Boisterous will be heavy favorite to successfully defend his title in the Grade 2, $200,000 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct, the first of two non-Breeders' Cup graded stakes that will be held across the country on Saturday.
A homebred campaigned by Jockey Club chairman "Dinny" Phipps, Boisterous has developed into one of New York's most noted turf performers over the past 13 months. His two-length win in the 2011 Red Smith came on the heels of a victory in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker at Belmont, a race he repeated in most recently on October 13 by two lengths.
Boisterous was also victorious in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy earlier this season, and placed in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap and Grade 3 Arlington Handicap. In his only disappointing try against stakes foes this term, the son of Distorted Humor never got untracked in a ninth-place effort in the Grade 1 Arlington Million.
Should Boisterous repeat in the 1 3/8-mile Red Smith, he would become only the second horse in the history of the race to do so. The brilliant turf mare Drumtop won in 1970-71 when it was known as the Edgemere Handicap.
The main threat to the favorite will likely come from Bombaguia, who will attempt to lead the field gate to wire. The gray gelding just failed to hold in the Grade 2 Bowling Green over 1 1/4 miles two back, but was a tiring fifth behind Boisterous in the Knickerbocker last time.
Multiple Grade 3 queen Salty Strike will face a contentious field Saturday at Churchill Downs in the Grade 2, $150,000 Chilukki for fillies and mares over one mile. The Kenny McPeek trainee has won five of seven starts under the Twin Spires, including stakes triumphs in the Grade 3 Dogwood, Dream Supreme and Roxelana. A four-time stakes winner this term, Salty Strike has added the Grade 3 Gardenia and Hoosier Park's Mari Hulman George to her ledger in recent months.
Salty Strike also has the benefit of having beaten some of her main Chilukki rivals. She triumphed in the Dream Supreme last year over Dancinginherdreams, whose lone stakes win to date was in the Grade 2 Pocahontas in 2010, and in the August 11 Gardenia at Ellis Park she prevailed over Grade 2 vixen Joyful Victory, who enters off a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Zenyatta at Santa Anita.
Others of note in the Chilukki are Brushed by a Star, a two-time winner at Churchill who upset the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher in July and was second to Salty Strike last time in the Mari Hulman George; multiple Grade 2 queen Juanita, whose last victory was an upset in the Grade 2 La Troienne on Kentucky Oaks Day; and the Grade 2-placed three-year-old Jemima's Pearl, who enters off a second in the Remington Park Oaks.
Saturday's Churchill card also features the $65,000 Bet on Sunshine, a six-furlong dash that features Grade 2 winner Havelock and multiple stakes winner Delaunay.