Opening weekend at Aqueduct brings the final graded turf event for males in New York this year, the $150,000 Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) Nov. 6. In addition, the Breeders' Cup card at the Big A that day includes a pair of stakes for some promising 2-year-olds, the $150,000 Nashua (gr. II) and $100,000 Tempted (gr. III) for fillies.
Trainer Christophe Clement has entered a pair in the 1 3/8-mile Red Smith, which is the seventh race on the program with a 3:38 p.m. EDT post. Grassy exits a good late-running third behind Winchester in the 12-furlong Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) at Belmont Park Oct. 2, while Center Divider was most recently fourth in the Jamaica Handicap (gr. IT) against 3-year-olds at Belmont the following weekend.
“Grassy is doing great,” Clement reported. “He ran a very nice race finishing third in the Turf Classic and came out of it in good order. We are supposed to get some rain tomorrow and he should enjoy the softer turf.”
A 4-year-old son of El Prado owned by Adele Dilschneider, Grassy makes his Aqueduct debut seeking his first stakes win. Grassy was seventh in the Sword Dancer (gr. IT) on Aug. 14 at Saratoga, a race he entered following a comfortable victory in an optional claimer on July 2 at Belmont.
Amerman Racing's lightly raced Center Divider has won two of five career starts and is also seeking his first stakes win.
Multiple grade I winner Presious Passion, the 122-pound top weight, is by far the most accomplished runner in the field with earnings of more than $2.6 million, but the 7-year-old Royal Anthem gelding has gone off form since running last in the Guangsha Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) in Dubai in March. Patricia Generazio's front-running chestnut caved in after setting a brisk pace in his most recent start, the 1 1/2-mile Sycamore (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland, and finished ninth Oct. 21.
Trained by Mary Hartmann, Presious Passion turned in a gutsy effort in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) one year ago when second to Conduit. He boasts a lifetime record of 14-7-2 from 48 starts and was a competitor in both the 2007 and 2008 runnings of the Red Smith, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.
Strike a Deal seeks his second Red Smith victory after a seven-length score in the 2008 edition of the race. The 6-year-old son of Smart Strike exits a pair of disappointing efforts in New York, an eighth in the Turf Classic and a fourth in the Bowling Green (gr. IIT) on September 11. Strike a Deal gets the services of Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado from post 8.
Making his first start for new trainer Todd Pletcher is the Brazilian-bred group I winner Jeune-Turc. Previously trained by Paulo Lobo, the 6-year-old has made two starts in the United States, finishing eighth in the United Nations (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park July 3 and then fifth in the Bowling Green.
Also returning from the Bowling Green is the Roger Attfield-trained Simmard, third in that race and most recently seventh in the Canadian International (Can-IT) at Woodbine Oct. 16.
Whatsthescript, a grade II winner in California who stood the first part of the year at stud, scored his first victory since being returned to racing when he prevailed by a neck in the 1 1/16-mile Keep the Promise at Belmont Sept. 19. He returned with a game second after carving the pace in Belmont's Knickerbocker (gr. IIIT) on a yielding course last month.
The Nashua, at one-mile, drew a field of six 2-year-old colts while the Tempted, at the same distance, has five fillies. The Nashua is the sixth race at 3:08 p.m. EDT, while the Tempted goes two races earlier at 2:05 p.m. EDT.
After To Honor and Serve broke his maiden at Belmont Park by nearly nine lengths in his second start Oct. 2, trainer Bill Mott and owner Charlotte Weber of Live Oak Plantation considered sending the son of Bernardini to Kentucky for the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I).
But looking ahead to next year and even beyond, the colt’s connections instead elected to skip the trip and keep him at home.
“It was a lot to ask at this point to take on,” said Mott. “He may well be as good as any of them. But looking further ahead than just this weekend, I think he will progress better this way. ”
To Honor and Serve debuted as runner-up in a large field at Saratoga Sept. 4 behind Astrology , who won the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs last weekend. The bay colt came back in an off-the-turf maiden event to press the early pace before taking over at the three-eighths pole and drawing clear under a hand-ride from jockey John Velazquez. His time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:43.34, with his 95 Beyer Speed Figure tying for the third-fastest among 2-year-olds so far this year.
To Honor and Serve drew the rail this time and will be ridden by Jose Lezcano.
Economic Summit, who finished fifth in that crowded maiden race Sept. 4, also returned a winner in his second start a month later, covering the seven furlongs at Belmont Park in 1:23.91 for a one-length win. He will be ridden by Eddie Castro from post 5.
I'm Steppin' It Up and Settle for Medal enter the Nashua off distant third-and fourth-place finishes in the Champagne (gr. I) behind Uncle Mo , the heavy morning-line favorite for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).
In the Tempted, Doing Great attempts to run her record to 3-for-3 for trainer Michael Trombetta. The Great Notion filly was an easy debut winner against $40,000 maiden claimers at Monmouth Sept. 11, and returned to post a 10-1 upset in the Maryland Million Lassie.
Tap for Luck returns for a second try at a graded stakes, having finished fifth in the Frizette (gr. I) Oct. 9. The diminutive Tapit filly has worked twice in the interim, covering a half-mile in :49.81 Oct. 24 and the same distance in :49.46 a week later.
$100,000 Tempted Stakes (gr. III, Race 4, 2:05 p.m.), 2-Year-Old Fillies, 1 Mile
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Pinch Pie (KY), J Bravo, 115, A W Dutrow
2. Doing Great (VA), J Pimentel, 121, M J Trombetta
3. Full Moon Blues (KY), M Franklin, 115, T J Tullock, Jr.
4. Tap for Luck (KY), D Cohen, 115, T A Pletcher
5. Dixie City (VA), A S Arroyo, 117, A W Dutrow
$150,000 Nashua Stakes (gr. II, Race 6, 3:08 p.m.), 2-Year-Olds, 1 Mile
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. To Honor and Serve (KY), J Lezcano, W I Mott
2. Quality Council (KY), C Hill, M E Hushion
3. Mucho Macho Man (FL), D Cohen, K Ritvo
4. Settle for Medal (KY), J Bravo, M A Hennig
5. Economic Summit (FL), E Castro, R A Violette, Jr.
6. I'm Steppin' It Up (FL), J F Chavez, A Pecoraro
All carry 116 pounds.
$150,000 Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT, Race 7, 3:38 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 3/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Presious Passion (FL), E Castro, 122, M Hartmann
2. Simmard (KY), C Hill, 115, R L Attfield
3. Center Divider (KY), J Lezcano, 113, C Clement
4. Jeune-Turc (BRZ), D Cohen, 115, T A Pletcher
5. Rescue Squad (KY), J L Castanon, 114, C R McGaughey III
6. Grassy (KY), J Bravo, 117, C Clement
7. Whatsthescript (IRE), J Alvarado, 116, G C Contessa
8. Strike a Deal (KY), E S Prado, 116, A E Goldberg
9. Bold Hawk (KY), J Lezcano, 116, J J Toner
Blinkers On: Rescue Squad