Aqueduct (Coglianese Photo)

Aqueduct (Coglianese Photo)

When a lightly-raced horse fires off a huge effort, particularly over a wet track, it can be difficult to know if it’s a fair representation of their talent or a fluke that they’re unlikely to repeat.

That’s one of the challenges facing handicappers in Sunday’s $100,000 Rego Park Stakes at Aqueduct, a 6 ½-furlong event for New York-bred three-year-olds. The probable favorite, #2 Blindwillie McTell, ran huge over a sloppy, sealed track in the New York Stallion Series Stakes at Aqueduct last month, winning by 2 ½ lengths with an eye-catching 103 BRIS speed figure. No one is going to beat him if he runs back to that effort, but could it have actually been a slop-induced fluke?

On this occasion, I’m tempted to take an optimistic view of Blindwillie McTell’s performance. In his debut, he finished clearly second-best behind the promising next-out allowance winner Le General in six-furlong maiden race at Aqueduct, and the distant third-place finisher—#4 Kadens Courage—finished a similar margin behind Blindwillie McTell when third once again in the New York Stallion Series Stakes.

In other words, I believe that there was nothing particularly surprising about Blindwillie McTell’s big effort in the New York Stallion Series Stakes—the top finishers all appeared to run to form, and I’m inclined to believe that Blindwillie McTell will run just as well of Sunday if he can break alertly from post two. Trainer Linda Rice is enjoying a strong Aqueduct meet so far with 22 wins from 96 starters, and Blindwillie McTell will be teaming up with jockey Dylan Davis for the second straight race. With 18 victories since the winter meet kicked off on December 7th, Davis ranks third in the jockey standings and seems like a good fit for the favorite.

Of course, this raises a new question—who do we use with Blindwillie McTell in the exotics? Well, Kadens Courage and the New York Stallion Stakes runner-up #6 Thorny Tale are logical options, along with #9 Just Right, a Todd Pletcher-trained son of Into Mischief who enters off a second-place finish behind Le General in an Aqueduct allowance race. The speedy Penn National maiden winner #11 Kazmania could also be worth a look despite his outside draw.

I’ll key Blindwillie McTell on top while emphasizing Thorny Tale and Just Right underneath in the exacta and trifecta:

$6 exacta: 2 with 6,9 ($12)
$3 trifecta: 2 with 6,9 with 4,6,9,11 ($18)

Good luck!