From Gulfstream Park in Florida Wednesday, we travel up north today to visit Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, New York for the start of their winter meet (thru March 29) which features a $62,500 (purse: $75,000) allowance optional claiming race for 3-year-olds and up over one mile on the dirt. The field of 7 is carded as race 7 on the 8-race card with an approximate post time of 3:28 p.m. ET.
#8, Identity Politics, Manuel Franco, 7-2
He has finished in the money in eight of his 10 career starts and is 1-2-0 in five starts this year. In his last start, he finished fourth in an allowance optional claiming race at Belmont Park on Sept. 14. His last win came by 1 ¼ lengths over today’s entrant and morning-line favorite Payne in an allowance optional claiming race at Belmont Park on May 10. He has run two graded stakes races in his career including a runner-up finish to McKinzie in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, 2018. Manuel Franco gets the call for the first time aboard for trainer Chad Brown. He has had a decent amount of rest and I think that will suit him in this spot today. The pick.
#6, Payne, Kendrick Carmouche, 8-5
The morning-line favorite Payne has finished in the money in all eight career starts (2-4-2) and is 1-3-1 in five starts this year. He is coming off an allowance victory by one length at Aqueduct on Nov. 2. That win was a bounce-back for him after he finished second to Performer in another allowance race at Saratoga on Aug. 24. Chad Brown also trains with Kendrick Carmouche in the saddle. Runner-up.
#1, Illudere, Reylu Gutierrez, 6-1
This will be only Illudere’s second starts this year as he is coming off a ¾ length win in an allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 23. So he has had a long layoff of 11 months and in training, he developed a chip in a knee that needed to be removed. He just started working in September. Reylu Gutierrez is in the saddle for trainer James Jerkens. This is a feel-out race for him in how he does after long layoff and after surgery. Let’s see what he has got. Contender.
#5, Mr. Dougie Fresh, Jose Lezcano, 4-1
With by far the most experience in the field (30 starts: 6-7-5), this will be his 10th start (2-4-2) this year. He has finished in the money in his last four starts (0-2-2) with his last a runner-up finish in an allowance optional claiming race here on Nov. 20. Jose Lezcano returns for his second straight start in the saddle for trainer Jason Servis. On the upside. In the mix.
By Lou Monaco