Stonestreet's Teen Pauline seeks her first graded-stakes score and third straight stakes win March 1 at Aqueduct Racetrack, when she takes on a small but salty field of fillies and mares in the $200,000 Top Flight Handicap (gr. II).
The 4-year-old daughter of Tapit will shoulder co-highweight of 123 pounds including jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. from post 2 in her third start of 2014. Her past two performances this season have been dominant—a wire-to-wire victory by 4 3/4 lengths going 1 1/16 miles in the Jan. 1 Affectionately Stakes, and a smashing gate-to-wire encore in the Jan. 25 Ladies Handicap by 10 3/4 lengths at 1 1/8 miles. She is 9-5 second choice on the morning line.
"Irad says every time she's gone to the lead she's been relaxed," said Todd Pletcher's assistant, Byron Hughes. "She's doing very well."
But Teen Pauline will face a classy rival in 2013 Top Flight winner Summer Applause
, the 8-5 favorite on the morning line who also carries 123 and jockey Jose Ortiz from post 4. The 5-year-old daughter of Harlan's Holiday
moved from the barn of Bret Calhoun to trainer Chad Brown and won the Top Flight in her first start for her new conditioner.
Her 2013 campaign also included wins in the Allaire DuPont Distaff (gr. III) at Pimlico Race Course
and the Lady's Secret at Monmouth Park
, a second-place showing in the Juddmonte Spinster (gr. I) at Keeneland
, and a late-closing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park
for owners Gillian Campbell, Greenwood Lodge, Dan Clark, and Greg Sloda.
"She won the race last year," Brown said, "and we thought it would be a good race to start her back. Then we'll just see where to go from there."
Pletcher will also send out Royal Lahaina
, winner of the Go for Wand (gr. II) last November. In two starts since then, James Riccio's 6-year-old daughter of Chapel Royal
finished third in the Affectionately and fifth in the Ladies. She leaves the 6 hole with Corey Nakatani in the irons as part of a 120-pound impost.
"She's had some gate issues in both of her last two starts," Hughes said. "We've brought her to the gate a couple times since, so hopefully she's over it."
Darley's hard-knocking Centring
also seeks an elusive first graded stakes score for trainer Tom Albertrani. The 6-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy was third in three grade I stakes last year: the Personal Ensign at Saratoga Race Course
, and the Ogden Phipps and Beldame at Belmont Park
. She finished second in the Affectionately and third in the Ladies Handicap behind Teen Pauline to kick off her 2014 campaign.
Centring will break from post position 3 with Rajiv Maragh in the irons and rests at 5-1 on the morning line.
Completing the field are MeB Racing Stables LLC and Brooklyn Boyz Stables' Ladies Handicap runner-up Flash Forward
, and Gainesway's Flores Island
, winner of a second-level optional claimer in her last start.
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Flash Forward (KY), C.H. Velasquez, 117, D Schettino, 10-1
2. Teen Pauline (KY), I. Ortiz, Jr., 123, T A Pletcher, 9-5
3. Centring (KY), R. Maragh, 117, T Albertrani, 5-1
4. Summer Applause (KY), J.L. Ortiz, 123, C C Brown, 8-5
5. Flores Island (KY), M. Franco, 116, W I Mott, 10-1
6. Royal Lahaina (KY), C.S. Nakatani, 120, T A Pletcher, 6-1