Taking advantage of lucrative purses for Maryland-bred stakes races, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. sent Aggadan to Pimlico for his last three races. But with the $100,000 Aqueduct Handicap (gr. III) to be run on Aggadan's home track at 1 1/16 miles, the 6-year-old horse will make his next start in that race Saturday. The race is the first graded stakes in New York this year.
Aggadan reached the top of his game last summer, winning an allowance race at Belmont, and then returning to run a good second behind eventual Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) winner Ghostzapper in the Tom Fool Handicap (gr. II) in July. His only loss in his last four starts came in the Maryland Million Classic when he was runner-up to Presidentialaffair. His last two trips to Pimlico resulted in victories in the Challedon and Jennings Handicaps.
"He's a nice horse, but he's not as good as Presidentialaffair," Dutrow said. "He ran his race that day and we were happy with it, but we were even happier when he won his last two."
Aggadan possesses good tactical speed and has won from six furlongs to 1 1/8 miles. Rafael Bejarano will be Aggadan's sixth different jockey in as many starts.
"It looks like there's some speed in there," Dutrow said of the Aqueduct. "Aggadan is fast, but not that fast. As long as he gets a good post and breaks well, I think he should get a very nice setup."
The speed of the Aqueduct Handicap figures to come from Tales of Glory and Rogue Agent. Tales of Glory, starting with 115 pounds, will get a nice break in the weights from 123-pound highweight Aggadan. Tales of Glory has won his last two starts--allowance/optional claiming--both here on the inner track.
"He's put a couple of nice races back-to-back and he's coming off a career top," said Seth Benzel, assistant to Tales of Glory's trainer, Todd Pletcher. "We hope he can run close to that top. He's shown he likes this track and winter is a good time to try a graded stakes in New York when the handicap division is not as tough."
Although it looks like Tales of Glory will hook up with Rogue Agent, Benzel was not concerned about the effects of a speed duel. "We're not going to change our scenario," Benzel said. "His best races are on the lead. If someone else wants to run with him, then they're conceding defeat."
Region of Merit was only 1 3/4 lengths behind Tales of Glory in his last start and will make his first start for trainer Dominick Schettino Saturday.
Rogue Agent will be seeking his first win since an allowance/ optional claimer at Belmont in May. The gelding stayed on gamely for second after setting the pace in the Dec. 31 Alex M. Robb for New York-breds in his last start. Lord Langfuhr rallied from well off the pace to win the Alex M. Robb, his third consecutive victory.
Field for the $100,000 Aqueduct Handicap
Post Horse Jockey Weight
1--Tales of Glory, Stewart Elliott, 115
2--Rogue Agent, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 114
3--Mahzouz, Shaun Bridgmohan, 111
4--New York Hero, Richard Migliore, 116
5--Country Be Gold, Jose Espinoza, 114
6--Lord Langfuhr, Jorge Chavez, 114
7--Region of Merit, Mike Luzzi, 113
8--Aggadan, Rafael Bejarano, 123