Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, March 4


I’ll be interested to see how much money Milton the Monster (#5) takes in this optional claimer. He’s known as a wet track lover, and he figure to get his preferred conditions on Saturday with plenty of rain predicted. That reputation does appear to be justly earned as he has done most of his best running over wet, sealed tracks. Yet I still have some concerns about him getting a mile and don’t want him if he is indeed going to vie for favoritism. I’m also lukewarm on Kinetic Sky (#6), who has been short prices twice in a row. He got into great form off the claim for Linda Rice, but it appears that he’s gone the wrong way recently. I’m most interested in two horses, though one appeals to me a bit more than the other. Uncle Moonlight (#2) would be my second preference, though there are some reasons to like him in this spot. As the only member of this field who isn’t entered for the claiming tag, he’s been working his way through his allowance conditions. He hasn’t quite been good enough in either start at this level, but those were her first couple of starts after an extended layoff. I didn’t think he got the best ride from Jorge Vargas last time, who rode him tentatively early before moving to the lead on the turn. He could find himself leading this field depending on how others are ridden. My top pick is Market Alert (#5). This horse has been in better form than his results might indicate. He didn’t get the right trip on Dec. 17 when breaking a bit slowly before making an awkward move to the center of the track. He then had to be used aggressively two back in the Say Florida Sandy, keeping the winner honest on the front end. He lost as the favorite at a slightly higher optional claiming level last time, but he again didn’t get an ideal trip. He was in a good position early but got shuffled back slightly on the turn before having to alter course multiple times through the stretch as rivals drifted in front of him. Now he gets Kendrick Carmouche back aboard and has landed in a slightly softer spot.


There is a lot going on in this $25k claimer, so I want to keep an open mind with regard to different price options. Among the likely favorites, both of whom are trained by Rudy Rodriguez, I prefer Optic Way (#4) to Advanced Strategy (#8). The latter could take more money on the class drop, but his last race in the slop was disappointing, and the lack of confidence being displayed concerns me. Optic Way, on the other hand, is moving up in class despite finishing off the board in his most recent start. That performance was a lot better than the result indicates, as he was contesting a fast pace that fell apart, doing so while chasing in the 3-path on a day when the rail was an advantage. I expect a better effort here, especially since there isn’t that much speed signed on. I would also consider Jalen Journey (#9). This horse hasn’t been competitive in while, but he also didn’t get the best ride last time when glued to the rail and forced to steady in upper stretch just as he was making his move. That was also a much better field, and now he’s finally getting needed class relief. The distance is a question, but these connections can be very dangerous. My top pick is the horse that I expect to be the biggest price of those I’m considering. Caerus (#1) hasn’t run quite as fast as some others in here, and he’s also been concentrating on sprints recently. Yet I don’t think the one-mile distance will be a problem for him, since he routed effectively for much of the first half of his career before cutting back. He’s coming out of a couple of races that just didn’t set up for him. He was overmatched two back, and then last time he was stuck behind a slow pace that held together up front. I’m hoping he can get a bit more involved early on the stretch-out, and he has shown he handles a wet track.


My primary objective in this Gotham is finding value. This field is so evenly matched on almost any metric you use, but some horses will inevitably fall through the cracks and get overlooked in such a wide open, competitive race. The idea is to identify those horses and capitalize. Brad Cox sounds out a pair of runners, both of which will take money. I don’t have any use for morning line favorite Eyeing Clover (#13), who has beaten weaker competition and could struggle to work out a trip in a race laden with other speed. I much prefer Slip Mahoney (#11) among the short prices. He’s proven at the distance and has kept good company at the maiden special weight level. He also possesses a versatility to his running style that his stablemate may lack. I would argue that Slip Mahoney is the most likely winner of this race, but that doesn’t mean that he’s necessarily going to offer value. I have similar feelings about Jerome winner Lugan Knight (#10), who can obviously win but doesn’t figure to meet my price threshold. I’m just more intrigued by three other horses, all of whom are double-digit odds on the morning line. Mr. Swagger (#3) has the most to prove of that trio, making just the second start of his career. Yet he’s coming out of a very live race. Runner-up Register returned to improve his TimeformUS Speed Figure by 7 points, fourth-place improved by 14 points, and fifth improved by 5 points. Mr. Swagger is bred to handle added ground and showed the ability to sit off another horse on debut. However, the rail draw could be a negative for a runner looking to work out a stalking trip. Howgreatisnate (#2) also drew an inside post position, but he seems more likely to take back and launch a late rally. He’s depicted last of 14 on the Pace Projector, but he’s shown good finishing ability in his races. He obviously hasn’t faced this level of competition, but I like that he’s displayed a willingness to pass horses in those races. He also strikes me as one that will get better with added ground, based on his pedigree and the scope to his stride. He’s definitely on my radar at what should be a square price. My top pick is Transect (#7). He also has some things to prove, having never raced on dirt before. Yet this horse has shown some likeable attributes in his two starts at Turfway. He made a strong rally from off the pace to win his debut in commanding fashion, earning a solid 100 TimeformUS Speed Figure. He regressed a bit last time facing winners, but I liked that he was versatile enough to set the pace and still finish. He galloped out strongly that day, and moves like a horse that will relish added ground. He’s also bred to be a dirt horse, by Gun Runner, out of dam who has produced stakes-placed dirt runners, from the female family of Grade 1 dirt winner Madcap Escapade. Paulo Lobo is a dangerous trainer, and it seems like a good sign that Joe Talamo has taken the mount.

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