Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, March 13

RACE 2: SHAMROCK KID (#2)

Likely favorite Control Group comes in with solid form. However, he defeated a very weak field at this level two back and was somewhat disappointing as the 3-5 favorite last time. He was unable to get by early leader Horoscope while barely fending off today’s rival Shamrock Kid for second. He has now been claimed away from embattled trainer Servis, landing back in Rudy Rodriguez’s care. This 6-year-old has run well for this barn in the past and will be tough to beat if he merely maintains his recent form. He obviously makes a good deal of sense, but I would still be wary of accepting too short a price on him, especially given his recent history. I prefer the horse that finished just behind him last time, Shamrock Kid. He makes his first start off the claim for Orlando Noda, who is 2 for 20 (10%, $0.88 ROI) with that move. However, this barn has done well with new acquisitions more generally. The drop down to this level last time woke him up, as he got back into form while finishing in a photo with Control Group. He came up empty in the late stages, but he did have to go 4-wide all the way around the far turn, losing valuable ground. He figures to be formidable right back at this level if he maintains his current form and gets some pace to close into. He’s my top pick, but I would also use horses like Singapore Trader and Vincento, who both drop in class.

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RACE 5: FROZEN ACCOUNT (#3)

Whichwaytomalibu chased home gate-to-wire winner Jerry the Nipper last time while never really a threat. He was perhaps carried along by the track, as Feb. 22 was a day that appeared to favor forwardly-placed runners. He is bred to be more of a sprint type, but he handled a mile well enough last time. He may have an easier time of it on the front end here, since he’s one of the few major contenders that possesses any real speed. Others do have more upside, but he’s the one to beat and the one to catch. Bed to Differ closed steadily from far back to get up for third last time, but did so with the help of a fast and contested early pace. Nevertheless, that was his first start in 3 months, so he has a right to improve second off the layoff. That 87 TimeformUS Speed Figure puts him right in line with the other major players and he arguably has more room for improvement in just his second dirt start. He just needs to show a bit more tactical speed since there doesn’t appear to be much pace signed on this time. I’m interested in some of the second-time starters, the most intriguing of which may be Frozen Account. This colt broke with the field last time and initially tried to show speed before getting steadied out of position. That caused him to become extremely green, as he lost contact with the field leaving the backstretch. He eventually regained his stride and put in a strong stretch run while never threatening the winner. Runner-up Jerry the Nipper returned to win next time out with a 100 TimeformUS Speed Figure. Frozen Account now goes out for Kelly Breen for the first time, and this barn does well off trainer switches. I would also use Liquor, who steadily made up ground while racing wide in his debut. He gets a rider upgrade for James Ferraro and is bred to relish added ground as a son of Tonalist.

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RACE 8: HONOR WAY (#8)

The Pace Projector isn’t predicting a fast pace, but there is plenty of speed signed on here. Any race that features the run-off filly Forgotten Hero is likely to produce an honest early tempo, and fellow front-runners like Honey I’m Good and Jakarta should help to ensure that. Honey I’m Good is probably the horse to beat after just missing at this level last time when finishing between Bridlewood Cat and Piedi Bianchi, two of the major players in the Correction on Saturday. While she’s been effective from a stalking position on turf, she may be put in an uncomfortable position this time. Hay Field seems like a logical alternative given her stalking running style. She wasn’t quite good enough in the Broadway last time when facing the in-form Kept True, but she did hold her form reasonably well off the claim for new trainer Antonio Arriaga. She figures to be in the mix here with a similar effort, and that seems likely since she’s among the most consistent runners in the field. I’m using her prominently, but I’m intrigued by the pair that Charlton Baker has entered. Bluegrass Jamboree finished behind Hay Field last time in a somewhat disappointing effort. However, she was compromised by a slow pace, something she’s had to deal with in a number of her recent starts. She has a right to do better here if they go quickly up front, but so does her uncoupled stablemate Honor Way. This mare’s recent form appears to have tailed off, but you can make some excuses for her. She’s not a miler, so she was never going to make much of an impact last time. Prior to that she was overmatched in the Interborough. Yet her form from late 2019 actually gives her a solid chance here and she figures to appreciate this turnback to 6 furlongs. She could be the one that offers the best value.

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Sunday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Moneymeister is in better form than his chief rivals

Aqueduct | Race 7 | Post Time 4:30 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs 
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A number of horses are dropping in class here, so one of the primary handicapping challenges is to figure out who will maintain their form into this start. I have my doubts about a few of them. The likely favorite is Mo Diddley (#5), and he would obviously be difficult for this field to beat if he repeats his last couple of speed figures. However, he’s suddenly dropping down in class off a solid performance, and Bruce Brown is just 4 for 31 (13%, $0.70 ROI) with horses dropping in claiming price by 50 percent or more over five years.

I have even less faith in Saratoga Giro (#11), who also may take some money. It seems like Jason Servis and Michael Dubb are just acknowledging that they made a bad claim, as this horse’s form had completely fallen apart for his prior trainer. They’re now basically begging someone to take this once classy runner for $10,000.

Moneymeister

I want to focus on horses who appear to be in better form. The one that intrigues me most is MONEYMEISTER (#9), who may get somewhat overlooked here due to the low-profile connections. This horse put in a strong late rally last time to just miss behind the favorite We Should Talk, and he was flattered when that rival returned to win here with an improved speed figure last week. He deserves extra credit for that effort since Feb. 22 was a day on which the track appeared to be favoring speed horses. Furthermore, it’s not as if that performance came out of nowhere, since he had also run well two back when no match for the freakish performance from Where’s Rudy. The Pace Projector is predicting that he’ll get a fast pace to close into.

THE PLAY

Win: 9
Exacta Key Box: 9 with 3,5,11
Trifecta: 9 with 3,5 with 3,4,5,11

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Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Sunday, March 8

RACE 1: SKY QUEEN (#7)

Halo City is overdue to break out of the maiden ranks. She really should have graduated last time but a series of mishaps prevented her from getting to the wire first. She broke about a length slowly, which put her out of position. Carmouche tried to save some ground thereafter, but he ended up getting stuck in a pocket in behind the leaders and couldn’t find a clear path in the stretch until it was too late. Prior to that, she had put forth her best effort going this one-mile distance. Main rival Tonal Vision didn’t have nearly as much trouble as Halo City last time, but she didn’t get an ideal trip either. Dylan Davis had her in a good spot saving ground on the turn, but the rail never really opened up in the lane. It’s unclear if she had more to offer, but she may have been discouraged having to race in tight quarters. Now this daughter of Tonalist gets an added furlong to work with, and she’s bred to handle more ground as a half-sister to nine-furlong stakes winner Geothermal. They’re clearly the two horses to beat, but I’m intrigued by second time starter Sky Queen. She didn’t show much in her debut, but it seems as if that was expected. She was fairly dead on the board at 9-2 given the weak nature of that field, and Eric Cancel rode her very conservatively. He didn’t apply much pressure as she tired nearing the quarter pole and basically just eased her up late. She probably needed that start, and her pedigree indicates she has room for improvement as a half-sister to multiple Grade 2-winning router Miss Sky Warrior. Kelly Breen is 5 for 23 (22%, $2.23 ROI) with second time starting maidens in dirt routes over 5 years.

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RACE 7: MONEYMEISTER (#9)

A number of horses are dropping in class here, so one of the primary handicapping challenges is to figure out who will maintain their form into this start. I have my doubts about a few of them. The likely favorite is Mo Diddley, and he would obviously be difficult for this field to beat if he repeats his last couple of speed figures. However, he’s suddenly dropping down in class off a solid performance, and Bruce Brown is just 4 for 31 (13%, $0.70 ROI) with horses dropping in claiming price by 50% or more over 5 years. I have even less faith in Saratoga Giro, who also may take some money. It seems like Jason Servis and Michael Dubb are just acknowledging that they made a bad claim, as this horse’s form had completely fallen apart for his prior trainer. They’re now basically begging someone to take this once classy runner for $10,000. I want to focus on horses who appear to be in better form. The one that intrigues me most is Moneymeister, who may get somewhat overlooked here due to the low-profile connections. This horse put in a strong late rally last time to just miss behind the favorite We Should Talk, and he was flattered when that rival returned to win here with an improved speed figure last week. He deserves extra credit for that effort since Feb. 22 was a day on which the track appeared to be favoring speed horses. Furthermore, it’s not as if that performance came out of nowhere, since he had also run well two back when no match for the freakish performance from Where’s Rudy. The Pace Projector is predicting that he’ll get a fast pace to close into.

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RACE 8: PALOMITA (#3)

Sadie Lady is a deserving favorite in this race. She’s moving up in class, but she’s not catching the toughest field at this level and she’s in razor sharp form right now. The Rob Atras barn has fantastic statistics with horses coming off victories and she probably doesn’t need to improve at all on that career-best 107 TimeformUS Speed Figure that she earned last time. I’m using her prominently, but she’s going to be a pretty short price and there are some others to consider. Aunt Babe has been in very good form recently for James Ferraro. She was unlucky to lose two back when just falling a nose short of getting up over a horse who got a perfect trip. Then last time she was compromised by a slow early pace. She figures to get a better setup here, but she’s still not as fast as the favorite and will need some things to break in her favor. My top pick is Palomita in her second start off the layoff. This filly ran poorly last time, finishing 13 lengths behind Aunt Babe. However, that race featured a strong pace and Palomita was outrun by the speedy Forgotten Hero in the early stages. She just never appeared to be comfortable and backed up. It remains to be seen if she can get back into the form that we saw out of her early in her 3-year-old season, but Chad Brown does do well in this situation. Over the past 5 years, he is 13 for 30 (43%, $2.30 ROI) with horses making their second starts of a layoff of 180 days or more in dirt sprints. The Pace Projector is predicting that she’s as quick as Sadie Lady in the early going, so perhaps she can secure a better position contesting the pace this time.

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Saturday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Bon Raison can return to top form off the claim in the Tom Fool

Aqueduct | Race 8 | Post Time 4:46 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs 
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You have to admire Mind Control (#4). This 4-year-old just loves to win races and seems to step up to the plate when it matters most. Yet he’s been most effective going seven furlongs and now he has to turn back to the shortest distance he’s attempted since he won his maiden as a 2-year-old. I don’t doubt that he has the speed to handle it, but I do wonder what kind of trip he’s going to work out. It can’t be as advantageous as the one he got last time when he was tracking a slow pace and held off the closers.

I still prefer him to the other short price, Happy Farm (#5). This gelding has improved for Jason Servis, but he had all the best of it setting a slow pace last time. While he did give his talented stablemate Firenze Fire all that he could handle, I think this is a more difficult situation for him.

Bon-Raison

I want to look elsewhere for my top selection and I think we can get some value with BON RAISON (#6). This horse has to be the most active runner on the NYRA circuit, coming off a season in which he made 21 starts. His critics will say that he’s inconsistent, but he has run races in the past that would make him a major player here. Now, he’s making his first start off the claim for the hot Michael Tannuzzo barn, and they’re immediately stepping up into an ambitious spot. They also have given him 36 days off since his last race. You have to go back 22 starts in his past performances to find the last time he’s been off for as long as that, and he immediately ran a 125 TimeformUS Speed Figure following that “layoff.” His best efforts make him good enough to beat Mind Control, and we saw his best last summer in the Tale of the Cat, which was also contested over this distance. I think he’s truly a closing sprinter and he figures to get an honest pace to close into.

THE PLAY

Win/Place: 6
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 4,5,8
Trifecta: 4,6 with 4,6 with ALL

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TimeformUS Derby Prep Analysis: Storm the Court can redeem himself in San Felipe

Santa Anita | Race 8 | Post Time 3:01 p.m. (PT) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs
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There are four major contenders in this San Felipe, which should have significant ramifications for the Kentucky Derby. Two of Bob Baffert’s top Derby prospects will be in action, last year’s champion Storm the Court makes his second start off a layoff, and the popular Honor A. P. also returns following an impressive maiden score last fall.

Authentic (#4) is likely to take more money that his Baffert-trained mate and could be the favorite. If that’s the case, I want to take a shot against this horse. He’s just gotten perfect setups in both career starts. He stalked a slow pace in his sprint debut at Del Mar and then had al the best of it on the front end in the Sham last time. Some will point to the fact that he was so green in the late stages of that race as evidence that he can run faster with a more professional effort. Perhaps that’s true, but any improvement may be mitigated by the fact that he’s facing a much tougher field this time and could have to endure some early pace pressure.

Thousand Words (#5) just looks far more appealing to me. He’s run fast races in all three career starts, and he’s coming off a solid performance in the Robert B. Lewis last time. He’s not as flashy as his stablemate, but he always seems to run his race and he’s already proven that he has no trouble handling this 1 1/16 miles distance. In my opinion, he’s the horse to beat.

I’m a fan of Honor A. P. (#2), but I’m not sure this is the day to take him from a wagering standpoint. He’s developed a following, which is no surprise given his resemblance to his sire Honor Code. Like his sire, he closed from out of the clouds in his debut, but he did well to show far more speed second time out, leading from gate to wire. He earned an impressive 108 TimeformUS Speed Figure that day and may now be on par with his rivals with routine improvement and maturity.

Storm-the-Court

I’ll use all of three of these runners, but I think the public may overlook my top pick STORM THE COURT (#6). It seems odd to say that an Eclipse Award champion is underrated, but I think many are writing this horse off prematurely. While he finished off the board in the San Vicente last time, that was designed to be a prep race, and he still earned a respectable 112 TimeformUS Speed Figure in defeat. He figures to improve on the stretch-out. As surprising as it may have been, he did put forth a legitimately strong effort to win the Breeders’ Cup last year over this course and distance. I liked what I saw in his recent workout and I’m not too disappointed at the rider switch, considering that he picks up Joel Rosario.

THE PLAY

Win: 6
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 2,4,5
Trifecta: 6 with 2,5 with 2,4,5
Trifecta: 2,5 with 6 with 2,4,5

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TimeformUS Derby Prep Analysis: Improving Texas Swing can outrun his odds in the Tampa Bay Derby

Tampa Bay Downs | Race 11 | Post Time 5:32 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs
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The two main players in this Tampa Bay Derby are obviously Chance It (#4) and Sole Volante (#7). While I respect the chances of each, I believe they both could be somewhat vulnerable at short prices.

The major question for Chance It is the distance, not his talent. He’s coming off a career-best 114 TimeformUS Speed Figure in the Mucho Macho Man, and that number has held up to scrutiny. His connections were forced to change their plans when he drew a poor post position in the Fountain of Youth last weekend, but it all may have been for the best as few horses would have been capable of defeating Ete Indien that day. Chance It figures to work out a good stalking trip here, and he may be talented enough to beat this field even if he’s not quite at his best around two turns.

Sole Volante is one of a few horses who improved out of that very fast Mucho Macho Man, earning a 113 TimeformUS Speed Figure when he won the local prep, the Sam F. Davis, in his most recent start. He’s clearly improved since the switch to dirt. However, it must be noted that he got an absolutely perfect setup in the Davis, making a prolonged run from far back into an honest pace that fell apart. It remains to be seen if the pace will be as hot this time, but he clearly possesses the talent to win.

The Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, but I don’t think it necessarily has to play out that way. The horse depicted on the lead has shown speed on turf and many of the dirt runners are not exactly need-the-lead types.

The main alternatives to the two favorites all are coming off maiden scores. The one who figures to attract the most attention is Market Analysis (#5), but I prefer a different Todd Pletcher runner.

Texas-Swing

TEXAS SWING (#1) just found six furlongs to be too short in his debut, but he took a significant step forward second time out going one mile and 40 yards on the Sam F. Davis undercard. He got a great trip setting a moderate pace and I liked the way he kicked for home, holding off a pair of talented runners as the top three finished well clear of the rest of the field. He’s bred to continue improving with added distance, since he’s by stamina influence Curlin out of a full sister to Travers winner Colonel John. Furthermore, he should be able to make good use of his tactical speed from this inside post position. I don’t think he necessarily needs the lead to be successful, and I’m looking for him to outstay some of his more fancied rivals at a square price.

THE PLAY

Win: 1
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 2,4,5,7
Trifecta: 1 with 4,7 with 2,4,5,7,8,9
Trifecta: 4,7 with 1 with 2,4,5,7,8,9

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TimeformUS Derby Prep Analysis: Pace should set up for Montauk Traffic’s late run in Gotham

Aqueduct | Race 10 | Post Time 5:42 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs 
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Mischevious Alex (#6) is obviously the horse to beat off his dominant score in the Grade 3 Swale last time. He had to be hard-used to maintain his rail position early that day, yet still punched through into the lead at the top of the stretch and drew off with authority. That 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure is among the highest in this field, and it’s not the first time that he’s posted an impressive number. The only major question for him is one of stamina, since he has shown a great deal of speed and his damside pedigree is more sprint-oriented. That said, he appears to have the talent to get the one-turn mile.

Gotham-Pace-Projector

I’m not as enamored with the other horses coming up from Florida. Untitled’s (#10) connections are asking a lot of him as he makes his third start in a five-week span. He was no match for the promising Gouverneur Morris last time, but he may not have gotten the two turns that day. I like him turning back here, but he still needs to show that he can reproduce the talent he displayed in his debut against top company.

There are a few recent maiden winners in this field, the most intriguing of which may be Sixto (#7). He earned a respectable speed figure in his debut and he’s bred to appreciate all of the added ground he gets.

I’ll use all of these prominently, but my top pick is the Jimmy Winkfield winner MONTAUK TRAFFIC (#8). It’s always noteworthy when Linda Rice takes a shot at a graded stakes, and this horse appears to be rounding into top form. I liked the way he closed determinedly through kickback last time, and he finished like a horse who shouldn’t mind an extra furlong. His pedigree supports that notion, since his dam and siblings had plenty of stamina. If the pace is hot, I believe he’ll be the greatest beneficiary.

THE PLAY

Win: 8
Exacta Key Box: 8 with 4,6,7,10
Trifecta: 6,8 with 6,8 with 2,3,4,7,10
Trifecta: 6,8 with 2,3,4,7,10 with 6,8

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