April 22, 2024

Aqueduct Notebook 12/15

Last updated: 12/14/04 4:09 PM


AQUEDUCT NOTEBOOK

DECEMBER 15

by Bernard T. Moore

Racing over the inner dirt just completed its second week and is in full
stride. Handicappers can expect to be fed a steady diet of six furlong sprints
and two-turn routes. Gone, at least for the time being, are the overflow fields
of grass races, as they have been replaced with an abundance of New York-bred
and claiming events.

However, racing over the winterized track is not without its own charms.
Sprinters race six furlongs, period. All route contests are conducted around two
turns, which makes solving the handicapping puzzle a tad easier. Outside posts
are disadvantaged over this course as one would expect, and early speed is
always preferable, if not an outright necessity. Trainers and jockeys who take a
back seat at Belmont and Saratoga find themselves among the leaders at Aqueduct,
and these individuals tend to win races in bunches. It always pays attention to
determine who is hot, and who is not, no matter what the season may be.

On Saturday, the Garland of Roses H. boiled down to a game of “cat and mouse”
on paper. Would the pace be too hot that it would cook the favorite Cologny (Go
for Gin), and Forest Music (Unbridled’s Song), setting the race up for a closer?
Or, would they simply carve out deliberate fractions on the front end, and run
one-two around the track? Those questions were answered quickly as Forest Music
threw down the gauntlet from the start, assuming the lead in a rather swift
:21.74. When she passed the half-mile pole in 44.45, with Cologny in close
pursuit, one could only assume that off-the-pace runners would have a say in the
outcome, despite the speed–favoring nature of the course.

However, Cologny was the first to call it a day, as Forest Music opened up a
two-length lead at the eighth-pole, but the pacesetter’s early exploits began to
take their toll shortly thereafter. TRAVELATOR (A.P Jet) was closing strongly in
tandem with Sensibly Chic (Distorted Humor) to her outside. Travelator finished
a tad better than eventual runner-up Sensibly Chic to post a head decision over
her rival. Forest Music was another neck back in third in a gallant effort as
Mariakel (Lit de Justice) closed belatedly for fourth.

Gary Gullo, whose training career has been rejuvenated of late, saddled the
winner. He has been the beneficiary of many of fellow trainer Stanley Hough’s
horses, as Hough winters in Southern Florida every year. Jockey Norberto Arroyo
Jr. was aboard Travelator, his fourth winner on the Saturday card. Arroyo has
also enjoyed a rebirth of sorts since switching his tack back to New York after
the closing of Delaware Park.

Sometimes, stakes races in New York have a tendency to draw small but select
fields. However, there was no shortage of horseflesh in the $85,725 Damon Runyon
Stakes for New York-bred two-year-olds. A field of 12 runners were loaded in the
starting gate at Aqueduct on Sunday, with Up Like Thunder (War Chant) assuming
the role of favorite in the race. However, the Runyon belonged to NAUGHTY NEW
YORKER, who swooped to the lead under jockey Jean Luc Samyn approaching the
stretch and continued to increase his advantage to win by an authoritative 8 1/2
lengths.

These race tactics were similar to those that he employed just one month ago
to register his initial career victory, and his form has dramatically reversed
itself over the Aqueduct inner and main tracks.

Sort It Out (Out of Place), ridden by apprentice Timothy Thornton, closed
late for second at odds of 66-1, finishing 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Summerland
(Western Expression), who set a pressured pace but held well once displaced on
the lead. Up Like Thunder was never a serious threat and finished a
disappointing seventh.

The winner is trained by Pat Kelly for the Fox Ridge Farm, a long-time
client. While there are no immediate plans for Naughty New Yorker, his
connections plan to look at some three-year-old stakes contests in the upcoming
year.

The inner track played favorably to speed all week and there did not to
appear to be perceivable path bias.

Trainer Scott Lake saddled four winners last week and now sits atop the
trainer standings with seven victories. Richard Dutrow Jr. dropped to second,
which he shares with Dominic Galluscio, who has been on a roll of late. Each
trainer has five wins to their credit. Bruce Levine and Kiaran McLaughlin are
tied for fourth.

Not much has changed in the jockey’s race as Rafael Bejarano continues to
show the way, having ridden 15 winners. Arroyo maintains second place with 13
victories, just one more than Aaron T. Gryder in third. Mike Luzzi enjoyed a
good week over the inner and now finds himself in battle with Shaun Bridgmohan
for fourth place as each jockey has eight wins to their credit.

HORSES TO WATCH

Wednesday (12/8)

4TH – SARAH’S PROSPECT (Allen’s Prospect) finished an encouraging fifth in
his career debut. He demonstrated a quick turn of foot from an outside post to
carve out a lively pace. Obviously needed the race and will be much fitter for
his next start. The juvenile is bred for a sprint and to win early in his
career.

7TH – STORMY SEASON (Storm Cat) direly needed this effort off a freshening.
She dropped too far behind in her inner track debut but began to level off in
the stretch while closing “sneaky well” late. Might see her stretch out in
subsequent starts as her stakes winning dam’s five career victories came in dirt
routes.

8TH – TRUE DIRECTION (French Deputy), a “bad actor,” reared up and was
extremely fractious prior to the start. Simply draw a line through this race. He
was forced to check when bumped at the start and was relegated to race at the
back of the pack. He raced wide on the far turn and into the stretch against a
slow pace in a race that quickened noticeably late. Capable of much more than he
has shown in his first two efforts for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Thursday (12/9)

1ST – SMOTHEREDWITHLOVE (General Royal) was forced to steady briefly between
rivals while attempting to improve her position on the far turn. Wheeled to
outside for a stretch run and closed with a flourish for the place in a swiftly
run race for the class level.

6TH – NORTHWEST HILL (Northern Spur [Ire]) improved to finish third here,
although subsequently disqualified for interference in the stretch run.
Responded well to rating tactics while dropping down to 35K claimers, tracking a
solid pace before closing with interest late. Both wins over inner were at two
turns and he loves a middle-distance route.

8TH – TRACI GIRL (Quiet American) came in a heartbreaking second in her
return while stepping up class and stretching out. Dueled the early pacesetter
into defeat while contesting strong fractions on the front end but was unable to
contain the winner late, who benefited from a perfect stalking trip. She’s
demonstrated an ability to sprint in the past and could be dangerous on cutback.

Friday (12/10)

7TH – GOOD EDITION (Good and Tough) changed tactics and finished strongly
from well off the pace. She appeared to dislike either the addition of blinkers,
the moisture-laden surface, or both. Eventually found her stride, closing widest
and best of all late to gain the place. Deserves another chance, especially on a
dry track, or with the removal of blinkers.

Saturday (12/11)

5TH – JIM’S SMOKIN PINOT (Victory Gallop) should not take long to graduate.
He clearly dominated the rest of the field after chasing a superior speed rival
while stretching out for the first time. His newfound ability to rate and handle
moisture should serve him well in the future for a top trainer. Further progress
expected with age, experience and distance. Two-year-old has four siblings who
were victorious in routes.

6TH – RED HANDED ROBIN’s (Fit to Fight) fourth-place finish is better than it
seems. She was simply unable to handle the lightning quick pace. Appears to be a
perfect candidate to stretch out to a route of ground for Dutrow.

Sunday (12/12)

4TH – AMAZING BUY (High Yield) turned in a good third in her well bet debut
for a live barn (Jennifer Pedersen). Stalked a loose frontrunner setting a rapid pace and finished
with good energy in a swiftly run race for the class level. Both trainer and
sire are NOT known to excel with their first timers.