Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, March 17


Spelterini (#5) has already had plenty of chances to break out of the maiden ranks. She’s been short prices in 4 of her 6 starts, and has settled for second on 3 occasions. She seemed so full of promise following an encouraging debut at Saratoga last summer, but she just never stepped forward off that performance. She really doesn’t have that much of an edge over main rival Risk Free (#4), who is another that has had many chances at this level. Spelterini in particular had every chance to win last time after getting a stalking trip off a slow pace, and just couldn’t forge past. I’d be a little more forgiving of Risk Free out of that race, since she was far behind in the early stages and actually did well to make some ground into those moderate early splits. That said, she’s also hard to take as she makes her tenth attempt at this level. I want to go in a different direction for a lightly raced option, and there are two intriguing second time starters. My top pick is Mayhem Miss (#2). She exits a different, seemingly tougher maiden race. She broke on top but was unable to hold the lead down the backstretch. She then dropped out of contention on the turn after getting eased off the lead, but never stopped trying, as she held her ground through the lane. Overall it was a decent unveiling considering that she didn’t take any money. Now she gets a rider upgrade to Kendrick Carmouche for her second start, who figures to be more aggressive in a race that doesn’t appear to feature much pace. I have some doubts about her overall ability, but she has room to improve and this feels like a softer field than last time. The other horse that I would use at a bigger price is My Girl Jal (#6). She finished far behind Spelterini and Risk Free on debut, but got off to a tangled start and was actually finishing pretty well despite the slow fractions. This half-sister to allowance type Firing Carol might have upside for low-profile connections.

RACE 5: AFJAN (#3)

This race looks pretty competitive at first glance, but the only horse that I really want is Afjan (#3). He’s just getting logical class relief after proving not quite good enough to win at the starter allowance level in his last couple of starts. He got a good ride form Maddie Olver when closing for second at that tougher level two back, though he did benefit from a quick early pace. The team wasn’t as successful last time, as he got a wide trip and then angled in behind horses at the quarter pole just as he was trying to mount a rally. The rail was likely the place to be that afternoon, so he just was never in the right spot. Now he’s facing a softer field and he gets a rider upgrade to Trevor McCarthy. There isn’t that much early pace signed on, so I’m hoping he doesn’t get left with too much to do. If the trip works out, I expect him to beat this group. Pressure (#1) is arguably his most intriguing rival. He was simply overmatched against allowance company last time, facing a tough assignment off the layoff. He could fare better here on the class drop, though I’m not quite convinced that the stretch-out to a mile is going to benefit him. The other intriguing runner is Legendary Lore (#8), who also drops in class after facing tougher allowance horses. He hasn’t run particularly well in his last couple of starts, so I have some doubts about his form since returning from a long layoff last year. Yet he is another who figures to benefit from the class relief, and the distance shouldn’t be an issue.


I don’t want to default to likely favorite Empire Sky (#1), who figures to take money off his lone dirt performance back in January. He ran fine that day, picking up third behind a couple of superior rivals. However, he’s generally been more of a turf horse, and it does feel like this might just be a prep for him to get back on turf next month. He’s obviously a win candidate, but I expect him to be an underlay. If I’m going to take one of the experienced runners, I’d rather look at Scherzando (#2) as he returns from a layoff. He’s another who could be preparing for turf season given the fact that his turf effort last April was one of the best performances of his career. However, he was a capable dirt horse prior to that, and some might be misled by his recent results on that surface. He didn’t run that badly after a wide trip on March 31 two back, and that’s been a very productive race, from which multiple horses have improved. Prior to that he ran into the talented Disco Pharoah. I think he’s capable on dirt and could fly under the radar off the layoff. As far as lightly raced options go, I suppose Ten Cent Town (#5) is most appealing. He has to get faster, but he faced some decent rivals last summer and could improve with routine maturity. I prefer him to a horse like On the Ledge (#4), who rode a bias en route to his runner-up finish last time.

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