Trainer Tony Dutrow has gotten into the habit of shipping stakes-quality horses north from his Laurel, Md. base to Aqueduct. It has worked well, as Dutrow has racked up eight local stakes victories over the last two seasons.
Dutrow will be back at it Friday at the Big A, saddling Willa On the Move in the Delta Airlines/Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) for fillies and mares at a mile. The $150,000 Top Flight is the feature on a 10-race card that begins at noon EST.
Willa On the Move spent her summer in Saratoga and was one of the top female sprinters on the grounds. She defeated a pair of millionaires in Shine Again and Smok'n Frolic winning the Honorable Miss (gr. III) and finished less than three lengths behind Harmony Lodge in the Ballerina Handicap (gr. I).
"She had a great summer," Dutrow said. "She ran with the best the sport had to offer at Saratoga. She was plagued by shin troubles throughout her 3-year-old year, but they're fine now."
Hoping to have a fresh horse for the winter, Dutrow gave Willa On the Move a little breather from late August until mid October. She got back to the races a winner six weeks ago, taking the Maryland Million Distaff on Oct. 11 as a heavy favorite.
"She was the best horse in the field and was much the best," Dutrow said. "She came out of it better than she went in. She's never won at a mile, but I don't think it is an issue."
Willa On the Move, who was fifth behind Sightseek in last year's Top Flight, drew post 9 and will be ridden by Edgar Prado.
Randaroo looked like a potential star when winning last November's Valley Stream Stakes (gr. III) here as a 2-year-old. Her 3-year-old campaign, however, had been a mixed bag up until her training was turned over to Kiaran McLaughlin. Since the barn switch, Randaroo is unbeaten in two starts, taking the Safely Kept (gr. III) at Pimlico and First Flight (gr. II) at Belmont. Her talent is not in question in the Top Flight, her ability to carry her speed a mile is.
"It's a question mark, but we've got to try it sooner or later," McLaughlin said. "It's not like she's undefeated. She's been beaten before and she'll be beaten again."
Although Randaroo led at every call in the First Flight, she was able to rate effectively when winning the Safely Kept on Oct. 4.
"She'll relax," McLaughlin said. "She won the First Flight by a neck, but even galloping out she never let Shine Again by."
Randaroo drew post 10 of 12 under jockey Heberto Castillo Jr. She carries co-highweight of 116 pounds with Pocus Hocus, Willa On the Move, and Miss Lodi.
Thorn Stable's Artist Johanna has taken to dirt racing quite nicely in the United States, winning two of four starts. Trained by Frank Alexander, this daughter of Festin gamely turned back a talented filly in Message Red when taking a fourth-level allowance at Aqueduct on Nov .15. Shaun Bridgmohan, second in the local rider standings, has the mount.
Miss Lodi ships in from Kentucky for trainer Tom Amoss seeking her third consecutive victory. A 4-year-old daughter of Mr. Greeley, Miss Lodi has hit the board in a few graded stakes, running second and third behind Sightseek in the Raven Run and Humana Distaff (gr. II). Jockey Aaron Gryder has picked up the mount for the Top Flight.
Pocus Hocus, who loves the Big A, notched the first graded stakes victory of her career in the Nov. 1 Turnback the Alarm (gr. III), but that was going two turns. She may find herself farther off the lead in the early stages cutting back to one turn and has yet to prove she can win from off the pace. A daughter of Quiet American, Pocus Hocus goes out for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.Delta Airlines/Top Flight Handicap (gr. II), $150,000, 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one mile
PP, Horse, Trainer, Jockey, Wgt.
1. Shawklit Mint, Patrick Reynolds, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 114
2. Sabre of Silver, Paulino Ortiz, Pablo Fragoso, 111
3. Drexel Monorail, Steve Klesaris, C.C. Lopez, 114
4. Zawzooth, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 113
5. Pocus Hocus, James Jerkens, Mike Luzzi, 116
6. Artist Johanna, Frank Alexander, Shaun Bridgmohan, 113
7. Lights Out, Alan Goldberg, Julian Pimentel, 111
8. Beauty Halo, Elliott Walden, Richard Migliore, 113
9. Willa On the Move, Tony Dutrow, Edgar Prado, 116
10. Randaroo, Kiaran McLaughlin, Heberto Castillo Jr., 116
11. Caught in the Rain, Guadalupe Preciado, Victor Molina, 112
12. Miss Lodi, Tom Amoss, Aaron Gryder, 116