(Edited press release)
Following Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) win aboard Tiago, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith was presented an offer he could not refuse. Jerry Moss and John Shirreffs, owner and trainer, respectively, of Tiago and his half-brother, 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Giacomo, wanted Smith to ride first call for them in California.
Smith gladly accepted the offer, but told them he had to ride in New York through April 14 because he was highly anticipating the mount on Phipps Stable’s Boca Grande, one of the favorites in the $150,000 Comely Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-old fillies at one mile at Aqueduct.
“I love the filly,” Smith said. “I’m heading back to California, but I chose to stay here for a week to ride her.”
Boca Grande is undefeated in routes having broken her maiden last fall prior to her winning the Demoiselle Stakes (gr. II) last November. The daughter of A.P. Indywas given some time off following the Demoiselle and returned to the races at Gulfstream in the March 10 Forward Gal Stakes (gr. II). Boca Grande ran a disappointing sixth in the Forward Gal, but Smith knew before they broke from the gate that the filly might not run her best race.
“Seven furlongs is probably shorter than what she wants,” Smith said. “She also lost a shoe going to the paddock. They had to re-shoe her in the paddock and she got really upset. She’s usually a pretty cool horse; calm and collected. She lost it that day and basically ran that way.”
Boca Grande will have some tough competition in the Comely, including fellow Florida invaders Desire to Excel, Fee Fi Fo Fum, Perfect Forest, and Lost Etiquette.
Dennis Narlinger’s Desire to Excel won the Astoria Stakes for juvenile fillies last year before running a good second in the Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III), a race in which she stumbled badly at the start. She got hurt following the Schuylerville and needed some time off. Despite being away from the races for over seven months and never having run past six furlongs, trainer Kelly Breen elected to bring Desire to Excel back at 1 1/16 miles in the Florida Oaks. After pressing the early pace, the Mt. Livermore filly tired to fifth.
“We knew going into her last race she was not 100% fit,” Breen said. “The reason we brought her back at that distance is that we want to get her to relax and be a two-turn horse. I think she got a lot out of that race.”
Fee Fi Fo Fum, owned by John and Susan Moore, is a rapidly-developing 3-year-old filly who was boosted into stakes company in the Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II) after only one start, a maiden special weight win on the turf. Lost Etiquette also comes out of the Bonnie Miss into the Comely having finished fifth, 4 1/2 lengths behind Fee Fi Fo Fum.
Perfect Forest has won both her starts this year for trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Edward Evans, breaking her maiden Jan. 14 at Gulfstream and scoring in an entry-level allowance March 2.
Trainer Gary Contessa has three fillies in the Comely. Bare Dancer and My Kitty will be an entry, while Officer in Pursuit will stand alone in the wagering.
Winning Point, a perfect three-for-three in Maryland, will ship out of state for the first time to run in the Comely.
Comely Stakes (gr. II), $150,000, Aqueduct, April 14, 3-year-old fillies, one mile:
PP. Horse, jockey, weight
1a. Bare Dancer, Alan Garcia, 116
2. Officer in Pursuit, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 120
3. Perfect Forest, Ramon Dominguez, 116
4. Boca Grande, Mike Smith, 122
5. Desire to Excel, Jose Lezcano, 122
6. Winning Point, Luis Garcia, 116
7. Fee Fi Fo Fum, Joe Bravo, 116
8a. My Kitty, Channing Hill, 118
9. Lost Etiquette, Mike Luzzi, 116