03/24/2017 11:32AM

Friday’s TimeformUS Highlight Horse: Can Virtual Machine replicate his maiden win?

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Aqueduct | Race 8 | Post Time 4:50 p.m. (ET) | Go to the TimeformUS PPs

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Tathqeef (#6) is probably the horse to beat as he ships up from Florida. His stateside debut, which marked his first start on dirt, was an encouraging effort. After chasing a fast pace through the early stages, he put away his rivals with an early move to the lead and was just run down by the closing Frammento late. If he moves forward off that effort, he is likely to win this race. However, he faces some legitimate foes in this spot. Cards of Stone appeared to return to form last time, and Winning Road has been quickly improving in recent starts.

Yet my top pick is another runner making his second start off a layoff.

VIRTUAL MACHINE (#5) easily defeated some overmatched rivals to win his maiden last time, and the performance may have been even better than it appears. Feb. 16 was a day that featured a strong inside bias, and Virtual Machine raced wide around both turns before taking command in the stretch. Most horses who raced against the track bias on this day showed signs of fatigue late, but Virtual Machine was invigorated in the stretch drive. This horse bad previously shown plenty of class as a 3-year-old when facing the likes of stakes performers Gun Runner and Race Me Home, and it seems that he has taken a step forward this year. I believe he is the biggest threat to Tathqeef, and he should be a square price.

 

THE PLAY

Win: 5

Exacta Key Box: 5 with 2,3,6

Trifecta: 5,6 with 5,6 with ALL