German-bred Lauro, fresh off a victory in the Sky Classic (Can-IIT) at Woodbine, looks to make his American debut a winning one Nov. 8 when he takes on eight rivals in the $150,000 Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) on the Aqueduct turf.
Also entered in the evenly-matched field of older horses are Always First, who scored in the Sycamore (gr. IIIT) last out at Keeneland; the lone grade I winner in the field, Presious Passion; and improving 4-year-old Wheels Up At Noon, a two-time stakes winner this season. The Red Smith is contested at nine furlongs.
Owned and bred by Gestut Ittlingen, 5-year-old Lauro was shipped to North America earlier this season after achieving a 3-2-0 record from seven starts in France, Germany, and Italy. The son of Monsun was stakes-placed both as a 3- and 4-year-old, but was sidelined for a year and half before making his comeback in the Canadian International (Can-IT) Oct. 4 for trainer Andreas Wohler. Although finishing seventh in that event, Lauro came back three weeks later to score a wire-to-wire, half-length victory in the Sky Classic on a yielding turf.
Lauro’s best running has come on wet turf, and fortunately for him the forecast on Saturday in New York calls for showers. His regular rider in Germany, Andrasch Starke, has flown in for the mount.
English-bred Always First has also been in good form over the last two seasons, as the 7-year-old Barathea gelding has chalked up a 3-2-0 record from seven starts. All three of those wins have come in stakes company, including a pair of grade III scores.
Owned by Merriefield Farm and trained by Tom Voss, Always First has raced just twice this season. He came from well off the pace to run down a full field in the 1 1/2-mile Sycamore Oct. 18. Eddie Castro gets the call on Always First, who has won seven times in 21 career starts.
A third European invader to consider is Des Scott’s Irish-bred Hard Top, who will be making his second U.S. start. Now in the barn of Todd Pletcher, Hard Top spent most of the 2008 season racing in Dubai under the care of Herman Brown Jr. He won once in four starts competing in handicap competition.
In his first start on American soil Oct. 2, Hard Top finished third in the 1 1/8-mile Strawberry Burrah Stakes. The 6-year-old Darshaan gelding gets John Velazquez once more.
Patricia Generazio’s Presious Passion will look to rebound from a disappointing performance in the Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) last out at Belmont when he was beaten more than 25 lengths. The Mary Hartmann trainee has had an up-and-down season, as he has won twice in graded stakes company, including an upset victory in the United Nations Stakes (gr. IT) July 5 at Monmouth Park, but has finished off the board in five of nine starts.
$150,000 Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 8, 3:44 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Hard Top (IRE), 114, John R. Velazquez
2. Always First (GB), 118, Eddie Castro
3. Banrock (NY), 116, Jeffrey Sanchez
4. Summer Patriot (KY), 116, Javier Castellano
5. Lauro (GER), 118, Andrasch Starke
6. Interpatation (KY), 115, Jose Lezcano
7. Strike a Deal (KY), 117, Charles C. Lopez
8. Presious Passion (FL), 119, Alan Garcia
9. Wheels Up At Noon (FL), 116, Carlos H. Marquez, Jr.