Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Sunday, April 15th

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Race 3: War Chest (#4)

Was impressive in his winning debut at Belmont last year.

Got poor trips in each of his last two starts against winners.

DRF Formulator Fact: Over the past five years, Shug McGaughey is 21 for 90 (23 percent, $2.09 ROI) with horses that coming off 75 to 150 day layoffs in turf routes.

3-1 on ML

 

Race 7: Wegetsdamunnys (#11)

D’ Funnybone is a decent 13% turf sire, and the dam Mystic Miracle was a 4-time turf winner.

Her last race is better than it seems given the wide trip.

Trainer Jeremiah Englehart is better known for his dirt runners, but he gets an 84 Trainer Rating in turf sprints.

20-1 on ML​

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Saturday’s TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Sansibar Jewel should appreciate firm turf in U.S. debut

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Aqueduct | Race 9 | Post Time 5:49 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs

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There are many contenders in this intriguing maiden race that ends the card. The two likely to attract the most attention are the pair from the Chad Brown barn. Too Cool to Dance (#7) earned a higher speed figure for her debut, but she worked out a pretty good trip after getting steadied back at the start. Jose Ortiz saved ground all the way and was able to sneak through inside at the top of the stretch before just finishing off flatly.

I actually prefer Reversethedecision (#4), who comes out of the slower race. This filly was slow out of the gate and reserved at the back of the pack for much of the way. She was still far back at the top of the stretch but finished with a rush in the last eighth of a mile to get up for third despite racing greenly. I think this one has more room for improvement second time out. I’ll use both of them, but I think there are some others who figure to offer better value.

Amazing Audrey (#6) ran very well in her second start, and Hot Cash has a right to improve after getting a wide trip at Gulfstream. However, the horse who interests me most is Sansibar Jewel, who makes her first start in this country.

Christophe Clement has good numbers with foreign shippers coming off layoffs, as well as with horses getting Lasix for the first time. SANSIBAR JEWEL (#5) has an awesome pedigree. She is a half-sister to Group 1 turf winner Royal Diamond and Group 2 turf winner Princess Highway. It’s worth noting that this filly is a daughter of Street Cry, a sire whose progeny often need firm going to run well on turf. Sansibar Jewel got nothing of the sort in her three starts in Ireland, racing over boggy conditions every time. I think that could have been the undoing of a filly who was regarded highly enough to go off at odds-on prices in two of those races. The big gaps between starts may also be indicative of other problems, so perhaps Lasix will make a big difference for her as well. She could get a little lost in the wagering here with so many other attractive runners shipping up from Florida.

THE PLAY

Win/Place: 5

Exacta Key Box: 5 with 2,4,6,7,8

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TimeformUS Kentucky Derby prep analysis: Magnum Moon looks too strong for his Arkansas Derby rivals

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Oaklawn | Race 11 | Post Time 6:18 p.m. (CT) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs

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The road to the Kentucky Derby concludes with the 82nd running of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, offering a total of 170 qualifying points to the top four finishers. This came up as one of the deepest races in the final round of preps, as four runners in this race appear likely to advance to Churchill Downs. Magnum Moon and Quip have already solidified their spots in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, whereas Solomini and Combatant require top-three finishes in order to book their tickets to Louisville.

The Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace despite none of the runners in this race absolutely needing the lead. The only horse with a running-style designation above “Tracker” in TimeformUS PPs is Quip (#8), who may find himself in a stalking position given his outside post position. Both Magnum Moon (#6) and Plainsman (#7) appear to be faster in the early going and are predicted to head out toward the front. Despite the pace characterization, this does not shape up to be a race where the pace collapses, as there looked to be more early speed in last month’s Rebel, which featured only a moderate pace. Therefore, a closer like Combatant (#9) may not receive the ideal setup that he needs.

Let’s go through the entire field:

#1, BEAUTIFUL SHOT (30-1): He was legitimately checked out of position rounding the far turn of the Gotham, but it’s unclear if he was actually going anywhere at that point. He’s hard to recommend off his prior form and appears to be an outsider in this tough spot.

#2, MACHISMO (20-1): His connections were waffling between this race and the Blue Grass, and it seems that they now intend to run in both. He was unable to be competitive there, and his chances appear to be just as hopeless a week later.

#3, TENFOLD (10-1): There’s obviously talent here, as he has earned respectable TimeformUS Speed Figures (115 and 112) in both of his starts. The horse he defeated in his allowance win, Navistar, is a good horse for Todd Pletcher and may eventually be bound for stakes company himself. I liked the way Tenfold rated behind horses last time and battled for the win once Navistar came back at him in midstretch. However, he’s now stepping up to face a whole new class of horses and will need to produce a career-best effort to merely crack the trifecta.

#4, DREAM BABY DREAM (15-1): This closer couldn’t keep pace with allowance company earlier at this meet. While he did finish second at a big price in the Sunland Derby, that race was falling apart at the end. He would need a total pace collapse in order to get a piece of this, and that doesn’t appear likely.

#5, SOLOMINI (2-1): If you’re taking an optimistic view of his Rebel, you could argue that he had to get started somewhere after experiencing a setback earlier in the year. He finished second against some nice horses after briefly having to pause and alter course at the top of the stretch, showing that he can still be effective in this division’s top races. However, he will need to run better here to overtake winner Magnum Moon. Before getting steadied, Solomini had gotten an ideal ground-saving trip. He was grinding away for second at the end of the race but didn’t really separate himself from the rest.

Solomini is likely to finish somewhere in the top three positions here and advance to the Kentucky Derby. However, it may be asking a lot of him to improve enough in four weeks to turn the tables on Magnum Moon.

#6, MAGNUM MOON (8-5): I’m not one to endorse short prices, but it’s hard to build a strong case against this undefeated runner. He seemingly has all the necessary tools. He has speed but is versatile enough to stalk the pace. Unlike Solomini, he possesses a good turn of foot and can quickly open up a couple of lengths on a field, as he displayed in upper stretch of the Rebel. Magnum Moon will have to negotiate an extra furlong this time, but he hasn’t displayed any signs of stopping in his prior two-turn efforts.

With the Kentucky Derby just three weeks away, Pletcher does not need Magnum Moon to win this race in order to advance. However, it would certainly be nice to go into that race with an undefeated horse. I won’t be betting him to win at a very short price, but I’m a fan of this horse and expect to see him produce another conclusive effort here.

#7, PLAINSMAN (30-1): He figures to be a pace factor, but he’s yet to run fast enough to suggest he can stick around late.

#8, QUIP (9-2): How short of a price can you stomach on this horse after you (probably) missed the boat last time at 19-1? There’s no denying that he’s talented, as he ran a respectable 113 TimeformUS Speed Figure in that Tampa Bay Derby win and easily defeated Blue Grass runner-up Flameaway. However, he did have some things in his favor that day. Despite the fact that there appeared to be plenty of speed in that race, a fast pace never materialized. Rather, the early fractions were quite slow (indicated by blue color-coded pace figures in the PPs). Quip was able to take advantage of that soft early pace and finish strongly.

His connections scratched him out of the Blue Grass, which drew a crowded field, and they got luckier with the post-position draw this time. He’s the kind of horse who probably doesn’t want to get caught in behind runners, so he should work out the same outside stalking trip that he got in the Tampa Bay Derby. I just think he’s going to have to run better than he did that day to beat the likes of Magnum Moon. Furthermore, as noted at the top, he doesn’t need to win this race in order to move on to Louisville. I’ll use him underneath.

#9, COMBATANT (6-1): Poor Combatant has been terribly unlucky at the post-position draws for each of his last three starts. He’s broken from slots 9 or 10 in his last two starts and again gets assigned the outside position here. This horse has admirably picked up checks in each of his stakes attempts and has put himself in position to get into the Kentucky Derby with another top-three finish here. However, it will not be easy with three formidable rivals drawn to his inside. Ricardo Santana Jr. will have to take him to the back of the pack and hope to get as lucky as he did in the Rebel. That day, he was able to make a rail run around the far turn after working his way inside on the backstretch, and he nearly got past Solomini for second late. I wonder how far he ultimately wants to go, as it feels like others will appreciate the stretch-out to nine furlongs more than he will. I’ll be using him underneath once again.

THE PLAY

This is not a race in which I see a great deal of value to exploit. Magnum Moon (#6) is a deserving favorite, and I can’t come up with solid reasons for trying to beat him. I respect Solomini (#5) and think he is the second-best horse in this race, but I won’t be surprised if Baffert does not have him fully cranked for a top effort here in just his second start of the year. Combatant (#9) should once again be a candidate to inject some value into the exotics.

Trifecta: 6 with 5,9 with 3,5,8,9

Trifecta: 6 with 3,8 with 5,9

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Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, April 14th

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Race 5: California Swing (#6)
While he needs to improve to win this race, his turf efforts at the end of last season are better than they seem given his wide trips.
Switches back to turf after showing improved speed in his recent dirt starts.
DRF Formulator Fact: Mike Maker is 10 for 31 (32 percent, $3.24 ROI) second off the claim with horses switching from dirt to turf.
8-1 on ML

Race 7: Ekhtibaar (#5)
Got an uncomfortable trip last time after breaking slowly and racing in tight quarters early.
Can compete with favored Mr. Buff as long as that one regresses off his last race.
Should appreciate the return to a one-turn mile after going 9 furlongs last time.
5-2 on ML

Race 9: Sansibar Jewel (#5)
Christophe Clement gets a 97 Trainer Rating with horses getting Lasix for the first time.
Will appreciate getting on firm turf as a daughter of Street Cry, after racing over soft ground in all three Irish starts.
Is bred to be a good horse as a half-sister to Group 2 winner Princess Highway and Group 1 winner Royal Diamond.
6-1 on ML​

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Friday’s TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Highland Sky seeks to recapture top form in his return to the NYRA turf

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Aqueduct | Race 5 | Post Time 3:38 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs

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At his best, Wake Forest (#1A) is more talented than this field, but nine furlongs is not his best distance, and he could need a race coming off the layoff. Furthermore, he had gone off form prior to the layoff, and you have to wonder if he can recapture his top form as an 8-year-old. I’m trying to beat him.

The obvious alternative is Designed for War (#4), from the hot Mike Maker barn. I’m not overly concerned about his poor effort at Turfway last time since he’s not a synthetic horse. His Pan American in April 2017 was excellent, but that’s the only race he’s run that makes him especially formidable here. I respect him, but I want to go in a different direction.

I’m giving HIGHLAND SKY (#6) another chance. I know that this horse has been a massive disappointment, but I do think he’s landing in an appropriate spot here. He never had a chance last time going a flat mile over a hard, chewed-up course at Gulfstream. He’s best at distances between nine and 10 furlongs, and he gets that here. Furthermore, I like that this race is on the outer turf course since he’s a runner who needs to wind up his move on the far turn. The fact of the matter is that despite losing at short prices, his 2017 form actually gives him a big shot here. If he can run back to his Sept. 9 performance at Belmont, he’s probably going to win this race.

THE PLAY

Win: 6

Exacta Key Box: 6 with 1,4,5

Trifecta: 6 with 1,4 with 1,3,4,5,7​

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TimeformUS Kentucky Derby Prep Analysis: Maiden winner Honor Up is an intriguing longshot in the Lexington

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Keeneland | Race 9 | Post Time 5:34 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs
 
In recent years, with the move away from the graded stakes earnings qualification system, the Lexington Stakes has not had a major impact on the Kentucky Derby. However, it could play a role this year as one contender looks to solidify his spot in the starting for the Run for the Roses with a solid performance in this race.
 
 
My Boy Jack (#12) enters this race with 32 qualifying points, and likely needs to finish first or second in order to accrue enough points to guarantee a start in three weeks. The TimeformUS Pace Projector indicates that he’s likely to receive a favorable pace setup in this race as a few key speeds to his inside are likely to set a fast early pace. Battle At Sea (#1) is certain to be sent to the front from his rail post position, and he should be accompanied by the runner breaking just to his outside as the stalking line up in behind them. My Boy Jack is undoubtedly the best closer in the field, as is indicated by his towering 117 Late Pace Rating.
 
Let’s go through the entire field:
 
#1, BATTLE AT SEA (8-1): This speedy son of Into Mischief gets a class test as he ventures outside of Louisiana-bred company for the first time since his career debut. His win in the Crescent City Derby was visually impressive, as he strung out the field while setting a fast pace (indicated by red color-coding in TimeformUS PPs) before holding sway in the lane. Mike Maker signals what the tactics will be here by bringing in aggressive rider Kendrick Carmouche to pilot him. I don’t think this horse is talented enough to lead them all the way, but he is certain to have a say in the outcome regardless of his finishing position.
 
 
#2, TELEKINESIS (4-1): This horse clearly has talent. He earned a massive 114 TimeformUS Speed Figure in his debut going six furlongs at the Fair Grounds, and followed that up with a strong performance against older horses on Mar. 9. It’s not easy for three-year-olds to face seasoned older runners at this time of year, but he acquitted himself nicely. He’s now stepping up into stakes company and will be facing a much larger field than he’s ever encountered. His biggest obstacle may be the trip. He could be in for a taxing effort if he tries to chase Battle at Sea early, but rating behind horses could also be perilous for such an inexperienced colt. I’m using out of respect for his talent, but I want others on top.
 
#3, SEVEN TRUMPETS (8-1): I’m just not convinced that this colt really wants to go two turns. He was allowed to set a slow pace when finishing second in the Jerome earlier this year, but has not been able to duplicate that effort since. I’m throwing him out.
 
 
#4, HONOR UP (12-1): Despite the fact he’s only faced New York-breds thus far in his short career, this colt is worth some consideration here. He really improved ever since stretching out in distance this past winter. That Nov. 15 runner-up finish behind top Kentucky Derby prospect Audible was a legitimately good effort, as he stuck with that rival late and drew well clear of the rest. He broke his maiden next time out as easily as you imagine over a wet track, and has been on the shelf since then. A layoff at this time of year was probably not in the plans after he broke his maiden, but the fact that Bill Mott is bringing him back in such an ambitious spot has to be considered a positive. Furthermore, I like that he handled wet going last time since there’s likely to be some moisture in the dirt track at Keeneland on Saturday. It’s good to see Jose Ortiz take the mount, and I think this long shot could make some noise here.
 
#5, MAGICALMEISTER (20-1): He was overmatched in the Jeff Ruby Steaks on Polytrack, and his dirt form is dubious. He’s a pace factor at best.
 
 
#6, GREYVITOS (6-1): His connections have also expressed some interest in proceeding on to the Kentucky Derby if he is able to pull out a win here. He may not have enough points to do, but he’s nevertheless a candidate for the win in this race given a top effort. Greyvitos got very good for a little over a month last winter, as he pulled off impressive victories in the Bob Hope and Springboard Mile. Those efforts were subsequently flattered by the three-year-old exploits of Mourinho and Combatant. Greyvitos has already proven that he’s capable of running fast enough to win this race, as the speed figures he earned for that stakes victories put him in the same league as My Boy Jack. However, it just feels like they’re rushing him back to reach an unattainable target. Trainer Adam Kitchingman only gets a 53 Trainer Rating with runners coming off layoffs of this type. Furthermore, this colt is another pace presence in a field that features other speed.
 
#7, PONY UP (6-1): He closed steadily in the Jeff Ruby Steaks, but his best efforts have come on turf and synthetic surfaces. Todd Pletcher is giving him one more chance on the main track to see if he handles it, but it’s hard to envision him matching the late run of My Boy Jack assuming both get decent trips. His morning line price of 6-1 seems like a massive underlay.
 
#8, GRACIDA (12-1): He couldn’t chase down Battle At Sea in the stretch last time, and I don’t see any reason why he’d be a candidate to turn the tables here.
 
#9, NAVY ARMED GUARD (20-1): He finally broke his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs last time after a slew of attempts at short prices. He has run some decent speed figures at times, but this seems like an unreasonably ambitious spot.
 
#10, ZANESVILLE (20-1): He didn’t run that much worse than Pony Up in the Jeff Ruby Steaks after a very wide trip. If you’re strictly comparing this runner to the Todd Pletcher trainee, does it really make sense that he should be a much higher price? After all, Zanesville actually is a better dirt horse and you could make the argument that he’s improving. I don’t think he’s a likely winner of this race by any stretch, but you could find worse longshots to throw into the exotics. I’ll use him underneath in trifectas.
 
#11, ARCHED FEATHER (20-1): His prior stakes efforts were not pretty. He’s another outsider.
 
 
#12, MY BOY JACK (5-2): He’s clearly the horse to beat here, but he does have some adversity to overcome. It’s never easy to break from the outside post position in a 12-horse field, but it’s especially difficult going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland. They don’t break that far from the clubhouse turn and they end the race at the first finish line. Therefore, a large portion of this race will be run around the turns. Kent Desormeaux will probably do exactly what he did last time in the Louisiana Derby, where he guided My Boy Jack to last pace far behind the rest and made one late run in attempt to pass them all. However, he will have to commence that rally earlier than he did at the Fair Grounds, where the long stretch gave him plenty of time to catch up to the leaders. I had been a little skeptical of My Boy Jack following his bias-aided win in the Southwest, but he confirmed his improvement last time despite hanging badly at the end of that race. I think he’s the most likely winner here, but he’s unlikely to offer much value.
 
THE PLAY
 
I respect My Boy Jack (#12), but I don’t want to bet him as the favorite. I’m instead taking a shot with the improving Honor Up (#4), who should go off at a decent price. This is a big step up in class, but I like the uncharacteristically confident handling by his connections.
 
Win: 4
Exacta Key Box: 4 with 2,6,12
Trifecta: 4,12 with 4,12 with 1,2,6,7,10
Trifecta: 4,12 with 2,6,10 with 4,12
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Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, April 13th

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Race 3: Vicar’s Legend (#3)

Was facing a tougher field last time

Ran his career best race over a fast track following a series of wet track performances, and should get dry going again this time.

New rider Paco Lopez can keep him closer to the early pace, which usually results in his better performances.

8-1 on ML

 

Race 5: Highland Sky (#6)

Nine furlongs on turf is the perfect distance for him.

May appreciate the move to the outer turf course, since he’s a horse that tends to make wide moves.

Ran very well in a few starts last year despite losing as the favorite on multiple occasions.

9-2 on ML​

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