Race 1: #6 Native Hero came through with a solid effort for 2nd despite having to rally into a slow pace when returned from a layoff two back, and he had little chance when stuck four-wide on December 28th's track here, which was strongly favoring the inside. #2 American Progress goes first off the claim for Rudy (perfect 100 Trainer Rating off the claim), and he has fast races to get back to. #3 Sharp Quality endured a terrible trip in NY debut. Came away second best last time without excuse after making a clear early lead, but that was a tougher field than this one (Race Rating of 90, vs. today's 82).
Race 2: #4 Super Service debuted in tough spot behind the impressive Classy Class (97 TFUS Speed Figure, runs in Grade 3 Withers later on card), and, while he was never winning that race, he had legitimate trouble when caught behind tired horses in the stretch and shuffled out to last. Not thrilled to see him come back for a tag off of a layoff, but he returns as an apparent new gelding for a trainer who gets a perfect 100 ratings across several categories (First Route, Second Start, First Since Layoff, MSW-to-MCL). #8 Rollie Mass also debuted in a tougher spot and failed to get involved over a track that was strongly favoring inside speed. Trainer gets solid 87 rating MSW-to-MCL. #2 Marvino owns the top TFUS Speed Figure in the field by way of the 76 earned for his career debut in the slop. Not worried about the trainer change, but he has been twice defeated at short prices without apparent excuse.
Race 3: Grade 3 Toboggan goes through #5 Salutos Amigos, who defeated 4 of these in the Gravesend with something in hand. #3 Dads Caps is logical as the alternative, though he often settles, and he may face some early pressure from the quick #4 Green Gratto. Blinkers on has been a good move for Rudy (96 Trainer Rating with that move). #2 Doubledown Again has been in very good form since claimed by Michelle Nevin last August, and he will also benefit if Dads Caps and Green Gratto race each other early.
Race 4: 87 TFUS Speed Figure earned by #2 Ke in Motion in his NY debut last year would make him tough in this spot, and he deserves another chance after being bumped hard and steadied at the start last time. Was never put all-in after winding up so far back in that spot, and he exited each of his two prior starts, which came in much tougher spots, with excuses as well (gunned to the lead on a fast pace Nov. 15, and crushed at the start off the layoff on Oct. 25). Liked the effort #3 Bajan Summer put in when cut back to sprint on dirt vs. a similar field on Dec. 3rd, and can give him another chance, as well. In too tough two back, he may not have cared for muddy track that was sealed last time. #8 Van Fraassen drops in class for Jacobson and fits this race well with his closing style.
Race 5: Pace Projector indicates that a fast pace will be in play for this race. Upside in this entry-level allowance lies with #4 Seagate, who has just two starts behind him. He raced greenly, but looked more comfortable over a fast track in maiden breaker at Parx last time, and he has the pedigree and connections to continue moving forward. #2 Leilani's Ticket and #5 Joking fit this race well as closing types, though it is hard to take either of them to clear this allowance condition after combining for 55 starts to this point. #3 Marble Falls has recently found himself for Bill Mott, and repeat of 100 TFUS Speed Figure earned for easy win last time makes him a player in here.
Race 6: #8 Whispering has handled distance before, and she was pushed wide vs. a strong rail when unable to impact her last race. TFUS Speed Figures of 89 and 90 for her two starts prior to that make her a big player in here, and she may have been best over a mile on October 17th after burning off all challengers on the lead in a race that went to closers. #3 Bounty Pink has picked up where she left off in two starts since returning from a layoff, including a 92 TFUS Speed Figure win when closing down a fast pace in her first race back. Thought she was 2nd best despite finishing 3rd last time; she missed the place photo after being bothered late and forced onto her wrong lead. #2 Checkupfromzneckup dominated maidens in the slop with an 88 two back, and she was stuck outside against that gold rail on Cigar Mile day last time. Still came through with a strong effort and is the horse to beat.
Race 7: Second leg of late Pick 4 features strong group of maidens with a nice mix of experienced runners and interesting first-time starters. #8 Promise and Hope was a big price when finishing behind a couple of these last month, but considering the disastrous start he was off to in that race, he did well to be as close as he was at the end. #9 Ekhlaas got the best of a fast duel in that same race before being overtaken by a pair of perfect-trip closers in the stretch, including #1 King Rontos. May have an easier time of it here (unless one of the firsters brings speed to the table) and will add lasix this time (98 Trainer Rating for McLaughlin first-time lasix). #6 Lord Commander debuts for Pletcher with a solid Breeding Rating of 89 for dirt sprints. Concern is that as strong as Pletcher is with first-time starters overall, he has won with just 4 of the last 33 he has debuted on the inner, and he gets an un-Pletcher-like Trainer Rating of 67 with 3yo maidens at Aqueduct. Trainer Michael Lerman hasn't debuted many over the past few years, but his #3 S. S. Minnow gets a perfect 100 Breeding Rating for dirt sprints as a full brother to the good sprinter Il Villano, a multiple stakes winner who has earned over $570k on the track (117 TFUS Speed Figure top).
Race 8: Grade 3 Withers goes directly through #7 El Kabeir. Not only is he already a multiple graded stakes winner, but he is facing six rivals in the Withers, and none of them has anything more than a maiden win to his credit. It may be as simple as that, but he faces a field of talented, lightly raced colts, including #1 Classy Class, who impressed greatly on debut (97 TFUS Speed Figure). He went right into the Grade 2 Remsen off of that race, and there he took the worst of it while dueling on the pace outside of eventual winner Leave the Light On, who was safely tucked to the gold rail prevailing at Aqueduct that day. We wonder about distance for Classy Class, but we think he has some real ability, and we will take him on top in the Withers. Both #3 March and #4 Tencendur both appear to have real ability, as well, and are worth following no matter what happens with them on Saturday.
Race 9: #1 Dr Disco and #6 Night Patrol may simply be the two best horses in this $10k claimer, but neither is particularly appealing from a wagering perspective, as they both exit no-excuse losses, and they are both cut in half for first start off the claim. We have to use them in the Pick 4, but as an alternative on the win end, we'll try #8 Mop Head. He has earned competitive speed figures on dirt and is capable from off the pace, which may play well in this field.