Greg Norman's unlucky Papi Chullo chases his first stakes win once again Saturday in the $100,000-added Queens County Handicap (gr. III) on Aqueduct's inner dirt track.
A competitive field of six is entered in the 1 3/16-mile test on the inner dirt track.
After winning his first start of 2006 in an allowance race at Hollywood Park, the 4-year-old colt Papi Chullo faced 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Giacomo in the San Diego Handicap (gr. II) and was beaten 2 ¼ lengths with a third-place effort.
Up next for Papi Chullo was the Longacres Mile (gr. III) at Emerald Downs, where the Comeonmom colt came up a neck short to Flamethrowintexan, who led all the way to victory.
Through the rest of the year, the Peter Menghini-trained Papi Chullo has tried three more stakes. He turned in game fourths in the Woodward (gr. I) at Saratoga and Churchill's Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III), where he finished ahead of Queens County rivals Magna Graduate and Awesome Twist.
The only poor race of Papi Chullo's 2006 campaign was over a wet track in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II), where he was beaten 16 lengths.
"He didn't handle the track at Hawthorne," Norman said. "He always struck me as a mile-and-a-quarter type of horse, and his race in the Hawthorne Gold Cup is not a true indication of his ability at the distance."
Most recently, Papi Chullo defeated a second-level allowance group over the main track. Norman believes the effort set him up perfectly for the Queens County.
"He bounced out of the allowance very well, and I really thought it was one of his better performances," Norman said. "I think he'll love the distance Saturday, and the pace scenario should be favorable to him."
Papi Chullo drew post one with jockey Mike Smith slated to ride at 116 pounds.
The likely speed of the Queens County is the 118-pound high weight, Magna Graduate, winner of the 2005 Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill and the Discovery Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct.
In three 2006 starts, however, Magna Graduate finished fourth in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) over a sloppy track, fourth in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), and recently was a disappointing 10th as the 5-2 favorite in Churchill's Ack Ack.
John Velazquez, the regular rider on the 4-year-old son of Honor Grades, will be back aboard the colt who breaks from post five.
Hometown favorite Naughty New Yorker, owned by Fox Ridge Farm, continues to race in good form and is likely to sit a stalking trip behind Magna Graduate. The 4-year-old led all the way in his last start to win the off-the-turf Red Smith (gr. III) beneath jockey Jean-Luc Samyn.
Samyn will be aboard Naughty New Yorker again, breaking from post three with 117 pounds.
$100,000-added Queens County Handicap (gr. III, Race 8, 3:44 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 3/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Papi Chullo (FL), 116, Mike Smith
2. Smart Growth (KY), 115, Ramon Dominguez
3. Naughty New Yorker (NY), 117, Jean-Luc Samyn
4. Angliana (KY), 114, Fernando Jara
5. Magna Graduate (KY), 118, John Velazquez
6. Awesome Twist (KY), 115, Eibar Coa