Thursday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Playingwithmatches capable of better second off the layoff

Aqueduct | Race 8 | Post Time 5:06 p.m. (ET) | TimeformUS PPs are now available on Go to PPs 

This starter allowance finale is one of the most interesting races on the Aqueduct Thursday card, as contention runs deep in this 12-horse field. Paros (#11) could go favored for Linda Rice as he attempts to improve on a couple of recent third-place finishes at this level in March. He ran well on Mar. 5, making an outside move into contention before flattening out. Yet I was somewhat disappointed with his last effort, in which he made the lead with a furlong to go and just threw in the towel late. I have some reservations about him stretching out to 7 furlongs and just don’t see the value here.

I’m also against Mama’s Gold (#8), who just hasn’t looked like the same horse since getting claimed away from Mike Maker. This horse ran a speed figure that suggested he might have been ready for stakes company in January, but he’s been unable to reproduce that form for Chad Summers.

Rol Again Dancer (#9) seems like a possible alternative. Unlike many others in this field, he’s actually moving up in class. Yet he ran a 93 TimeformUS Speed Figure last time, which stacks up favorably against this field. He battled gamely to the wire that day, but is another who may be pushed to his limit at 7 furlongs.

Linda Rice’s other runner Bobby the Tank (#5) intrigues me more if the price is generous. He ran a competitive speed figure last December behind Valenzan Day before cutting back to 6 furlongs in his two most recent starts. I didn’t love the ride he got last time, allowed to lag too far behind early. Yet he was running on at the end, and he strikes me as one that won’t mind a little added distance. This also seems like a weaker spot than the allowance race he contested last time.

My top pick is Playingwithmatches (#12), who figures to be the best price of those who I view as contenders. He showed grit to break his maiden on second asking last November, and then more than held his own against a solid field in that stallion series stakes going this distance. He ran poorly going a mile in January, but something may have gone awry that day, as he missed some time thereafter. He returned last month with an effort that’s better than the result indicates. He got shuffled back early chasing from the inside but was finishing best of all across the wire, suggesting that he’s equipped to get this 7-furlong trip. Furthermore, Mark Hennig is 9 for 42 (21%, $2.23 ROI) second off a layoff of 50 to 100 days in dirt sprints over 5 years. 

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