by Karen M. Johnson
The odds are stacked in trainer Todd Pletcher’s favor to come away with a win in the $75,000 Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct Jan. 13.
Pletcher has a triple threat in the Busanda, a mile and 70-yard race for 3-year-old fillies. The Pletcher stable will be represented by La Porta, Sumptuous, and Sunday Elegance, who are not coupled in the wagering. A field of six was entered.
“We are hoping for three scratches,” Pletcher said jokingly.
Sunday Elegance, a daughter of Sunday Break, appears to be the strongest of Pletcher’s trio of fillies. Owned by King of Prussia Stable, Sunday Elegance was a blowout winner of a maiden race in the mud at Monmouth Park Oct. 25. The win came in her third start and was done with ease, as she cruised home a nearly 14-length winner in the two-turn race.
Sunday Elegance ran next in the Nov. 24 Demoiselle (gr. II) and found the waters a bit deeper, finishing fourth, beaten 18 ½ lengths by the winner, Mushka. The Busanda is Sunday’s Elegance’s first race since the Demoiselle. She will be ridden by Stewart Elliott from the rail.
Sumptuous, a daughter of Hennessy, has already run on Aqueduct’s inner track, and finished second in an allowance on the winterized surface Dec. 14. That race was run in the slop and was Sumptuous’ second consecutive defeat under similar conditions. A fast track might be more to her liking. Norberto Arroyo Jr. rides Sumptuous, who drew post four.
La Porta, a daughter of Distorted Humor , faces winners for the first time after posting a head win in a one-mile race on the inner track Dec. 9. She stole away to an early lead and posted moderate fractions on her way to victory in her third career start. Mike Luzzi rides La Porta from post five.
Pletcher said it is difficult to separate the fillies because each of them is eligible for a first-level allowance race.
“It’s really hard to say (who the strongest entrant is),” Pletcher said. “I think Sunday Elegance will benefit from a wet track. They are all eligible for a preliminary allowance race, but I haven’t found a race (in New York) or out of town that will fill. Hopefully, they are all seasoned and good enough to compete at this level.”
Trainer Gary Contessa, who won the Busanda two years ago with Daytime Promise, has entered Paint Me Red. Paint Me Red previously raced in Florida for trainer William White and finished in the money in each of her three starts, including a win in her career debut over two next-out winners. She followed with a second and third in a pair of ungraded stakes.
Paint Me Red, who could go off as the favorite, will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez.
D J Lightning, who carries high weight of 122 pounds, is stretching out to two turns for the first time. The Richard Violette Jr. trainee won the six-furlong Prom Stakes at Meadowlands on a sloppy track Oct. 19.
Wonderwho’sbest, the most seasoned runner in the Busanda field with seven starts, is an established turf runner with two wins from three starts on the grass. Her trainer, Bruce Levine, is hopeful that the daughter of Three Wonderscan duplicate her turf efforts on the inner track.