The Aqueduct is winding up its winter season with the last week of racing on the inner dirt surface. The Daily Racing Form's Race of the Day (ROD) will be the eighth race on today's card. It is a state-bred optional allowance race for $25,000, going a lengthy 1 1/4 mile on the inner-dirt. It's an interesting field of New York breds and will hit post time at approximately 4:25pm EST.
Drawing the rail was the first horse of a Randi Persuad entry, Commissioner Chris (5-1). This sever year-old has only six wins in 88 starts, but is trying to pick up his fourth victory over this surface. This one will likely not be the part of the entry to worry about. Look for him in his next start on the other dirt track at the Aqueduct, he finished a good second in his most recent start on that surface.
Also drawing inside is the Leah Gyarmati trained Early Response (12-1). Surprisingly enough, she has a positive ROI over 2009-2010 and is winning at a nice 13 percent clip in New York. The horse is coming off a wire-to-wire victory at the $15,000 level at odds of 8-1. That was his third race off the claim and the jump up in class can't help the cause. I like Victor Santiago staying aboard. If speed is holding up, add this one in as a win candidate.
Endless Circle (2-1) could be the most promising horse in the field. David Cohen hops aboard for David Jacobson off the claim just 12 days ago. Previously trained by Charlton Baker, Endless Circle has two wins in four starts in 2010. He will likely go off as the favorite in this race. I doubt he will see the soft pace he saw a couple weeks ago with this group, and he has not won an optional allowance race since September 2008. There is reason to doubt the favorite going this long, at this class level.
The third choice on the morning-line is French Transition (4-1). He is trained by Frank Martin and will be ridden by Gabriel Saez for the third time. He placed third behind Endless Circle in their most recent start 12 days ago. This gelding is just one for six in 2010, but has hit the board 67 percent of the time.
You could forgive his last start with the pace scenario that unfolded. Or, you could consider it a lazy effort, in which, he wanted no part of anything in the stretch run. An important note to take and the reason I am leaning towards this one ending up in the winner's circle, back on February 3rd he went 1 1/8 mile over this surface angled out in the stretch and came up 3/4 lengths behind the winner. With an additional two furlongs to run today, he should have enough ground and enough of a pace to make a similar move and win today.
No Halo on Me will break next and he is going to need a halo for hooves to win today. Jockey and trainer are both winless and have hit the board just once. One positive if you are a big risk taker, class. This horse has raced in some nice allowance races, but has just gone off at huge odds. This is probably more of his class level, but an exotic showing is the best hope under these connections.
Fernando Jara will ride Diamond District (6-1). He finished third in that 1 1/8 mile race that French Transition ran second. The one problem he is facing is that he looks extremely worn down since his 1 1/4 victory here in January. Contessa has handed him over to a trainer with only two starts (David Adel). He does win at 20 percent which is much better than most of these, but he will have to run back to the 78 Beyer figure he posted in back to back races in January. I just don't see it happening with this trainer.
The main rival to Endless Circle and French Transition is South Fourth St. (3-1). Jorge Chavez is riding for John Toscano, the combo has an ROI of $3.69. Not a bad number the past two years, but Toscano has won just three of 66 starts at Aqueduct this meet. The horse is also zero for four this meet, not contributing any showings to the fold either. In addition, no wins on the surface in his career in eight starts is not a good sign at all. I would expect his odds to drift up from that short morning-line.
Lastly, the other of the coupled entry of Persuad, Next Day (5-1). Zero wins in ten starts on the inner-dirt is a troublesome fact with Next Day, but the class of the races he has been running in has been a little better. Another signal of this being a tough task, he has already faced some in this group and has been nowhere near the front. His recent second means nothing when you factor in distance and his struggles over this surface.
The race likely comes down to Endless Circle and French Transition. The task for French Transition will be to run down the three horses likely in front of him. Endless Circle, Early Response, and Diamond District are all likely to be ahead of him. The only way I see bad things happening is if the speed bias is too much to handle. Enjoy the last week on the inner-dirt.