For bettors searching for a decent stakes race on Sunday, Aqueduct is hosting the $100,000 Busanda Stakes for aspiring Kentucky Oaks contenders. Six 3-year-old fillies are scheduled to run nine furlongs around the main track, with 10 Oaks points awarded to the winner.
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This post will also discuss the $25k claiming race after the Busanda in order to cover the late double. Here are the selections for each race.
Aqueduct Race 8: Busanda Stakes
Even though Magic Circle is the logical morning line favorite, she has been shaky in her route performances, at least in the stretch run.
In the one-mile Frizette Stakes (G1) at Belmont, Magic Circle faded to fourth and 10 1/2 lengths behind the winner after stalking the pace within a length of the lead through the initial stages. Perhaps the wide move she made on the long Belmont turn affected her punch in the lane.
One month later in the one-mile Tempted Stakes, also at Belmont, Magic Circle had every chance to pass Gerrymander in the stretch and could not get by. In fact, Magic Circle went from being a head behind to a half-length behind by the time Gerrymander crossed the wire first.
The connections still decided to try nine furlongs in the local Demoiselle Stakes (G2). Magic Circle set the early pace and opened up by one length at one point in the stretch. But, she started to weave in and out slightly and ultimately both Nest and Venti Valentine passed her late.
Given the moderate fractions of 25.05, 50.72 and 1:15.80, Magic Circle had no reason to give up the lead. Yet, she could not put the field away.
Although Rosebug is not a huge bargain at 5-2, she is the right choice.
In her fourth career start and second dirt race, Rosebug broke her maiden in a local seven-furlong maiden race on Dec. 30 over the slop. She won easily by 3 3/4 lengths and gave the impression of a filly capable of doing more.
Rosebug also ran on fast dirt in her career debut at Saratoga last August in a six-furlong sprint. She made a mild closing move to finish fourth by three lengths, which is respectable for a first-time starter at Saratoga. The winner Gerrymander went on to capture the Tempted in November, while the second-place Distinctlypossible ran second again in the Alcibiades Stakes (G1). Given the company, Rosebug finished well.
The question is whether Rosebug can handle the stretchout to nine furlongs. She is a daughter of Triple Crown champion American Pharoah out of Taittinger Rose, a two-time winner at nine furlongs in her 23-race career.
From a pedigree standpoint, there is no reason Rosebug cannot handle the long stretchout.
As for the other four fillies in this race, they seem to lack the proper class to compete for the win. On paper, this is a match race between Magic Circle and Rosebug.
At 5-2 or higher, Rosebug is a fair bet to outlast Magic Circle and win. If her odds dip well below 5-2, then consider not wagering on the Busanda. Since Magic Circle offers no value underneath, the better strategy is to search for a proper horizontal wager instead of vertical.
Top selection: No. 6 Rosebug (5-2)
Contender: No. 1 Magic Circle (6-5)
Win: 6 (at 5-2 or higher)
Double: 6 / 3
Aqueduct Race 9: Claiming $25k
Most claiming races are difficult to handicap because of the lack of consistent form. In most cases, trainer statistics play a bigger role in these races.
Red Pepper Grill makes her first start for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, who TimeformUS rates a high 96/100 with horses coming off the claim.
Under her previous trainer Carlos F. Martin, Red Pepper Grill’s form was decent. She ran second in a $25k claiming race at Belmont on Oct. 15 and a $30k claiming race on Oct. 30 while beating a couple of the same names in here.
Red Pepper Grill turned in a clunker in a local $25k claiming race on Dec. 5, but the puzzling effort is forgivable. Sometimes claiming horses turn in bad races for no rhyme or reason, especially under trainers who do not stand out on statistics.
Rodriguez opts to run Red Pepper Grill at the same $25k level, which is a good sign too. The switch to jockey Manny Franco also might help.
Red Pepper Grill is the choice to use with Rosebug in a cold double.
Top selection: No. 3 Red Pepper Grill (4-1)