Raging Fever and Shine Again are the marquee attractions in the First Flight, for fillies and mares at seven furlongs. They have been banging heads in their last three starts with Shine Again finishing ahead of her archrival twice.
Earlier in the year, Shine Again won the Ballerina (gr. I) at Saratoga, giving her back-to-back victories in that race. She is shooting for the same feat in the First Flight, after she prevailed by a head over Dream Supreme last year.
Shine Again defeated Raging Fever by one-half length in the Ballerina, then finished third in the Ruffian (gr. I) while Raging Fever was a well-beaten fifth. Raging Fever was able to turn the tables slightly in the Gallant Bloom, winning by 3/4-length over Shine Again, who was second.
"Raging Fever has been brilliant, but maybe she was more brilliant earlier in the year," said Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens, who conditions Shine Again. "Both horses appear to be very evenly matched, but there are other horses in the race to worry about, too."
Jerkens also entered Shiny Band and has named Jean-Luc Samyn to ride both. Shiny Band has a better wet-track record than Shine Again and there is a chance of a wet track Saturday.
Mark Hennig, trainer of Raging Fever, is happy his filly drew the outside stall in the field of seven. She broke from the rail in both the Ruffian and Gallant Bloom at Belmont. She took the worst of it in the Ruffian when she was forced to vie for the lead inside of You going a half-mile in a swift :45 1/5 for the 1 1/16 mile race.
John Velazquez has ridden Raging Fever in her last nine starts, but will miss the First Flight to ride in the Breeders' Cup. Aaron Gryder, who won the Garland of Roses on Raging Fever last fall, will have the mount.
"Aaron did a great job with her last year," Hennig said. "It might do some good to have somebody different on her after the way her last two races have gone."
Redhead Riot is in terrific form for trainer Laurie LaFavers with victories in four of her last five starts. She has been beating weaker fields and will have to run the best race of her life to win here.
Mother Goose winner Nonsuch Bay will cut back to seven furlongs for the first time since she won the Nassau County back in May. This will be her first start against older rivals.
Trainer Michael Matz, who won the Discovery Handicap on opening day at Aqueduct Wednesday with Saint Marden, sends out Bowman's Band in the Sport Page at seven furlongs.
Bowman's Band has been running farther in recent races and will be cutting back from the nine-furlong Meadowlands Cup, a race in which he had a clear shot on the inside but was outfinished.
"He's run in a lot of big races and come up short," Matz said. "We would have liked to find something at a mile or a mile and a sixteenth, but there weren't many options. Going seven furlongs, he should be running at the end. I just worry about one horse getting out on the lead by himself."
Saint Verre appears to be one of the main speeds, but he is cutting back in distance and was just able to last over Pinky Pizwaanski in a four-horse off-the-turf race at The Meadowlands.
Voodoo was quick enough to get the lead in a seven-furlong allowance at Saratoga, then chased runaway winner Bonapaw in the Vosburgh (gr. I). Trainer Jimmy Jerkens also entered Multiple Choice, a disappointing sixth in a field of seven runners for the Forest Hills last time out.$150,000 First Flight (gr. II), 7 furlongs, fillies & mares, 3 & up
PP. HORSE, JOCKEY, WGT.
1a Shiny Band, Jean-Luc Samyn, 114
2 Judge's Song, C.C. Lopez, 109
3 Nonsuch Bay, Javier Castellano, 114
4 Redhead Riot, Victor Carrero, 112
5a Shine Again, Jean-Luc Samyn, 117
6 Tugger, Mike Luzzi, 113
7 Raging Fever, Aaron Gryder, 119$100,000 Sport Page (gr. III), 7 furlongs, 3 & up
PP. HORSE, JOCKEY, WGT.
1 Big E E, Rudy Rodriguez, 115
2 Smooth Jazz, Mike Luzzi, 112
3 Voodoo, Aaron Gryder, 116
4 Gold I. D., Richard Johnson, 112
5 Multiple Choice, Victor Carrero, 113
6 Esteemed Friend, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 113
7 Saint Verre, Jean-Luc Samyn, 115
8 Sing Me Back Home, C.C. Lopez, 113
9 Bowman's Band, Javier Castellano, 118