Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, January 17

RACE 2: COUTABLE (#5)

Sadie Lady’s first start off the trainer change to Rob Atras was pretty disappointing, but she basically lost all chance at the start. She found herself back in last after breaking awkwardly and was just never in position to be competitive thereafter. She had a legitimate excuse that day, and I wouldn’t hold her last turf race against her either, since she got embroiled in a ridiculously fast pace. Sadie Lady’s prior form was solid, and while she may be a bit better on turf, she’s run competitive speed figures on dirt before. Some may perceive her main rival to be Cape Cod Diva off her victory at the N2L claiming level last month. Yet, that was a weak field and her main rival Wisconsin Night returned to bomb as the odds-on choice next time. While that last race may suggest that she should have been running on dirt all along, she still has to prove herself against a legitimate field of dirt horses. My top pick is Countable as she makes her second start off the layoff. She wasn’t exactly beating the toughest field at Finger Lakes last time, but she was game to earn the victory in a fight to the finish. Prior to that she had achieved some respectable results in her first few dirt sprint attempts at Aqueduct, and has some foundation to build upon that form now. Notably, Linda Rice is 8 for 15 (53%, $3.12 ROI) with last-out winners making their second start after layoffs of 120 to 240 days in dirt sprints. Additionally, Rice has fantastic statistics with blinker additions in general. There are plenty of reasons to expect she’ll improve here and she figures to offer fair value.

———

RACE 3: CREATIVE STYLE (#4)

The Rudy Rodriguez entry figures to attract plenty of support merely due to the fact that horseplayers can get two horses for the price of one. Yet neither one of these participants is particularly formidable in his own right. Kumar has shown more of a preference for turf at this point in his career and was fairly disappointing when always outrun at the starter allowance level last time. Perhaps he’ll appreciate the drop in class, but he needs to run a bit faster. Carthon may have a higher ceiling, but it’s been a while since he was capable of producing his career-best speed figures and he didn’t take much of a step forward first off the claim for Rodriguez last time. I’d be interested in looking for alternatives, and the most logical of those appear to be Hizaam and Walkoff. The former drops in class as he makes his second start off the claim for Linda Rice after being hindered by a speed-favoring sloppy track last time. He has a right to do better and is perhaps more trustworthy than Walkoff, who hasn’t been seen since last summer and was tailing off at that time. I want to go in a slightly different direction, so my top selection is Creative Style. This gelding has been knocking heads against much tougher company at the N1X level, and it’s frankly no disgrace having lost to rivals like Payne, Free Enterprise, and Patagonia. Some may perceive his 15-length loss last time as a step in the wrong direction, but he didn’t have to love his first spin over a sloppy track and 9 furlongs is probably too far for him anyway. The turnback should suit him and this is the right class level.

———

RACE 8: ASSAULT AND PEPPER (#8)

There’s not much form to analyze in this relatively weak maiden claiming event. I suppose the horse to beat is Be Magic, who makes his first start off the claim for Linda Rice while dropping in class to compete for the lowest tag of his career. This filly’s form isn’t exactly inspiring, but Linda Rice knows how to win in this situation. Over the past 5 years, she is 15 for 36 (42%, $2.44 ROI) first off the claim with maidens on the dirt. I’ll use her prominently, but she’s not a favorite that is to be feared. Horses like Big Cyn and Empress Luciana have posted speed figures that put them in the mix, but they’ve also had their fair share of chances and haven’t shown much ability. I would rather go for a lightly raced contender with a bit more upside, so my top selection is second time starter Assault and Pepper. This filly finished far back in her debut, but she actually had a far more adventurous trip than her short running line comment conveys. She broke with the field and was racing up close to the leaders through the opening quarter mile before she steadily got shuffled back heading to the half-mile pole. At that point, for whatever reason, Assault and Pepper totally disengaged from the race and abruptly plummeted to the back of the pack as if she was about to be eased. Yet, rather than pulling her up, Sammy Camacho steered her to the outside around the kickback and she surprisingly got back into the race, rallying mildly passed a few stragglers in the stretch. It was the kind of performance that suggests we probably didn’t see the best that she had to offer that day. Now Rudy Rodriguez adds blinkers for her second start, and she gets a rider upgrade to Reylu Gutierrez, all signs that we should see a more focused effort out of her.

Posted in Race Previews | Leave a comment

TimeformUS Derby Prep Analysis: Lecomte contender Silver State is lightly raced but battle-tested

Fair Grounds | Race 13 | Post Time 5:55 p.m. (CT) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs 
Not already a TimeformUS member? Sign up 


Our TimeformUS Derby Prep series kicks off this year with the Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds, offering the winner 10 qualifying points toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. A full field of 14 has been entered, led by 7-2 morning-line favorite Scabbard (#4).

Scabbard owns a clear class edge over this field, having competed against some of the best 2-year-olds of his generation in 2019, but he’s coming into this sophomore debut on the heels of a subpar performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. That race was dominated by longshots, and Scabbard never produced his customary finishing kick while trudging home a one-paced fourth. A return to the form that saw him finish a strong second behind the gifted colt Dennis’ Moment in the Iroquois would make him tough to beat in this spot. Yet that effort stands alone as the only performance that makes him truly formidable against this group, and I’m just not inclined to accept a short price on any horse in a race as competitive as this one.

Lecomte-Pace-Projector

The Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, which should be set by the recent debut winner Sycamore Run (#13). This colt did everything that was asked of him in that initial start, but his victory came over a sloppy, sealed track and he showed some greenness while failing to change leads in the stretch. He is bred to stretch out in distance, but it could be difficult for this inexperienced colt to handle the two turns while attempting to make the early lead from this outside post position.

Among the lightly raced alternatives to the favorite, I prefer SILVER STATE (#9). This son of Hard Spun is fairly light on experience, but has already been battle-tested in both career starts. He had every excuse to lose his debut in September as he was off slowly and had to gradually advance through traffic on the backstretch. Relentless Dancer seemingly had the race won after working out a good trip, yet Silver State was unwavering in his determination to run down that foe, ultimately sharing the victory. Relentless Dancer flattered Silver State’s performance when he returned to easily win his subsequent start by more than 10 lengths.

Silver State was then stepped up to face N1X allowance company in late November and nearly pulled off another close decision, this time falling just a nose short of victory. Losing to a rival like Necker Island was no disgrace as that runner had shown plenty of promise in his first couple of starts. Furthermore, Silver State had the slightly tougher trip, having to bull his way into the clear at the head of the stretch after rating kindly in the early stages.

Silver-State

This colt appears to have all the tools necessary to adapt to any kind of pace scenario, and he doesn’t figure to have any major issue with the 1 1/16-mile distance. While his dam, Supreme, was a sprinter during her racing career, she is by Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker and is out of a full sister to Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, so there is a solid foundation of stamina influences in Silver State’s female family. It’s a good sign that trainer Steve Asmussen’s main rider, Ricardo Santana Jr., lands here, and I think this runner would offer fair value at anything at or above 4-1 odds.

Another runner that I want to use prominently is Lynn’s Map (#14), though he is uncertain to start in this race due to his disadvantageous outside post position. If Mark Casse changes his mind and decides to start this colt, he’d be a legitimate contender after running down fellow Lecomte rival Mr. Monomoy in a local prep for this race last month. Lynn’s Map overcame an unfavorable pace scenario to get the job done that day and has an appealing, versatile running style that should allow him to work out a decent trip. This colt has shown high athleticism in both career starts and looks ready to make a splash on the Derby trail.

I also would use a closer like Finnick the Fierce (#1), since he should benefit from a favorable pace scenario. His TimeformUS Late Pace Rating of 92 is among the highest in this field, and his last-out TimeformUS Speed Figure of 102, earned in the Kentucky Jockey Club, suggests that he’s capable of competing at this level.

THE PLAY

Win: 9
Exacta Box: 4,9,14
Exacta Key Box: 9 with 1,2,10
Trifecta: 9 with 1,4,14 with 1,2,4,10,13,14

Posted in Race Previews | Leave a comment

Sunday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Quietude’s recent form is stronger than it appears

Aqueduct | Race 5 | Post Time 2:55 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs 
Not already a TimeformUS member? Sign up 

I respect both of the favorites in this race. Collegeville Girl (#2) would be pretty tough for this field to handle if she runs back to her victory at Belmont on Oct. 25, but she was surprisingly dull when she returned at Aqueduct last time, so there are definitely some concerns about her reliability.

Prairie Fire (#1) figures to attract slightly more support after beating starter-allowance foes just last week. She won that race on relatively short rest, and now returns off a similarly short break to contest this race. Some may be concerned about that aggressive schedule, but Linda Rice has fantastic statistics in this situation. Over the past five years, Rice is 11 for 23 (48%, $3.15 ROI) with horses returning in one to nine days in dirt sprints, and she’s 5 for 9 when those runners are coming off wins. It’s reasonable to expect that Prairie Fire will maintain her form, but she will have to prove she can rally from farther back here, since this race contains more speed than she encountered last time. That was an issue two starts back when she found herself badly outrun in the early stages of that Dec. 28 race at this level.

Quietude.png

She only finished a length ahead of fellow closer QUIETUDE (#6) that day, and I thought the Ribaudo trainee actually had the tougher trip. Quietude was guided all the way back to last in that 13-horse field, and was placed in a tight spot inside of Prairie Fire on the far turn. Coming to the quarter pole, both fillies weren’t in ideal spots to make up ground, but I thought Quietude had slightly more difficulty getting out from in behind tiring runners. All things considered, she did well to pass over half the field that day and I expect a better effort this time.

THE PLAY

Win: 6
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 1,2,3,8
Trifecta: 6 with 1,2 with 1,2,3,8,9,10

Posted in Race Previews | Leave a comment

Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Sunday, January 11

RACE 3: STREET TRUST (#6)

I suppose Royal Albert Hall is the horse to beat as he drops in class for Rob Atras, who has sent out more than his fair share of live runners in recent weeks. If this gelding merely repeats his last race when finishing second to the in-form Playthatfunnymusic, he’s going to be a handful for this group. That said, the fact remains that Royal Albert Hall has always been complacent to settle for a minor award rather than push on to earn victories throughout his career, as his 3 for 46 lifetime tally with 21 second and third-place finishes would indicate. Shalako also figures to attract some support as he moves up in class after beating $12,500 claimers last month. While he does have past speed figures that would make him quite formidable in this race, it’s been a struggle for him to get back into form over the past several months. Some might view it as a positive sign that Rudy Rodriguez displays confidence with this class move, but he is just 4 for 25 (16%, $0.77 ROI) with last-out winners moving up in claiming price by 50% or more on dirt over the past 5 years. I want to go in a different direction, so I’m taking a shot with Street Trust second off the claim for Ray Handal. This gelding didn’t lift a hoof last time at Parx, but I’m hoping that was due to the quirky surface there, which seemed to be particularly dead on Dec. 1. Street Trust was not the only horse to perform below expectations in that race, and at least one other notable contender returned out of that spot to immediately rebound with a much faster performance. Street Trust had consistently run competitive speed figures prior to last time, and he’s also a horse who has shown a real affinity for this 1 1/8 miles distance. As long as he gets a little pace to close into, he should be charging late.

———

RACE 4: MICROMILLION (#1)

I’m Fine’s Ellis Park debut was fairly eventful, as she broke about two lengths behind the field, was hustled up into midpack position early, got shuffled back on the far turn, and then came again in the lane despite having to alter course. There is obviously some ability here, but the question is whether she can transfer that form to a new barn and make the transition to dirt. Both of her siblings to race showed a preference for turf, but her second dam Caressing is a dirt stakes winner and she produced Travers winner West Coast. Surface questions aside, her obvious natural ability makes her the horse to beat, but I am somewhat concerned about how cold this barn has been over the past two months. My top pick is one of two Todd Pletcher runners in this field. Micromillion returns from an extended layoff and stretches out for the first time. It’s hard to know what to make of her two-year-old form, since she contested a couple of fairly weak early-season races that haven’t produced much in terms of quality. On the other hand, her pedigree says that she would have wanted no part of those sprint distances. She’s by dirt marathoner Micromanage, a stakes winner at distances ranging from one mile and 70 yards to 1 3/4 miles. Her dam’s only win came at 7 furlongs, but she handled routes and the dam is a half-sister to Grade 1 Wood Memorial winner Nobiz Like Shobiz. Notably, over the past 5 years Pletcher is 6 for 11 (55%, $3.91 ROI) with maidens coming off layoffs of 180 days or more trying a route for the first time on dirt.

———

RACE 5: QUIETUDE (#6)

I respect both of the favorites in this race. Collegeville Girl would be pretty tough for this field to handle if she runs back to her victory at Belmont on Oct. 25, but she was surprisingly dull when she returned at Aqueduct last time, so there are definitely some concerns about her reliability. Prairie Fire figures to attract slightly more support after beating starter allowance foes just last week. She won that race on relatively short rest, and now returns off a similarly short break to contest this race. Some may be concerned about that aggressive schedule, but Linda Rice has fantastic statistics in this situation. Over the past 5 years, Rice is 11 for 23 (48%, $3.15 ROI) with horses returning in 1 to 9 days in dirt sprints, and she’s 5 for 9 when those runners are coming off wins. It’s reasonable to expect that Prairie Fire will maintain her form, but she will have to prove that she can rally from farther back here, since this race contains more speed than she encountered last time. That was an issue two starts back when she found herself badly outrun in the early stages of that Dec. 28 race at this level. She only finished a length ahead of fellow closer Quietude that day, and I thought the Ribaudo trainee actually had the tougher trip. Quietude was guided all the way back to last in that 13-horse field, and was placed in a tight spot inside of Prairie Fire on the far turn. Coming to the quarter pole, both fillies weren’t in ideal spots to make up ground, but I thought Quietude had slightly more difficulty getting out from in behind tiring runners. All things considered, she did well to pass over half the field that day and I expect a better effort this time.

Posted in Race Previews | Leave a comment

Saturday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Arthur’s Hope’s speed makes him a gate-to-wire threat in the Say Florida Sandy

Aqueduct | Race 8 | Post Time 3:55 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs
Not already a TimeformUS member? Sign up 

I don’t have major knocks against the favorites in this race. My Boy Tate (#3) made a successful return from a 13-month layoff last time to get the job done over a couple of today’s rivals. A repeat of that effort may put him in the winner’s circle again, but he’s going to be a shorter price this time and you can argue that some of those who he’ll be facing have improved in the interim.

That certainly seems to be true of T Loves a Fight (#5), who ran what was arguably the best race of his tumultuous career last time when finishing third in the Gravesend. He probably would have finished closer at the end had Dylan Davis been able to get him off the rail a bit sooner in the stretch. This 6-year-old handles the 7- furlong distance without issue and seems adaptable to almost any pace scenario. I view him as a serious rival to My Boy Tate, and he’s going to be a better price.

I’d also consider The Caretaker (#7), who is attempting to come right back with another huge effort just 13 days after winning an allowance race here at the same distance. He was very impressive that day, but he’s not going to get much pace to close into here and it remains to be seen if he can duplicate that form against tougher company.

Pace-Projector.png

The Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring horses on or near the lead, and that figures to make my top pick ARTHUR’S HOPE (#6) difficult to pass. He’s just the only confirmed front-runner in this field and he’s also a horse who has historically done best when able to attain a forward position. He did that two back against My Boy Tate, but found himself contesting a fast pace that fell apart. Then last time he was simply outrun in the early going. Prior to returning from the layoff, he had earned some of the fastest TimeformUS Speed Figure in this field, and I think he might be able to get back to that form with a favorable trip.

THE PLAY

Win: 6
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 1,3,5,7
Trifecta: 6 with 3,5,7 with 1,2,3,5,7

Posted in Race Previews | Leave a comment

Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, January 11

RACE 5: LETZGOMETZ (#1)

Our Stormin Norman is probably the horse to beat as he drops down to the lowest level that he’s ever encountered. He ran very well when last seen on Dec. 22, making an early move to the lead on the turn before just getting tired as the race fell apart in the late stages. A repeat of that performance is going to make him very tough, and it’s not as if he doesn’t have prior speed figures to back it up. The other major contenders are just far less trustworthy. What do you do with a horse like Split Verdict? I was once a big fan of this guy when he was in Rick Violette’s barn, and he was progressing like one that might have a future. However, he was privately sold since then and hasn’t been seen for 18 months. I want to look outside the box if taking a shot against the favorite, so I’m going to try to resurrect Letzgometz. This horse is as untrustworthy as anyone else in here, but at least he’s going to be a square price this time. He didn’t run particularly well in his first start off the trainer switch for Ray Handal last time, but I think he was just asked to go the wrong distance. He was traveling well for the first 5 furlongs of that race – the quality of his stride is always a concern – and it’s not as if he completely fell apart once passed in the stretch, as he has done in the past. The barn has excellent turnback statistics, going 8 for 30 (27%, $2.45 ROI) with horses going from routes to sprints on dirt over 5 years. This gelding does still have that one competitive race from Dec. 2018 if he can ever recapture that form.

———

RACE 6: READY TO ESCAPE (#1)

Blindwillie McTell may go favored if the public trusts him to come back in top form off the layoff. I know that he finished off the board in his final two appearances of 2019, but both of those came in route races and it’s pretty clear at this point that he’s more of a sprinting type. He was really good for a 3-year-old last winter and spring and would be difficult for these to handle if he has taken any sort of step forward during the time away. I would tend to respect him despite the potential for a short price. A couple of rivals exit a race won by a different Linda Rice trainee, Wicked Trick, on Dec. 14. Shamrocked finished ahead of Ready to Escape that day, but I think their trips had much to do with that. Sharmocked was able to get to his preferred position on the front end as Ready to Escape was rated from the start by Benjy Hernandez despite breaking well. Ready to Escape does best when he’s able to flaunt his early speed, so he was never really in a position to put forth a top effort last time. He should be fitter now making his second start off the layoff and new rider Declan Carroll would be wise to use his speed from this rail draw. If this horse gets back to his pair of races prior to the break, especially when he earned that 121 TimeformUS Speed Figure at Saratoga, the rest of these may be running for second. Shamrocked has a chance as well, but I think some others have a higher ceiling.

———

RACE 8: ARTHUR’S HOPE (#6)

I don’t have major knocks against the favorites in this race. My Boy Tate made a successful return from a 13-month layoff last time to get the job done over a couple of today’s rivals. A repeat of that effort may put him in the winner’s circle again, but he’s going to be a shorter price this time and you can argue that some of those who he’ll be facing have improved in the interim. That certainly seems to be true of T Loves a Fight, who ran what was arguably the best race of his tumultuous career last time when finishing third in the Gravesend. He probably would have finished closer at the end had Dylan Davis been able to get him off the rail a bit sooner in the stretch. This 6-year-old handles the 7-furlong distance without issue and seems adaptable to almost any pace scenario. I view him as a serious rival to My Boy Tate, and he’s going to be a better price. I’d also consider The Caretaker, who is attempting to come right back with another huge effort just 13 days after winning an allowance race here at the same distance. He was very impressive that day, but he’s not going to get much pace to close into here and it remains to be seen if he can duplicate that form against tougher company. The Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring horses on or near the lead, and that figures to make my top pick Arthur’s Hope difficult to pass. He’s just the only confirmed front-runner in this field and he’s also a horse who has historically done best when able to attain a forward position. He did that two back against My Boy Tate, but found himself contesting a fast pace that fell apart. Then last time he was simply outrun in the early going. Prior to returning from the layoff, he had earned some of the fastest TimeformUS Speed Figure in this field, and I think he might be able to get back to that form with a favorable trip.

Posted in Race Previews | Leave a comment

Friday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Tiz Epic should appreciate turning back second off the claim

Aqueduct | Race 2 | Post Time 1:21 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs 
Not already a TimeformUS member? Sign up 

Cruising Strong (#3) is likely to be the choice of many due to her upward-trending speed figures and general consistency. She’s stepping out of New York-bred company for the first time, but those state-bred maiden claimers can often draw tougher fields than their open counterparts, so I don’t view that as a major negative. She will be around at the finish here with a similar effort to her maiden score, but it’s not as if she has much, if any, margin for error. I’d use her, but she seems like a strong candidate to be an underlay.

I slightly prefer main rival Bodes Sunset (#6). If this filly merely repeats the 82 TimeformUS Speed Figure that she earned in her debut, she’s going to be a handful. Both the runner-up and third-place finisher validated the form but returning to earn similar figures in their subsequent starts. However, that performance was achieved around two turns at Charles Town and she hasn’t been seen in 76 days since then. This barn isn’t known for success with youngsters, but she drew a great post and seems to be spotted realistically.

Tiz-Epic.png

My top pick is the turnback TIZ EPIC (#1). Her first start off the claim for Linda Rice was a disaster, but she had some things working against her that day. She was asked to face males while stretching out to a route distance over a surface she had never encountered before. She faded abruptly as if she was going to be eased on the turn before coming on again mildly in the lane. Rice’s barn has been firing on all cylinders lately and she is 7 for 15 (47%, $5.26 ROI) when adding blinkers going from a route to sprint on the dirt over 5 years. This filly seemed more comfortable with sprint distances in her first two starts and should appreciate the turnback.

THE PLAY

Win: 1
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 2,3,6
Trifecta: 1 with 3,6 with ALL

Posted in Race Previews | Leave a comment