Balto Star and Macaw lead a field of a dozen runners expected for Saturday's $150,000 Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) at Aqueduct. The 1 1/8-mile turf race will be the rubber match for the pair, who has faced each other twice this year. After Balto Star retreated in the Sword Dancer (gr. IT), Macaw finished well ahead of him in second. In the Man 'o War, Balto Star held on for fourth, two spots ahead of a flat Macaw.
Balto Star drops in for a grade II after five consecutive grade I tries while four of Macaw's last five starts were against grade I company.
Trainer Todd Pletcher last sent Balto Star out for a last-place finish in the Oct. 25 John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT).
"This is obviously a step down from the Breeders' Cup, but it is still a competitive race," Pletcher said. "Things have to go right for him in order to be effective. My biggest concern is what the condition of the turf course is going to be. With the rain clearing out, we decided to go ahead and enter him and but a little more time to see what the weather does the next couple of days. If it's yielding or really soft, we're probably not going to run."
This has been a frustrating year for the connections of Macaw, a 4-year-old gelding who has yet to win in America since coming over from Europe despite being right there at the finish numerous times. The Irish-bred runs his best races from off the pace and finished second in his last start, the grade I Canadian International, and the Sword Dancer over the summer.
"It's always frustrating when you don't win," said trainer Macaw's trainer Barclay Tagg. "I think he's actually improved in his last four or five races. He likes some give in the ground, but not as much as there is probably going to be Saturday. There just aren't many opportunities to run at these distances, so you have to take a shot."
Challenging Balto Star and Macaw will be Cetewayo, who won the Red Smith in 2000. The 9-year-old finished a strong second, rallying from off the pace in the Sycamore Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland.
The field for Saturday's $150,000 Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) includes:
1 -- Final Prophecy (C.C. Lopez, 111)
2 -- Quiet Ruler (Josiah Hampshire, Jr., 111)
3 -- Haggs Castle (Victor Carrero, 112)
4 -- Revved Up (Edgar Prado, 118)
5 -- Macaw (Shaun Bridgmohan, 118)
6 -- Royal Regalia (Javier Castellano, 112)
7 -- Balto Star (John Velazquez, 120)
8 -- Deputy Strike (Richard Migliore, 113)
9 -- He Flies (Julian Pimentel, 111)
10 -- Dawn of the Condor (Pablo Fragoso, 112)
11 -- Cetewayo (Jose Santos, 116)
12 -- Tripat (Mike Luzzi, 113)
ae13 -- Peekskill (Jorge Chavez, 110)
mto14 -- Evening Attire (Edgar Prado, 126)
mto15 -- Snake Mountain (Richard Migliore, 122)
mto16 -- Private Lap (no rider named, 122)