Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Thursday, January 10

Race 5: Sweet Like Char (#2)

  • Paired up competitive TimeformUS Speed Figures of 88 in her last two starts.
  • The Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring runners near the lead, and she should be sitting right off the likely pacesetter early.
  • Gets significant class relief after she was overmatched in her prior start.

5-1 on ML

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Race 6: Questeq (#7)

  • Appears to run her best races going sprint distances.
  • Earned a speed figure two back that arguably makes her the horse to beat.
  • May not have appreciated an extremely sloppy track last time.

6-1 on ML

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Race 7: Zabaione (#6)

  • Needs to race around two turns to be successful, so the stretch-out helps.
  • Should be fitter in his second start off the layoff.
  • Proved that he fits at this class level last spring, if he is able to get back to that form.

10-1 on ML

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Sunday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Longshot Tazmonian Devil will benefit from substantial class relief

Aqueduct | Race 5 | Post Time 3:00 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs 
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Those with experience who figure to attract the most support are all exiting the second race on Dec. 14. Poker Game (#1) came through inside to get second after a trip that was less than ideal. There is some evidence that the rail was a good place to be on that card, but I still thought he ran reasonably well within the context of the race. However, now he’s going to be the favorite, and I don’t feel that he has a significant edge over some of his main rivals.

Shock Therapy (#4) showed some potential in his debut but failed to step forward last time, and Awesome Adversary (#5) continues to progress now that this connections are focusing on dirt routes. I would use all of these horses in some capacity, but there’s another runner with form who may not get the attention that he deserves.

Tazmonian-Devil.png

TAZMONIAN DEVIL (#8) has lost his first couple of starts by a combined 52 1/2 lengths. However, those massive margins of defeat are primarily a product of the company he’s kept. This horse has been involved in two of the fastest maiden races run on the circuit in recent months, losing to stakes-bound Le General in his debut and eventual Damon Runyon winner Not That Brady last time. Despite the fact that he was never in contention in either of those starts, he’s actually earned some respectable speed figures. In fact, the 77 TimeformUS Speed Figure for his debut is tied for the highest number in this field. While some may feel that he regressed going a mile last time, he actually ran better than his finishing position would suggest, making a brief middle move before getting eased home. This horse is clearly bred to handle route distances, and these connections have been known to win at big prices.

THE PLAY

Win/Place: 8
Exacta Key Box: 8 with 1,4,5,7

 

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Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Sunday, January 6

Race 5: Tazmonian Devil (#8)

  • Earned the co-highest TimeformUS Speed Figure in the field in his debut.
  • Is getting significant class relief after facing stakes-quality horses in his first two starts.
  • Deserves another chance at a mile, as he is bred to excel at route distances.

12-1 on ML

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Race 6: Tayler’s the Boss (#2)

  • The Pace Projector is predicting a situation favoring runners on or near the lead and she figures to be up close early.
  • Gets class relief after she was soundly beaten in a tougher spot last time.
  • DRF Formulator Fact: Over the past 5 years, Mertkan Kantarmaci is 7 for 31 (23 percent, $3.56 ROI) second off the claim in dirt sprints.

8-1 on ML

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Race 8: Horoscope (#6)

  • Was hindered when shuffled out of position soon after the start last time.
  • Received the wrong ride three back on Aug. 29 at Saratoga, when he was unwisely rated off a moderate pace.
  • Should appreciate the stretch-out to 7 furlongs.

12-1 on ML​

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Saturday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Rain and a lack of speed will help Kathryn the Wise in the La Verdad

Aqueduct | Race 8 | Post Time 3:59 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs 
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With morning line favorite Satisfy scratching, Pauseforthecause (#10) becomes the likely public choice. This filly has just been in fantastic form recently and would be formidable if she merely repeats either of her last two efforts. She had to break from the rail in both of those races, which is not ideal for a horse that tends to need a couple of strides to reach top speed. Her versatile running style helped her work out the right trip last time despite giving up ground in the opening furlong. While I acknowledge that she offers plenty of appeal, this is a very competitive field and I don’t think she has a significant edge over her main rivals. Those include Satisfy, who ran no worse than Pauseforthecause despite losing to that foe by a length last time.

Whereas the winner got the jump on her with an outside run to the quarter pole, Byself (#8) had to wait briefly and alter course in the lane. All things considered, I thought she put in a pretty game effort, which has become the standard for this consistent filly. Others may possess more natural ability, but you know you’re going to get an honest run from her.

I’m using both of these, but I’m intrigued by the pair of Chad Brown fillies. Sunset Ridge (#7) has a lot to prove after two subpar efforts since returning from the layoff this past fall. It’s possible that the slight turnback to 7 furlongs will work in her favor, but I need to see her run a faster speed figure before supporting her in a race like this.

Kathryn-the-Wise.png

I’m much more interested in KATHRYN THE WISE (#3), who is my top pick. While there are a number of fillies with tactical styles in this race, Kathryn the Wise is the only true front-runner, and the Pace Projector reflects that. She is predicted to be clearly in front of this group early, and I think such a trip may help her get the 7-furlong distance. Some may view her 2018 campaign as similar to that of her stablemate, but I thought her last effort on Nov. 29 was actually pretty encouraging. I don’t want to fault her for losing as the favorite, since Dawn the Destroyer put in a fantastic winning effort that day and looks bound for open stakes company. Kathryn the Wise was allowed to set a fairly moderate pace, but I liked the way she kicked home and put some distance on the rest of the field. It was a massive improvement on her first start off the layoff and she has a right to take another step forward now. Furthermore, there is plenty of rain in the forecast and a wet track may help her.

THE PLAY 

Win: 3
Exacta Key Box: 3 with 6,8,10
Trifecta: 3 with 8,10 with 5,6,7,8,10

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Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Saturday, January 5

Race 2: Playwright (#4)

  • Typically runs his best races at a mile, and he handles a wet track.
  • Is in the best form of his career right now.
  • DRF Formulator Fact: Over the past 5 years, Danny Gargan is 16 for 61 (26 percent, $2.94 ROI) with last-out winners in dirt routes at NYRA.

8-5 on ML

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Race 5: Almithmaar (#1)

  • Is one of the few potential closers in a race that is loaded with early speed.
  • Was wide against a gold rail in his last dirt race on Oct. 26.
  • At his best is capable of competing against horses of this caliber.

8-1 on ML

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Race 7: Have Another (#6)

  • The Pace Projector is predicting he will get a fast pace to close into.
  • Got the wrong trip last time, as he was rushed up to chase the pace after breaking slowly.
  • Junior Alvarado has done well on him in the past, which is important for a horse that can be difficult to ride.

9-2 on ML

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Race 8: Kathryn the Wise (#3)

  • The Pace Projector is predicting that she will be clearly in front early.
  • Got back into form last time with a solid runner-up effort behind a highly impressive winner.
  • Is proficient over a wet track and there is rain in the forecast for Saturday.

9-2 on ML

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Kentucky Derby Prep Analysis: Gunmetal Gray takes the fight to Coliseum in the Sham

Santa Anita | Race 9 | Post Time 4:04 p.m. (PT) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs 
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Our TimeformUS Derby Prep series is back this year, providing in-depth analysis of all of the major prep races for the 2019 Kentucky Derby. We begin with the Grade 3 Sham on Saturday at Santa Anita, the first major California prep for the Run for the Roses.

Bob Baffert dominated the West Coast 2-year-old scene last season, so it should come as no surprise that he has two entrants in this race, including the headliner, Coliseum. The gray son of Tapit has been installed as the even-money favorite on the morning line off a blowout debut victory in November. He will face his first major class test as he steps up into stakes company and stretches out in distance for the first time.

Sham-Pace-Projector.png

The TimeformUS Pace Projector is predicting that Coliseum (#5) will not work out the same soft trip that he enjoyed in his debut, as a fast early pace is predicted to materialize. The speedy Savagery (#3) is projected to lead this field in the early stages as he adds blinkers back to his arsenal. Baffert’s other colt in the field, Much Better (#7), showed speed in his only dirt start, so he should also be forwardly placed from his outside post position, stalking along with Coliseum. The expected fast pace may set up the late run of the most accomplished closer in the field, Gunmetal Gray (#6).

Let’s go through the entire field:

#1, SUENO (20-1): This colt has steadily progressed since an inauspicious start to his career, failing to make an impact against maiden-claiming company. He won by open lengths at a massive price second time out, and then was laid up until December. He returned on the synthetic surface at Golden Gate, and passed his first two-turn test with flying colors. While he was not facing a particularly accomplished group that day, he gave the impression that he still is not a finished product. He pricked his ears forward when he made the lead and seemingly won with something left in the tank. This colt’s dam was a precocious router, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take yet another step forward in his second two-turn attempt. However, in a field of this caliber, a minor award appears to be his ceiling.

#2, GRAY MAGICIAN (4-1): This full brother to last year’s Robert B. Lewis winner Lombo broke his maiden in style at Del Mar in late November, romping to a near 10-length score in his first start at a route distance. While that victory might have seemed overdue to some, this colt was unfortunate to run into two well-meant Bob Baffert colts in his prior starts sprinting in September. He actually ran quite well on both of those occasions, earning speed figures that put him on par with other fringe players in this field. His most recent 104 TimeformUS Speed Figure matches that of favorite Coliseum, and the number certainly holds up to scrutiny. The question for Gray Magician is whether he can take another step forward in his debut against winners. As well as he ran last time, I’m still somewhat dubious that he can do better than rounding out the trifecta, and I feel that others figure to offer better value underneath.

#3, SAVAGERY (10-1): Gray Magician’s stablemate, he is the speedier half of this uncoupled entry, as the Pace Projector is predicting that he is fast enough to lead this field in the early going. He needed to be dropped in for a tag to break his maiden back in August, but that impressive win vaulted him directly into stakes company. He put forth two respectable showings around one turn before the wheels came off in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity last time. This colt appeared to be somewhat out of sorts in the run to the first turn that day as he bore out badly, causing a chain reaction. The distance concerns are obvious considering how readily he threw in the towel in the stretch, but perhaps he deserves another chance going this far as a son of route influence Bellamy Road. I don’t think there’s a significant disparity in talent between he and his stablemate, yet this colt is likely to go off at a more enticing price.

#4, EASY SHOT (30-1): This second Keith Desormeaux runner needed to be dropped in for a tag to break his maiden, and his pedigree does not inspire confidence that added distance will be the answer. He’s the outsider in this field.

#5, COLISEUM (1-1): There was plenty of hype around this colt prior to his debut, and the public responded accordingly, betting him down to 1-2 favoritism. He did not disappoint, leading every step of the way while never asked for a serious effort by Joe Talamo. His final time seemed impressive at first glance, but the overall quality of the field he defeated remains unclear. The 104 TimeformUS Speed Figure that he was assigned is solid but not exceptional among this field. Notably, the runner-up returned to lose at short odds next time, earning a significantly slower number in a disappointing fifth-place finish.

coliseum

Coliseum faces a number of fresh obstacles on Saturday, as he will be asked to make his first start around two turns and he may have to rate off another horse for the first time. While his pedigree is not necessarily geared toward classic distances, he should have enough stamina to stay a mile. I’m more concerned about the prospect of him having to stalk rivals, since he appears to be somewhat headstrong. Bob Baffert has enjoyed a fantastic season with this current crop of 3-year-olds, but we need to be aware that his horses often get overbet in these situations. Over the past 5 years, Baffert is 7 for 27 (26 percent, $0.97 ROI) with first-out winners making their second starts in graded stakes company on dirt. These impressive debut winners just do not win at a high enough rate to justify the overwhelming support they receive in the wagering.  Coliseum is likely going to be a prohibitive public choice in this race, and I think he faces a serious rival in the colt posted just to his outside.

#6, GUNMETAL GRAY (5-2): Stamina is not an issue for this colt. If anything, the one-mile distance may be shorter than his ideal trip. After impressively breaking his maiden in fast time at Del Mar in August, he was thrown directly into Grade 1 company. He was no match for likely 2-year-old champion Game Winner in either of his last two starts, but I thought he nevertheless put forth encouraging efforts. He stayed on well to be second in the American Pharoah, earning a 113 TimeformUS Speed Figure – easily the highest number in this field. While some may have been disappointed by his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile performance, he did not have the smoothest trip that day. He was taken far back off the early pace, and Flavien Prat seemed to have a difficult time working him into the clear around the far turn. He was still next-to-last turning into the stretch, and actually did well to pass over half the field in the final quarter mile.

Gunmetal Gray.png

Unlike his main rival Coliseum, Gunmetal Gray has already proven his class against some of the best 2-year-olds in the country while earning superior speed figures. He’s shown plenty of versatility in his races, so he should work out a favorable trip given the expected fast pace. It’s also a great sign to see top rider Mike Smith accept the riding assignment in hopes of securing a Derby mount. In my opinion, he’s the most likely winner of this race and he’s unlikely to be favored. That’s the definition of value. The selection.

#7, MUCH BETTER (6-1): I found it somewhat curious that Bob Baffert switched this horse to turf immediately after he won his dirt debut. While Pioneerof the Nile is a decent grass influence, this is really more of a dirt pedigree overall. His dam was an accomplished graded stakes-winning sprinter, and he gets some stamina from his sire. While he handled turf reasonably well in his initial start over it, he didn’t appear to possess the turn of foot that is necessary to achieve success on that surface. He just appeared to be one-paced throughout, as he never picked up once he made the lead at the quarter pole. I’m somewhat intrigued by the return to dirt, but I’m concerned that he may just not be fast enough to compete with the top contenders here. This is a pivotal race for an expensive colt who is still searching for an identity.

THE PLAY

The two main contenders are clearly Coliseum (#5) and Gunmetal Gray (#6). Given the fact that the latter is likely to be a better price, he is my top selection. The 5-2 morning line seems awfully generous, so I would bet him to win at anything over odds of 8-5.

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

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Friday TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Singapore Trader can extend his win streak on the stretch-out

Aqueduct | Race 7 | Post Time 3:59 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs 
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Gio d’Oro (#5) is the horse to beat off his two solid efforts since returning from the layoff this past fall. He hinted at having improved with maturity in his performance on turf two back, and he confirmed that last time, leading all the way before getting passed by the classy Testosterstone in the late stages. While he is clearly among the most naturally talented runners in this race, he does have a few additional hurdles to clear this time. He obviously prefers a wet dirt surface, so he must prove that he is as proficient over fast going. Furthermore, it’s unclear if the stretch-out around two turns will work in his favor, whereas some others are already proven at this distance.

One of his main rivals is Storm Prophet (#7), who cleared this level more than a year ago. He’s been facing tougher open-allowance foes ever since, with mixed results. I generally do not like Linda Rice dropdowns, and this horse is coming off his worst effort of the season.

singapore-trader

I would rather support a runner in good form, so I’m taking a shot with SINGAPORE TRADER (#6). I realize that he’s been defeating softer fields than his two main rivals in recent starts, but I like the way he’s coming into this race. He was a game winner two back, albeit with a perfect trip, and he ran an improved speed figure when trouncing overmatched foes last time. What could give him the edge here is the stretch-out to nine furlongs since I believe he’s better suited to handle the distance than the aforementioned pair. He ran one of the best races of his career in the Albany going this trip, and he’s arguably improved since then. With little speed signed on in this spot, he should sit a perfect trip stalking Gio d’Oro, and I believe he can outstay that rival.

THE PLAY

Win: 6
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 2,5,7
Trifecta: 6 with 5,7 with 1,2,4,5,7

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