Sanford Goldfarb's Aggadan is the horse to beat when he faces eight rivals in Aqueduct's first graded stakes race of 2005, the $100,000 Aqueduct Handicap (gr. III) Sunday at 1 1/16 miles.
The Aqueduct was to have been run Jan. 22, but that afternoon's card was canceled because of a blizzard that pounded the Northeast. The race was re-drawn and reopened to all of its original nominees. All eight of its original entrants went back in.
The 123-pound highweight from the barn of trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., the 6-year-old Aggadan comes off his best year ever, winning four of 10 starts in 2004. He ended the season in style, taking the Maryland-bred Jennings Handicap at Pimlico on Dec. 18, his third stakes win in Maryland last year.
"He's one cool sucker," Dutrow said. "I always thought a one-turn seven-eighths race at Belmont was his best game, but he's been a real nice surprise (stretching out successfully.) Now, he might be better going two turns. I'm very happy with him."
Aggadan, a son of Carnivalay, has a chance to fall into a decent stalking trip behind Rogue Agent and Tales of Glory if he breaks alertly for jockey Rafael Bejarano. He'll spot his foes seven to 12 pounds as the highweight.
"That 123 pounds he's carrying is definitely a concern," Dutrow said.
Tales of Glory shoots for his first stakes victory. Expectations were high months before Tales of Glory made his racing debut in the summer of 2003, when he sold for $320,000 as a 2-year-old in training at Keeneland. He went two for four as a juvenile for 2004 Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher.
After a solid 3-year-old season, winning three of 10 starts, Tales of Glory tries again to prove himself against stakes opposition. He was consistently good versus allowance and high-priced claiming company, but lost his three stakes appearances – the Rushaway, Lafayette and Pegasus.
Tales of Glory drew the outside post 8 under jockey Stewart Elliott. He could easily hook up with the fleet Rogue Agent, who was third in this race a year ago.
Region of Merit makes his debut for trainer Dominick Schettino after chasing Tales of Glory to no avail at Aqueduct Jan. 6. Region of Merit has not finished worse than second in three starts over the inner track.$100,000-added Aqueduct Handicap (gr. III), 3 & up, 1 1/16 miles
PP. HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1. Country Be Gold, Steve Kappes, Jose Espinoza, 114
2. Mahzouz, Laurie LaFavers, Shaun Bridgmohan, 111
3. Lord Langfuhr, Jimmy Jerkens, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 114
4. Rogue Agent, Mike Brice, Aaron Gryder, 114
5. Region of Merit, Dominick Schettino, Mike Luzzi, 113
6. Aggadan, Richard Dutrow Jr., Rafael Bejarano, 123
7. New York Hero, Jen Pedersen, Richard Migliore, 116
8. Tales of Glory, Todd Pletcher, Stewart Elliott, 115