by Karen M. Johnson
Pool Land, a winner of seven races from 10 starts, seeks her third graded win in the $150,000 Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct Nov. 23.
Eight fillies and mares were entered in the one-mile Top Flight. Pool Land is the 121-pound highweight, and concedes five to eight pounds to her rivals.
Pool Land, a 5-year-old daughter of Silver Deputy, missed most of the 2007 season while recovering from a leg injury.
In her first race since finishing ninth in last year’s Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I), Pool Land won an overnight stakes at Belmont Park Sept. 26. That race marked her first start with trainer Tom Albertrani. She had previously been trained by Todd Pletcher, who secured a grade I win with the mare for her owners, Eugene and Laura Melnyk, in the 2006 Ruffian Handicap.
Albertrani noted that Pool Land rarely throws in a clunker.
“She’s a hard-knocking filly; very genuine,” Albertrani said Nov. 19. “She loves to go out there and win. We made a decision to go for this race because she likes Aqueduct.”
In her lone start on Aqueduct’s main track, Pool Land won her debut by 5 ½ lengths in November 2005. She is undefeated in two starts on Aqueduct’s inner surface. Eddie Castro rides Pool Land, who has early speed, from post seven.
Trainer Shug McGaughey is hopeful the good roll he has recently enjoyed in stakes will continue when he saddles Altesse in the Top Flight. On Nov. 17, McGaughey won the Stuyvesant Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct with Hunting. Minutes later, he won the Cardinal Handicap (gr. IIIT) with Criminologist at Churchill Downs.
McGaughey could use some good fortune with Altesse, whose left rein broke while she was running as the favorite in the Turnback the Alarm Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct Nov. 4. John Velazquez, aboard Altesse, had to pull up the filly early in the race when the equipment mishap took place.
Joe Bravo rides Altesse, who drew post three.
Despite Golden Velvet’s inexperience in stakes, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is very high on the half-sister to grade I winner Sky Mesa .
Golden Velvet, who has raced on the turf in seven of her nine starts, won a first-level allowance race on the dirt in her American debut at Belmont Oct. 18. She won easily that day, and McLaughlin believes the key to her improvement is the switch from turf to dirt.
To illustrate his point, McLaughlin pointed to her only dirt race before then, a race in Dubai against males in January. She finished fourth while carrying 127 pounds.
“(That race) is much better than (handicappers) think,” said McLaughlin, who trains Golden Velvet for Darley Stable. “It’s obviously a big jump from a one-other-than allowance to (the Top Flight), but she’s a very nice filly.”
Alan Garcia rides Golden Velvet, a daughter of Seeking the Gold, from post four. Baby Bird, Cindy’s Mom, Lady Marlboro, Lost Etiquette, and Mini Sermon complete the field.