Palace, who became a graded stakes winner in his most recent start, heads a field of six sprinters entered in the $100,000 Gravesend Handicap, which will be contested at six furlongs Dec. 21 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
One of three entrants for trainer Linda Rice, Palace enters the Gravesend for 3-year-olds and up off a 1 1/2-length win in Aqueduct's Nov. 28 Fall Highweight Handicap (gr. III) over Strapping Groom, who is also entered in the Gravesend as the 121-pound highweight.
The Fall Highweight was the third straight stakes win for Palace. He took the Chowder's First overnight stakes by three lengths in August at Saratoga Race Course
and the Hudson Handicap by 1 1/4 lengths in October at Belmont Park
, both restricted to New York-breds.
In the Fall Highweight, Palace raced four lengths off the lead in sixth along the backstretch, came five wide into the stretch, and overtook Strapping Groom at the sixteenth pole under Cornelio Velasquez's drive.
Rice, who claimed Palace for $20,000 on behalf of owner Antonino Miuccio, said she has planned a winter campaign for the 4-year-old son of City Zip
"This fall I was plotting his spots, I had more time than I wanted between the Chowder's First and the Hudson," said Rice. "I'm leaning in favor of running this Saturday because I don't want him to have too much time between races, with the Toboggan (gr. III) on Feb. 1."
Palace, the 7-5 favorite on the morning line, will leave post 6 with Velasquez again in the irons as part of a 118-pound impost.
In addition to Palace, Rice entered Frazil
in the Gravesend.
Frazil defeated three horses when he won the 2011 Gravesend but is winless in 11 starts since that race. He has finished second four times during that span, including three of his past four starts. He enters the 2013 edition off a second, beaten 6 3/4 lengths, in a starter allowance/optional claimer Nov. 21 at Aqueduct.
"He seems to like Aqueduct, although it's a tall task for him," said Rice, who also owns Frazil. "Maybe he's just in for a check, but a check's good. He's been a fun horse to have. I've had him since he was a 2-year-old, and he seems to be rounding back into better form now."
Jose Ortiz will ride Frazil, 10-1, for the first time in the Gravesend. The duo will depart Post 2.
In his two most recent starts, front-running Abra won a starter allowance/optional claimer by a half-length in November and was fourth by three lengths in an optional claimer Dec. 8 at Aqueduct. Abra was claimed for $15,000 in July by Rice and owner Mulberry Stable in July.
"I thought there might be a lack of pace in the race, so I threw Abra in there," said Rice. "If there is a lack of pace, then it might be good for him."
Abra likely will be joined up front by Strapping Groom, who posted a 15-1 upset in the Forego (gr. I), which was contested in the slop in August at Saratoga. Since then, he has finished third in the Vosburgh Invitational (gr. I) in September and fourth in the Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) in October at Belmont prior to his runner-up performance in the Fall Highweight.
Trainer David Jacobson owns Strapping Groom in partnership with Drawing Away Stable. In addition to the Forego, Strapping Groom also has won the Lion Cavern and Kid Russell overnight stakes since being claimed for $35,000 by Jacobson. Junior Alvarado will ride the 2-1 second choice on the morning line from the 4 hole.
The field also includes Battier
, third in the Time for a Change overnight stakes Dec. 1 at Aqueduct, and stakes winner Broad Rule
, third in the Damitrius Sept. 4 at Delaware Park
$100,000 Gravesend Handicap (Race 8, approximate post time 4:34 p.m. EDT), 3YOs & Up, six furlongs (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Battier (FL), I. Ortiz, Jr., 116, T A Pletcher, 4-1
2. Frazil (KY), J. L. Ortiz, 114, L Rice, 10-1
3. Broad Rule (MD), F. Boyce, 114, R W Small, 12-1
4. Strapping Groom (KY), J. Alvarado, 121, D Jacobson, 2-1
5. Abra (KY), A. S. Arroyo, 112, L Rice, 15-1
6. Palace (NY), C. H. Velasquez, 118, L Rice, 7-5