Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Sunday, February 19


There are a couple of lightly raced 4-year-olds who figure to attract plenty of support in this competitive state-bred optional claimer. Awesome Native (#2) is clearly an exciting prospect. He took money on debut and delivered a professional effort, but was arguably more impressive last time, as he showed push-button acceleration in upper stretch before getting geared down to the wire. There’s clearly ample talent here, but he’s now stepping up to face a much tougher field. There really isn’t any pedigree to suggest he’s supposed to get better with more ground, and he’s drawn the rail after benefiting from outside post positions in his prior two starts. Overstep (#6) is another who figures to take money. This colt showed promise as a juvenile, winning his debut impressively before running a good second in the Sleepy Hollow. Yet he didn’t return for 15 months after that, only getting back to the races in January. He got the job done in his return, but he did have to get asked for some run to put that field away after getting some pressure on the front end. He needs to do better to beat this group and I’m not sure he’ll offer much value. Ouster (#1) seems like a better option, especially if his entrymate scratches to run in a stakes on Monday. He’s really blossomed since stretching out. He initially showed improvement going longer on turf, but actually improved when switched back to dirt last time. He had no issues handling 1 1/8 miles, but he should be right at home turning back to the one-turn mile given his versatility. My top pick is Baldizar (#5). He’s yet another lightly raced runner, and has been improving with each start against winners. He didn’t run particularly fast on Oct. 14, but was a facile winner of that race, always in hand while never asked for his best. He didn’t seem to quite handle the 9-furlong distance two back in a race that featured a pretty fast pace for that trip. Yet he took a big step forward last time when running second at this level. He has the talent to win at this level and may get somewhat overlooked compared to his main rivals.


This N2X allowance race features a rematch between Gasoline (#7) and Tonal Impact (#8), who finished a half-length apart going this distance at the N1X level last month. Gasoline was arguably a little lucky to win that race, as he got to set a moderate pace while controlling on the front end. Tonal Impact might have run the better race, as he closed from off the pace. Both he and third-place finisher Anejo returned to win their subsequent starts, flattering the form of that affair. Tonal Impact is now wheeling back in just 3 weeks after winning his own N1X race in late January, but he seems to thrive on the activity. They’re the two logical horses to beat, but there are some others to consider in this competitive race. Linda Rice’s other runner Curlin’s Wisdom (#3) is in with a chance at what figures to be a more generous price. It’s hard to know what happened to him last time when he completely failed to show up in the slop, but his prior form makes him a major player here, and he’s handled two turns before. My top pick is Win the Day (#1). This horse has tried a variety of surfaces in his recent starts, but I think he’s best on dirt. The key for him is getting added ground, and he figures to make use of his stamina going this 1 3/16 miles distance. He showed ability early in his 3-year-old season before handling turf in the summer at Del Mar, though the distance probably worked for him in those races. He ran the best race of his career going 12 furlongs in the Tokyo City last year and more recently has been one-paced on synthetic at Turfway. Doug O’Neill tends to send live runners here, as he is 8 for 41 (20%, $3.07 ROI) on dirt at NYRA over the past 5 years. 


Les Bon Temps (#5) is obviously the horse to beat as she seeks her third stakes victory in a row. This New York-bred daughter of Laoban will take her earnings over $500k if she wins this race, as she took advantage of some lucrative purses late last year. Yet she’s making her first start off a private purchase and trainer switch to Linda Rice. She’s also a bit of a “one fig” wonder, as the career-best 103 TimeformUS Speed Figure she earned in winning the Maid of the Mist really stands out from her other races. Even a repeat of her last effort might make her good enough to beat this field, but she’s not the kind of horse I want to take at a short price. Her main rival appears to be I’mhavingamoment (#6), who stretches out to a mile off her 7-furlong debut win in late December. She took all the money that day, getting bet down to even-money in her debut for Bill Mott. This daughter of Uncle Mo finished like one that would handle added ground, but she is a half-sister to a few horses who were best over sprint distances. Furthermore, Bill Mott is just 2 for 26 (8%, $1.11 ROI) with last-out debut winners on dirt over 5 years. My top pick is the other Linda Rice runner, Starry Midnight (#4). This filly obviously has some maturing to do, as she has raced unprofessionally in both starts so far. Yet there is obviously some talent here. She ran much better than the narrow margin of victory would indicate on debut when closing from far back after climbing through the early stages, reacting badly to kickback. She again failed to settle on the backstretch in her second start, and then was unable to launch an effective rally when racing wide against a rail bias. Notably, she drew the inside post in both of those races, and may be able to work out a better trip now that she’s drawn farther outside. She’s not supposed to have any trouble handling a mile, since her siblings were best at route distances.

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