The appeal of the Fall Highweight Handicap (gr. III) is that is harkens back to a time when good horses carried a lot of weight, and therefore, separated themselves from the ordinary. That is why the grade III, six-furlong sprint has lasted for so long.
Thursday afternoon, the 91st running of the $100,000-added Fall Highweight will be the feature of a special Thanksgiving Day card that will begin with a first-race post of 11 a.m. The Fall Highweight, which attracted a field of 11, will be run as race 8 (2:17 p.m.).
The starting highweight in this affair will be Heiligbrodt Stable's Bwana Charlie, who will carry 137 pounds in what will be his 11th start of the year. He has won or placed in eight of the 10 starts.
Winless in three starts since winning Saratoga's Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) Aug. 7, the Indian Charlie colt remains a strong player. He exits a fourth-place finish to Speightstown in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I).
"He ran a real good race," said trainer Steve Asmussen, who on Saturday broke Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg's 1976 single-year victory with his 497th victory of 2005. "What can I say? Bwana Charlie is a closing sprinter who was coming out of the 1-hole. We knew he was likely to get a lot of traffic, which he did, and he still didn't get beat all that much. He's just a nice horse."
According to Asmussen, the Fall Highweight is a perfect fit for his colt. "He's not so much large as he is huge," Asmussen said. "The percentage of weight that he has to carry isn't that much in percentage to how big he is. I just think that, because of his size and the way he is proportioned, he can handle carrying this kind of weight, where smaller horses might have a problem."
Assistant trainer Toby Sheets will saddle Bwana Charlie, and jockey Stewart Elliott has the mount.
Because history plays such a big part in the Fall Highweight, it is worth taking a long look at Barry K. Schwartz' Papua in the race. The New York-bred son of 1996 Preakness (gr. I) winner Louis Quatorze carried 132 pounds in this race last year and ran second by a half-length to Bossanova, to whom he conceded four pounds.
Trainer Mike Hushion has also entered Uncle Camie, and the 4-year-old Abaginone colt should assure an honest pace. "We drew the outside post with Papua, which I don't like, but at least Uncle Camie got the 2-hole," Hushion said. "Uncle Camie got out-run last time, but I don't see that happening here. I sincerely doubt that they are going to get the first quarter in :22 2/5. Our plan with Uncle Camie is to let him roll.
"As for Papua, he has trained well and continues to look well since he had his little break this summer. But I have been disappointed in his last two races because I thought he would run better. Papua ran a big race here last year. He's a medium-sized horse, but he has a big barrel. I think horses that have mass have a big edge against smaller horses in this race."
Javier Castellano will ride Papua at 128 pounds, while Mike Luzzi has the mount on Uncle Camie at the same weight.
Robert Clay's Medallist has made only one appearance on Aqueduct's main track, and that resulted in a victory in the Withers (gr. II) May 1. The 3-year-old colt had a miserable Saratoga, but has trained well at Belmont Park and looks to be ready to fire a top effort.
Post Position Horse Jockey Weight
Estimated Post 2:17
1. Friendly Island John Velazquez 130
2. Uncle Camie Mike Luzzi 128
3. Thunder Touch Rafael Bejarano 126
4. Max's Buddy Cornelio Velasquez 127
5. Bwana Charlie Stewart Elliott 137
6. Primary Suspect Pablo Fragoso 126
7. Medallist Jose Santos 134
8. Don Six Shaun Bridgmohan 128
9. Dubai Sheikh Edgar Prado 129
10. Eavesdropper Jorge Chavez 127
11. Papua Javier Castellano 128