Thursday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Open Til Midnight finally routing on turf again

Aqueduct | Race 5 | Post Time 3:28 p.m. (ET) | TimeformUS PPs are now available on Go to PPs 

Potential favorite Citizen K (#5) primarily focused on shorter races early in his career, but he was able to effectively stretch out last summer at Saratoga. He ran better than the result might indicate on July 16 when chasing wide before fading, and he then improved upon that performance in September, just missing to a deep closer. His improved tactical speed has been an asset, and it should serve him well here. The layoff is a minor concern, but Horacio De Paz is 7 for 30 (23%, $2.43 ROI) off layoffs of 180 days or more on turf over the past 5 years. He’s the one to beat, but there are surely others to consider.

There are a few 3-year-olds in the mix who might have more upside than the older counterparts. Some may expect better from Liar’s Poker (#2), but I thought he got great trips in both starts last year. I would rather take Noble Huntsman (#6)at a slightly better price, since he didn’t run much worse in the Central Park, and displayed some quality getting up for third in the Awad two back. He could certainly contend with routine improvement.

Starquist (#7) is more of a wild card as he makes his turf debut, but he’s also shown some talent in stakes company. He looked so full of promise when he started his career on dirt, but his recent performances have been trending in the wrong direction. Nyquist is a solid 13% turf sire. Though it’s generally more of a dirt pedigree on the dam’s side, his second dam Unbridled Star did win on turf and was stakes-placed on that surface. He moves like one that could take to grass, and John Kimmel had worked him over the Oklahoma turf three times last summer, indicating they have long considered this option.

My top pick at what should be an even bigger price is OPEN TIL MIDNIGHT (#1). His current connections lost him for $25k when he finished second in January, but subsequently claimed him back for $40k last month, so there’s some attachment to this horse. He may look inferior on speed figures, but there are a couple of reasons to expect improvement. Dirt is not his preferred surface, yet he ran one of the best races of his career over it on Jan. 8. His two most recent turf efforts are sprints, but he’s clearly better going longer. He handled this course and distance when he broke his maiden as a 2-year-old, and had gotten a poor trip in his lone turf route attempt prior to that. It feels like there’s some intention going back to this surface and he drew a great post position.

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