Foiled twice before, Melnyk Racing Stables’ Indian Vale looks like she will finally make her comeback in Saturday’s $100,000 Next Move Handicap (gr. III) for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct.
Indian Vale was twice entered in the Lucky Lucky Lucky overnight stakes two weeks ago, but the race was scrapped both times after a winter storm knocked out racing at Aqueduct from March 16-18. Considering the five-time winner has been off since May 21, the extra couple of weeks is probably no big deal.
“We were hoping to go in the previous race, but as far as the Next Move is concerned, I can’t see how an extra couple of weeks will hurt her,” said Seth Benzel, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “Todd has always been fairly patient with her.”
Indian Vale looked like a superstar in the making back in the summer of 2005 when she won a pair of allowance races at Saratoga by 13 and 10 3/4 lengths, respectively. After faltering in the Cotillion (gr. II) at Philadelphia Park with Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr. aboard for his final mount, the Canadian-bred daughter of A.P. Indyfinished out the year with runaway victories in the Turnback the Alarm (gr. III) and Churchill Down’s Falls City Handicap (gr. II).
Unfortunately, Indian Vale’s 2006 campaign was limited to one race, a distant fifth-place finish behind Take D’ Tour in the Shuvee Handicap (gr. II).
“She didn’t come out of the Shuvee well,” Pletcher said two weeks ago prior to the Lucky Lucky Lucky. “She had a little issue in her right-front ankle, but didn’t need surgery.”
Her first posted work following the injury was in late October at owner Eugene Melnyk’s farm Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala, Fla. She then moved to Palm Meadows in the beginning of December and has had her last three works Belmont Park’s training track.
“We’ve had to change plans, but she’s prepared well and looks ready,” Benzel said. “This is a good spot to get her started in and, hopefully, we’ll hear more from her in bigger races over the spring and summer.”
None of Indian Vale's five rivals can match her early speed. Barring an incident at the start, Indian Vale, the 119-pound highweight, and jockey Mike Luzzi should be as clear as they want, an ideal place to be on the speed-favoring inner track.
Trainer Tom Bush will take two cracks against Indian Vale with Gallagher’s Stud’s Rahys’ Appeal and Peter Bradley III’s A True Pussycat.
Rahys’ Appeal has seriously stepped up her game over the last four months. She won Aqueduct's Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) in November at 23-1, only to be disqualified in a controversial decision. Bush then sent her to California where she performed admirably well in the San Gorgonio (gr. IIT) on turf, finishing second, and in the Santa Maria (gr. I) on dirt, where she was third.
A True Pussycat won twice over the inner track this winter in minor stakes before being shipped to Oaklawn for the Azeri Breeders’ Cup (gr. III), where she finished a close third.
The Next Move is the last stakes race run on the inner track this season. Racing is slated to move to the main track on Wednesday, April 4.
$100,000 Next Move Handicap (gr. III, Race 8, 4:20 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/8 MIles (Inner)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Indian Vale (ON), 119, Michael J. Luzzi
2. Lexi Star (MD), 116, Ryan Fogelsonger
3. A True Pussycat (FL), 116, Norberto Arroyo, Jr.
4. Rahys' Appeal (NY), 118, Alan Garcia
5. Daytime Promise (KY), 113, Channing Hill
6. Dina (KY), 116, Eibar Coa