Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, February 18


The favorites have a definite speed figure advantage in this optional claimer. Sheriff Bianco (#3) looks like the fastest horse coming into this after earning TimeformUS Speed Figures ranging from 113 up to 118 in his last four starts. He regressed slightly when losing at this level last time, but he was being asked to get a mile that day, the farthest he’s ever gone in his career. Now he’s cutting back to a more appropriate distance for the dangerous Linda Rice barn. His main rival appears to be Nabokov (#1), who also sports some strong speed figures. He most recently earned a career-best 114 TimeformUS number last time out when just missing at this level. He arguably ran the best race that day, surviving an early pace duel before just succumbing to his late-running stablemate. King Angelo (#2) is also not without a chance, though he was soundly beaten by Sheriff Bianco two back. However, he didn’t make use of his early speed that day and was finishing well in the stretch once steered into the clear. They’re all win candidates, but I’m going to get a little more creative with Monday Morning Qb (#4). We’ve seen these Lynn Cash horses outrun their odds on a number of occasions this winter, as many of them seem to improve on the NYRA circuit despite showing lackluster form elsewhere. This horse fits that pattern, as he ran better than it might appear in his last appearance at Aqueduct in December. He was contesting a very fast early pace that day and just couldn’t quite hold off the slop-loving Milton the Monster. That race didn’t get much of a speed figure, but other horses have come back to run well out of it. Monday Morning Qb has since regressed at Laurel, but I like him turning back in distance and the TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting that he’ll have a tactical advantage.


I suppose Falconet (#5) and Battle Bling (#2) will attract most of the play in this Heavenly Prize, but I’m not thrilled with either favorite. Falconet took advantage of some favorable circumstances last time in the Ladies, as she got first run on her main rival. She sat a perfect trip stalking outside and took over while Battle Bling was stuck in a pocket behind horses. They both make some sense, but I have some doubts about the overall quality of that Ladies. The horses who finished behind them aren’t very good and I wanted to look elsewhere in this short field. Among the shorter prices, I’m much more interested in Frost Point (#1). This mare was unsuccessful against stakes company last year, but she didn’t seem to appreciate the stretch-out to 9 furlongs the two times that she tried tougher company. She came back from a layoff in late December looking better than ever, as she easily swooped past an optional claiming field to win by nearly 4 lengths. A repeat of that performance certainly puts her in the mix here. Yet I want to get more creative with a longshot. Mommasgottarun (#3) has been an interesting project for trainer Linda Rice. It seemed counterintuitive that she would stretch this horse out off the claim in January, as she had been more effective sprinting up until that point. Yet this filly has appeared to relish route distances in her last couple of starts. The strange thing about her is that she has this habit of disengaging midway through her races. She’s done it at around the half-mile pole in each of her last two starts, abruptly dropping back before regaining momentum to rally in the stretch. I’m hoping that the return to one-turn racing will help to keep her engaged throughout, as she has shown some talent in her last couple of starts. Rice may just be starting her here to help the race go, but I don’t think she’s as overmatched as it might appear at first glance.

RACE 7: RIDE UP (#9)

This maiden special weight event is arguably the most interesting race on the card, as you can make a case for many runners and there appear to be some lightly raced horses with potential. Register (#1) might be the horse to beat after finishing second at this level twice in a row. While he ran a faster speed figure last time, I actually thought he ran better in his career debut. He got a pretty rough trip that day, as he was steadied early and then had to awkwardly alter course at the top of the stretch before commencing a rally. Last time he got a much softer trip and wasn’t able to seal the deal. The first time starter who defeated him may be pretty good, but this horse does have some things to prove as he stretches out in distance. Power in Numbers (#4) makes sense as he makes his second career start for Chad Brown. He took plenty of money on debut, but ran like a horse who needed the experience. He broke well but then got mildly shuffled on the backstretch before getting back into the bit and running on for second. He has a right to improve, but I actually preferred the horse who finished right behind him. Ride Up (#9) didn’t take nearly as much money in that spot and he broke slowly from the rail, like many horses from this barn. The pace was fairly slow, so this colt deserves a ton of credit for making much as much ground as he did to run up into third. He also galloped out very strongly, quickly passing both the winner and Power in Numbers after the wire. He didn’t sell for that much at auction, but has a nice pedigree full of quality runners. Furthermore, Linda Rice is 10 for 30 (33%, $2.66 ROI) with maiden second time starters going form sprints to dirt routes over the past 5 years. The other horse that I want to use prominently is Egypt (#2). This second time starter is coming back on short rest, having debuted last Saturday. Yet Horacio De Paz is a strong 11 for 36 (31%, $3.04 ROI) with maiden second time starters on dirt over 5 years. That was a strong race for the level, and he was off slowly before belatedly making up ground through the lane. This son of Tiznow feels like one that is supposed to get better with added ground and he figures to be a square price.

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