Team Valor Stables' 4-year-old colt Colita looks to break into the stakes win column as one of the horses to beat in the $100,000 Stuyvesant Handicap (gr. III) over 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct Saturday.In four stakes tries lifetime, Colita has hit the board just once, a third-place effort in the 2003 West Virginia Derby. He ran the worst race of his life in the Oct. 29 Discovery last year when he was beaten nearly 30 lengths at Aqueduct. He did not return to the races until July 4.After several strong allowance performances, the son of Grindstone gets another shot."He's run some stakes-caliber races before," trainer Todd Pletcher said.
Rafael Bejarano picks up the ride on Colita, who has been ridden by John Velazquez in all four of his 2004 races. Velazquez is riding at Calder Race Course for Florida Million Day. Bejarano, the nation's wins leader, is one of 15 jockeys barred from riding at Churchill Downs through the end of the Kentucky track's fall meet on Nov. 27 for boycotting over insurance issues. He has decided he is moving his tack to New York."There are a couple guys out of town Saturday and he's an up-and-coming rider," Pletcher said. "It looks like his horses really run for him. With all the stuff going on at Churchill, this could be a good opportunity for him."Stuyvesant rival Powerful Touch defeated Colita by a neck in a July 28 allowance at Saratoga. That day Colita was giving away three pounds to his rival and also endured a wide trip while Powerful Touch saved ground most of the way. In the Stuyvesant, Powerful Touch will be giving Colita one pound.After rattling off three consecutive wins over the summer, the 4-year-old Touch Gold gelding shipped to Chicago where he ran a disappointing seventh, beaten 24 lengths at 8-5 in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II).
Powerful Touch is undefeated at Aqueduct. Both of his wins there came in the fall of 2002 when under the care of Ken McPeek. Bobby Frankel now conditions the Stronach Stables' gray.The biggest win of Classic Endeavor's career came over Aqueduct's main track when he won the 2003 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap. The horse, claimed by Richard Dutrow for $50,000 two races ago, is 9-for-29 over Aqueduct's dirt courses with earnings of $400,788.He has banked $581,953 in his 54-race career."He's coming into this race in very good shape," Dutrow said. "I'm more confident for this race than I was for his first race with us (a win), and I was pretty confident then."$100,000-added Stuyvesant Handicap (gr. III), 3 & up, 1 1/8 miles
PP., HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1. Classic Endeavor, Richard Dutrow Jr., Edgar Prado, 113
2. Trapped Again, Michael Gorham, Joe Bravo, 114
3. Country Be Gold, Reynaldo Nobles, Pablo Fragoso, 114
4. Colita, Todd Pletcher, Rafael Bejarano, 115
5. Powerful Touch, Bobby Frankel, Jorge Chavez, 116
6. Kissin Saint, Lisa Lewis, Mike Luzzi, 114
7. Everydayissaturday, Mike Hushion, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 109
8. Snake Mountain, Jimmy Jerkens, Jose Santos, 115