If the inner track continues to play as it has, With Ability should be very tough to beat in Saturday's $100,000 Ladies Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct.The 1 ¼-mile feature tops the last day of racing at Aqueduct before the Christmas break. Horses with the lead at the top of the stretch won almost every race on Wednesday and Edward Evans' With Ability should have no excuses as she tries the classic distance for the first time.
With Ability, a daughter of A.P. Indy, has been dominant at times and that was the case Dec. 4 when she easily handled a $56,000 allowance field by better than seven lengths while carrying 123 pounds. Earlier this year, she was impressive in winning the Next
Move (gr. III) and Sixty Sails.
"I was impressed with her last race," trainer Mark Hennig said. "The goal was to give her a confidence builder to come into the Ladies on. I don't know if she's more confident, but we sure are. Sometimes, I wonder if the confidence builder is for the connections or the horse."
With Ability is 2-for-4 over the inner track. Her lone-speed status promise to help her negotiate the distance.
"I think she's certainly capable of getting the distance," said Hennig. The filly may run a couple times early in 2003 before she is retired for broodmare service. "I think she's going to be bred to Thunder Gulch," he said.
With Ability will carry 118 pounds and Aaron Gryder in the Ladies. Gryder was aboard for the filly's runaway win earlier this month.
In case the distance poses a problem for With Ability, Hennig has entered Unrestrained, also owned by Evans. Unrestrained won minor listed stakes at Delaware and The Meadowlands over the summer and likes to come from off the pace.
Going a mile in the Top Flight, Unrestrained remained at the back of the pack throughout, finishing next to last as a 56-1 longshot.
"We used that last race to get some fitness into her," Hennig said. "I think she's capable of running a good race in the Ladies."
The Ladies will be the last race of Critical Eye's career. A multiple stakes and grade I-winning New York-bred who has earned $996,544, the Dynaformer mare would have been retired following the Dec. 1 Montauk had she gone over the $1 million mark, but missed that when she was nosed out for the show spot.
Critical Eye, the 124-pound highweight in the Montauk, will only have to carry 116 pounds Saturday and gets off the main track, where she has struggled.
"The stretch is longer on the inner track and that should help her running style going a mile and a quarter," said trainer Scott Schwartz. "The distance has never been a problem for her."
Critical Eye won the off-the-turf Sheepshead Bay in 2001 going a mile and three-eighths, but is 0-for-4 at a mile and a quarter.
The temptation to get Critical Eye over the $1 million mark was too much to pass up the Ladies.
"She came out of the Montauk perfect," Schwartz said. "If there were any signs of something amiss, she would not be running. Basically, the reason why she's running is to get over $1 million. She has enough credentials being a multiple grade I winner, but when she's that close, you have to go for it. She deserves to be a millionaire."
Critical Eye would need to finish fourth or better to get over the goal. Depending on added money, she might be able to achieve it with a fifth-place finish.$100,000-added Ladies Handicap (gr. III), fillies & mares 1/14 mile
PP HORSE, JOCKEY, WGT.
1 Along Came Mary, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 113
2a Unrestrained, Javier Castellano, 114
3 Wishful Splendor, Richard Migliore, 110
4 Critical Eye, Mike Luzzi, 116
5 Ellie's Moment, Shaun Bridgmohan, 114
6a With Ability, Aaron Gryder, 118
(a) Edward Evans-owned entry