Aqueduct's Fall Highweight Handicap, which will take place this year on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, will be a true test of speed and strength as both experienced stakes winners and several less-seasoned runners prepare to carry some extra pounds.
Just one graded-stakes winner—Ah Day--was entered in the $100,000, six-furlong contest for 3-year-olds and up. While he is working to redeem two previous unplaced efforts, the 6-year-old Maryland-bred son of Malibu Moon has had a quite a career thus far, winning or placing in 17 stakes from 32 overall starts.
Ah Day launched his 2009 season with a victory in the March 7 Toboggan Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct at the same distance as the Fall Highweight. Trained by breeder King Leatherbury for The Jim Stable, Ah Day also won the July 27 Chesapeake Stakes at Colonial Downs, but was off the board in the Aug. 18 Mister Diz on turf and the Oct. 24 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I), both at Laurel Park.
Carrying 132 pounds, Ah Day will be ridden by Sheldon Russell. The pair will break from post seven.
Go Go Shoot, a 4-year-old Florida-bred son of Songandaprayer, was assigned top weight of 134 pounds and could carve out early fractions in the race. He was successful in two of his four attempts at Aqueduct: last year’s Jimmy Winkfield Stakes and the Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes. Both were contested at the six-furlong Fall Highweight distance.
Trained by Bruce Levine for Repole Stable, Go Go Shoot will be ridden Nov. 26 by John Velazquez, who guided him to a second-place finish in the Aug. 9 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II) at Saratoga. Last out, Go Shoot finished a dull fourth in the Oct. 3 Vosburgh (gr. I) on a sloppy track at Belmont Park.
“Right before the Vosburgh, it rained and all the water went down on the inside,” Levine said of Go Go Shoot, who broke from the No. 1 post that day. “I thought the Vanderbilt was a fantastic race. That was his best race by far. It took Fabulous Strike all he had to beat him, and I think when that horse is on his game he’s the best sprinter in the country.”
Cherokee Country, a 5-year-old son of Yonguska, won three stakes at Monmouth Park and Delaware Park in 2007. Owned by Victory Thoroughbreds and trained by Guadalupe Preciado, he won a pair of races at Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack in September and will enter the Fall Highweight off a fourth-place effort in the Oct. 31 Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct. Jose Lezcano has the mount.
Rounding out the field are graded stakes-placed runners The Roundhouse, Riley Tucker, and Formidable; and winners Hatfield, Greenspring, Drift King, and Sean Avery. The last three mentioned will be making their stakes debuts.
$100,000-added Fall Highweight (gr. III, Race 8, 2:42 p.m.) 3-year-olds and up, six furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer Odds
1. Drift King (FL), J F Chavez, 125 W H Turner, Jr., 15-1
2. Sean Avery (KY), E S Prado, 124, M E Hushion, 9-2
3. Hatfield (KY), G Saez, 123, G C Contessa, 20-1
4a. The Roundhouse (KY) , R Migliore, 127, T A Pletcher, 5-2
5. Riley Tucker (KY), C H Velasquez, 131, S M Asmussen, 4-1
6a. Go Go Shoot (FL), J R Velazquez, 134, B N Levine, 5-2
7. Ah Day (MD), S Russell, 132, K T Leatherbury, 6-1
8. Formidable (KY), R Maragh, 124, H A Jerkens, 12-1
9. Greenspring (KY), J Rose, 125, C W Grove, 5-1
10. Cherokee Country (KY), J Lezcano, 129, R Preciado, 10-1