Swettenham Stud’s homebred Changing Skies, who missed by a head in her grade I debut last out, should be the heavy choice to take down six foes in the $150,000 Long Island Handicap (gr. IIIT) Nov. 13 at Aqueduct.
A 5-year-old daughter of Sadler’s Wells, Changing Skies looks to have a decided edge in the 1 1/2-mile Long Island, which anchors Aqueduct’s nine-race program. She won The Very One Stakes (gr. IIIT) in her season debut Feb. 27 at Gulfstream Park and has been in good form ever since, placing in the Bewitch (gr. IIIT), New York (gr. IIT), and Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT) Oct. 2 when losing by a head to Ave at Belmont Park. Sandwiched in between those races was a winning effort in the restricted 12-furlong Siganture Stallion Waya Stakes at Saratoga.
Bill Mott trains Changing Skies, who raced in Europe until being shipped to the U.S. last fall. She was group III placed in France.
“She ran very big in the Flower Bowl and we are expecting that kind of run again,” said Rodolphe Brisset, assistant to Mott. “If she runs the same race, she is going to be tough. After the Flower Bowl the boss was thinking of the Breeders’ Cup, but the timing for this is perfect.”
John Velazquez will ride Irish-bred Changing Skies, who is out of the Silver Hawk mare Magnificent Style. An earner of $369,549, she has won four of 10 lifetime starts. The bay mare will carry top weight of 122 pounds as the even-money morning-line favorite.
The other graded stakes winner in the field is David Egan’s homebred Mekong Melody, who won Woodbine’s Dance Smartly (Can-IIT) by a nose in July. Two starts later the 5-year-old Cape Cross mare won the Flaming Page Stakes over the same course for the second consecutive year.
Trained by Roger Attfield, Mekong Melody was 10th in the E. P. Taylor (Can-IT) on Oct. 16 in her most recent start. Alex Solis will ride.
Graham Motion will be represented by a pair of runners, 5-year-old Daveron and 3-year-old Clarinet.
Owned by Team Valor International, Daveron began her North American racing career by making three starts for trainer Christophe Clement, including a fourth in the New York in June, before she was transferred to Motion’s barn. The German import has raced twice for Motion, finishing second by a neck in a Laurel optional claimer on Sept. 24 and drawing off to a three-length decision in the Scoot Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 20.
“The Long Island is a big step up and she’ll be going a mile and a half, but she has been doing well,” said Motion. “The plan has been to get her in these longer races and hope she’d be competitive in these stakes. She’s a horse who is on the muscle and responds to being covered up.”
Daveron will break from post 7 under Eddie Castro and 116 pounds as the 7-2 second choice.
Lightly raced Clarinet, owned by Earle Mack, has won three of her last four starts, most recently a 1 1/2-mile allowance race at Keeneland on Oct. 16. Her sole defeat during that span was a sixth in the one-mile St. Georges Stakes at Delaware Park two starts back, but Motion believes the distance was shorter than her ideal trip.
“You’re limited where you can run in these longer races, and we felt the Long Island was a good opportunity to get her some black type now that we know this is her game,” said Motion. “She seems to be a very honest filly, but she seems to be a little one-paced and the longer distance seems to help.”
Ramon Dominguez will ride Clarinet, who is assigned 115 pounds.
$150,000 Long Island Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 8, 3:44 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer 1. Tarrip (KY), C H Velasquez, 114, C Clement
2. Mekong Melody (IRE), A O Solis, 117, R L Attfield
3. Changing Skies (IRE), J R Velazquez, 122, W I Mott
4. Me Love (KY), E S Prado, 113, D Capuano
5. Clarinet (KY), R A Dominguez, 113, H G Motion
6. Sweet and Flawless (KY), D Cohen, 115, E R Reed
7. Daveron (GER), E Castro, 116, H G Motion