Thirteen 3-year-olds were entered in Wednesday's $100,000-added Discovery Handicap (gr. III), the opening day feature of Aqueduct's 48-day Fall Meeting. Like recent past winners Left Bank and Evening Attire, there could be a superstar lurking in the group.
If Saint Marden duplicates the effort put forth in his second-level allowance victory a month ago, the Saint Ballado colt could prove tough to catch in the 1 1/8-mile Discovery. Trained by Michael Matz, Saint Marden first turned heads back in late July with an easy, open-length entry-level allowance victory at Saratoga. With Medaglia d'Oro the overwhelming standout in the Travers, Saint Marden's connections opted to run their lightly raced colt in the "Midsummer Derby" anywya. Things did not work out.
Running over a sloppy track for the first time, Saint Marden chased the pace for about three-quarters of a mile and faded badly under jockey Mike Smith. He beat just one horse, checking in eighth, almost 40 lengths behind the winner.
"He just didn't handle the slop," said Matz, who trains Saint Marden for owners Dennis Drazin and Martin Schwartz.
Saint Marden bounced out of the Travers in good shape and demolished a second-level allowance field here on Sept. 19 by more than eight lengths. He earned a monstrous speed figure that afternoon and has the look of a horse that could develop into a major player in the handicap division next season.
"I think he's got the talent to be a real nice horse," Matz said. "Right now we're kind of looking ahead to next year with him. He ran very fast the other day and he's still lightly raced and improving. He's put together a nice record so far, but he's got to step up and beat these horses on Wednesday. I think he can be a top handicap horse, but he's got to take another step forward in the Discovery."
Saint Marden drew post 11 with Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey aboard.
John and Susan Moore's Regal Sanction has tried sprinting on the dirt and routing on the grass, but it looks like two-turn routes on the main track have brought out his best.
A colt by Regal Classic, Regal Sanction prevailed by a head in the Meadowlands' Pegasus (gr. II) last time out by a head over Discovery Handicap rival No Parole. It was the colt's first stakes victory.
"It seems like he just relaxes a bit better in two turn races on the dirt," trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. "He doesn't rate that well on turf. He gets rank.
"This is a step up off the Pegasus but he seems all right. I think he's still improving."
On Saturday morning, Regal Sanction turned in his final workout for the Discovery, breezing six furlongs over Belmont's training track in 1:15 2/5. He broke his maiden over the Big A's main track back in April.
William Farish's A.P. Five Hundred makes his New York debut after finishing third in a pair of graded stakes - the Oklahoma Derby and Super Derby.
A colt by A.P. Indy, A.P. Five Hundred drew post 13 under jockey Jorge Chavez in the Discovery. Like the majority of the field, A.P. Five Hundred has the look of a late-blooming 3-year-old with a chance to make some noise as an older horse next year. He shares the 118-pound highweight assignment with Regal Sanction.
Fans thinking lightning can strike twice should give a look to Dr. Rockett, a younger half-brother to Evening Attire, who lit the board for more than a $130 win payoff a year ago.
Owned by Mary Grant and trained by Pat Kelly, Dr. Rockett is a son of Regal Classic-Concolour, by Our Native. He has won just one of 19 starts, but ran a "career top" in a two-turn, nine-furlong route at Saratoga two starts back.
$100,000 Discovery Handicap (gr. III), 1 1/8 mile, 3 & upPP HORSE, JOCKEY, WGT.
1 Richierichierich, Victor Molina, 111
2 Regency Park, John Velazquez, 115
3 Babson, Aaron Gryder, 112
4 No Parole, Shaun Bridgmohan, 117
5 This Guns for Hire, Richard Migliore, 114
6 Regal Sanction, Jose Santos, 118
7 Full, Cornelio Velasquez, 114
8 Seeking a Dream, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 113
9 Dr. Rockett, Mike Luzzi, 113
10 Strive, Edgar Prado, 117
11 Saint Marden, Jerry Bailey, 117
12 Thunder Days, Javier Castellano, 117
13 A.P. Five Hundred, Jorge Chavez, 118