well into the race before tiring late. He didn’t look totally fit for that return and may have more to offer here with a start under his belt. It’s also a good sign that Dylan Davis keeps the mount for a barn that doesn’t always use high profile riders.


I’m not trying to beat Complete Agenda (#1), who just appears to have found the right field as he drops back down in class. I won’t fault him for losing to Curbstone the last time he was in for a tag back in December, as that rival returned to win again with a 113 TimeformUS Speed Figure. Complete Agenda subsequently beat a better field of starter allowance foes going this distance, making a sustained run from far back. Linda Rice then attempted to wheel him back in 7 days against a tougher field of open N1X rivals. The pace didn’t work out as well, as the race was dominated on the front end. Furthermore, he didn’t get a particularly savvy ride from apprentice Maddy Olver, as he got steadied leaving the backstretch when attempting to launch a rally before going wide on the turn. He’s better than that, and is now dropping down into a realistic spot. There isn’t a ton of pace signed on here, but horses like Irish Exit and Fromanothamutha figure to show some initiative early. The likely favorite’s main rival appears to be Doctor Love (#2). He was beaten by Complete Agenda in that Jan. 7 race, but ran nearly as well in defeat after contesting an honest pace. That was a pretty game effort, but I didn’t think he ran as well in his next start. He got a favorable pace setup in that Jan. 20 race but failed to capitalize, unable to sustain a rally in the late stages. He was perhaps negatively affected by staying inside in a race that featured an outside flow. He does get a rider upgrade to Manny Franco, and feels like the horse with the best chance of causing a minor upset. 

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