RACE 3: STARQUIST (#3)
Maker’s Candy (#4) didn’t run a particularly eye-catching race on debut, especially given the foggy conditions. Yet the word was out that he would deliver a much improved effort in his second start, as he was somewhat surprisingly bet down to favoritism for the stretch-out. He ran to that support and then some, as he traveled boldly into the race and drew away with authority when asked. That 107 TimeformUS Speed Figure towers over this field and the fig looks legitimate based on the merits of those behind him. The one drawback is that Mike Maker is just 5 for 40 (13%, $1.04 ROI) with last-out maiden winners in dirt routes over 5 years. Main rival Neural Network (#5) like he could be any kind coming out of that impressive debut victory in November. He rated kindly off a moderate pace and displayed a nice kick when asked for his best in the lane. Yet he wasn’t quite up to the challenge when he tackled the Jerome against open company last time. Brown now regroups, dropping him in against New York-breds, but this is a pretty solid field. D’ont Lose Cruz (#2) has run well in all of his starts, never finishing out of the exacta. Yet I have some concerns about him stretching out in distance. I actually prefer Starquist (#3), who exits the same races. He simply ran out of ground two back when making his late rally in the Notebook. Then last time he had to make a wide run into the stretch whereas the winner saved all the ground. This colt was also hanging on his left lead through the lane, which seemed to mute his kick. He didn’t finish in his only prior attempt at a mile, but that was just his second start. He gives the physical impression that more distance should benefit him, he’s by 19% dirt route sire Nyquist, and his dam was a stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles on dirt. He also gets a rider upgrade to Dylan Davis for this.
RACE 7: CAPTAINSDAUGHTER (#9)
There appears to be plenty of pace signed on in this N1X allowance, which could complicate the task of likely favorite Kant Hurry Love (#5). She’s shown contesting the lead on the Pace Projector along with about 5 other horses in a fast pace scenario. That will be a different type of trip than she’s enjoyed in her last couple of victories, where she’s been able to either control on the front end or share slow paces. She obviously has the talent to win here, but I don’t think she offers any value. I’m a little more interested in the horse I pegged as the second-choice on the morning line. Kitten’s Appeal (#7) exits a race on Jan. 29 along with several other horses in this field. She lost by a neck but may have run the best race of anyone. She didn’t break that well and had to rush up into a stalking position on the backstretch. She then advanced to make an early bid for the lead and never stopped fighting through the lane. A repeat of that performance will certainly put her in the mix here, but she’s another who could get caught up in a quick pace. I prefer the third-place finisher from that Jan. 29 affair. Captainsdaughter (#9) may have been ridden a bit too conservatively, as Eric Cancel was seemingly waiting for that race to fall apart. However, the speed didn’t develop as much as expected on the front end, and he ended up leaving this filly with too much to do. She still put in a solid rally for third, but I think she’s landed in an even more favorable scenario this time. She may not be the most naturally talented horse in this field, but she possesses a reliable late run when she’s ridden properly. The extra half-furlong of this race should also work to her advantage.
RACE 8: FAR MO POWER (#2)
In the handicapping puzzle that is the Stymie, the most difficult puzzle piece to fit into the larger picture is that of Repo Rocks (#3). He is the key to this race, as the chances of all the other competitors depend on which version of this horse shows up. If Repo Rocks repeats the 130 TimeformUS Speed Figure that he earned for his victory in the Toboggan Stakes, there isn’t a horse in this field that will be able to defeat him. Yet he had never reached that level before and even his prior starts for Jamie Ness at Parx don’t nearly rise to the lofty heights that he achieved last time. He’s obviously a horse that has run well at Aqueduct before. However, he has never been successful beyond 7 furlongs, and the distance of this race is a major factor, as others are proven going this far. I’m certainly afraid of anything the Jamie Ness barn sends out, as his horses will improve suddenly and maintain that form for several starts. Perhaps Repo Rocks in the midst of one of those peaks. However, he’s now going to be a very short price, whereas last time he was 10-1, and I’m just not comfortable endorsing a favorite that still has significant questions to answer. I also have reservations about Miles D (#6), who could be the second choice in this race. There was a time when this Chad Brown trainee would have been pretty formidable against this field. However, he managed just one start during his 4-year-old season, and returned from a one-year layoff last time at Gulfstream with a disappointing effort. I never thought that was the right spot for him, as he drew the rail going a distance that seems too short for him. Yet now he’s back in a one-mile race, perhaps because there are no other options for him. Bourbonic (#1) is more interesting to me at a similar price, since he’s at least in great form right now. He ran pretty well to win that optional claimer 20 days ago, as he closed into a moderate pace and beat a horse who has been on a roll this winter. I’m using him, but my top pick is another Parx shipper. Far Mo Power (#2) will be making his first start outside of his Pennsylvania home base, but I think he stacks up pretty well against the competition. This horse was a surprise winner – though ultimately disqualified – in the Parx Dirt Mile last year, finishing in a photo with the classy Mind Control. While that 12-1 upset might seem like an outlier, he had run extremely well after getting a poor trip in his prior start. He then got another nightmare journey two back when he got badly fouled in traffic heading into the clubhouse turn. He got back on track last time with a nice confidence builder, earning a strong 121 TimeformUS Speed Figure. I think he’s going to be perfectly suited to this one-turn mile at Aqueduct, and the price should be more than fair.