Summer Applause and John Velazquez take the Top Flight Handicap.<br><a target="blank" href="!i=2389261596&k=g9J73Z3">Order This Photo</a>

Summer Applause and John Velazquez take the Top Flight Handicap.
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Coglianese Photos/Joe Labozzetta

Summer Applause Returns to Form in Top Flight

The daughter of Harlan's Holiday got her second graded stakes win.

Graded stakes winner Summer Applause made a big step toward returning to her form of last year when she won the March 2 Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racecourse (VIDEO).

The stakes win was the second on the day for trainer Chad Brown and the third for jockey John Velazquez; Brown and Velazquez teamed up earlier on the card to win race 4 with Readtheprospectus.

Summer Applause, a 4-year-old daughter of Harlan's HolidaySummer Exhibition, by Royal Academy, was making her first start for Brown. Previously, the grade III winner had been in Bret Calhoun's barn. The filly is owned by Gillian Campbell, R Group Management, and Greewood Lodge Farm, which bred Summer Applause.

Despite a poor showing in her first start of the year, Summer Applause broke from the gate as the 6-5 favorite because she was the only graded stakes winner in the eight-horse field. Going into the first turn, Velazquez had her well-positioned along the rail sitting third behind the pacesetter, longshot Natalie Victoria, who broke poorly but still got the lead out of the first turn. She was followed closely by Sisterly Love down the backstretch.

The opening fractions were an honest :23.52 and :47.05. Sisterly Love took brief command going through the second turn, while Summer Applause had come off the rail and started closing in the on the frontrunners. At the top the stretch, Velazquez and his mount had the lead and gradually widened the gap down the stretch.

Late charges came from Twice the Lady and Sunny Desert but neither were going to catch Summer Applause. Twice the Lady finished second by two and three-quarter lengths, with Sunny Desert a neck back in third. Final time for the 1 1/16-mile race was 1:44.10.

"When the two horses didn't break, I tried to just come out and get a nice position going into the first turn," Velazquez said. "I watched the races, and it seemed like if she is close to the pace she finishes better. Last time, I didn't ride her, but she was too far back and didn't really put in any effort. Today, she's where she wanted to be."

Velazquez said he made the lead earlier than he'd expected and Summer Applause started to hang a bit.

"She started waiting and lugging in, but she got the job done anyway," he said.

The winner paid $4.60, $3.30, and $2.40, Twice the Lady returned $4 and $3, and Sunny Desert brought $2.80. The $2 exacta paid $18.80, and the $2 trifecta paid $44.

"She shipped in, she's had no problems with the weather or the climate change and she's been training well the two days she's been here," said Cherie DeVaux, Brown's assistant. "She looks great, and they did a really good job with her in Florida getting her ready to come up here for today."

Summer Applause made four starts last year when she won the Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. She was the favorite in the Fair Ground Oaks (gr. II) but finished second by a head to Believe You Can, who would go on to win the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Summer Applause was taken out of training and had surgery for a chipped knee following her fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks and didn't start again until a sixth-place finish in the Houston Ladies Classic Jan. 26 at Sam Houston Race Park.