Saturday At Aqueduct
Cigar Mile tops stakes-laden Saturday card at Aqueduct
One year after being caught in the final yards by Kodiak Kowboy, BRIBON (Fr) (Mark of Esteem [Ire]) and VINEYARD HAVEN (Lido Palace [Chi]) return for another stab at Saturday's $250,000 Cigar Mile H. (G1) at Aqueduct. Both will need to be at the top of their game, however, as the one-turn feature has attracted an outstanding field of older horses, including several hoping to erase the memories of sub-par performances at the Breeders' Cup earlier this month.
That two-day fixture at Churchill Downs was not in the cards for Bribon, who instead turned in a convincing win in the October 30 Bold Ruler H. (G3) at Belmont. That seven-furlong dash should serve as the perfect prep for the Todd Pletcher trainee, who missed by three parts of a length here last autumn. The seven-year-old gelding counts among his prior victories the Metropolitan H. (G1), True North H. (G2) and Westchester S. (G3).
Vineyard Haven, a head behind Bribon in third last season, made a belated seasonal bow taking the James Marvin S. at Saratoga, but was only third in the Forego S. (G1) and sixth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) after breaking from a wide post. The Godolphin-owned gray, coupled here with Vosburgh S. (G1) winner GIROLAMO (A.P. Indy), is a past winner of the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G1), Champagne S. (G1) and Hopeful S. (G1). Girolamo, meanwhile, exits a disastrous 11th-place effort in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) where he was sent away the mild 4-1 favorite.
HAYNESFIELD (Speightstown), who handed Horse of the Year candidate Blame his only loss of the season in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) two back, was well beaten by that rival in both the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) and Whitney H. (G1), but was sharp earlier in the season when taking the Suburban H. (G2). The New York-bred's only other appearance on the Big A main track resulted in a solid 4 1/2-length triumph in the Discovery H. (G3) a year ago.
Fellow Classic also-ran MUSKET MAN (Yonaguska) is winless in six starts dating back to the Super S. in January, but the dual classic-placed colt is a typical hard-hitter who almost always manages to get a big piece of the purse. He narrowly missed holding on in the seven-furlong Carter H. (G1) over this track in April. FRIEND OR FOE (Friends Lake), one of two three-year-olds in the field, is undefeated in four starts around one turn and recently took the Empire Classic against older New York-breds.
JERSEY TOWN (Speightstown) and HALF METAL JACKET (Yes It's True) were unsuccessful fending off Bribon in the Bold Ruler last time and have form to find to pull the upset. SOARING EMPIRE (Empire Maker) benefited from a wickedly fast pace to win the Rutgers S. for three-year-olds last time at Monmouth.
The $250,000 Gazelle S. (G1) for three-year-old fillies will be run for the 115th time one race earlier. The nine-furlong feature has attracted NO SUCH WORD (Canadian Frontier), whose four stakes wins this season include the Monmouth Oaks (G3) and Honeybee S. (G3). Over the summer, she finished less than three lengths behind divisional leaders Blind Luck (Pollard's Vision) and Havre de Grace (Saint Liam) in the Delaware Oaks (G2).
QUIET TEMPER (Quiet American), who took the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) last spring, will make her first start since a dull fourth in the Iowa Oaks (G3) in June. That race was won by SEEKING THE TITLE (Seeking the Gold), who subsequently finished out of the money in the Indiana Oaks (G2) and Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (G1).
Grade 2 veteran AWESOME MARIA (Maria's Mon), dual stakes winner BELLE OF THE HALL (Graeme Hall), and the improving Godolphin homebred DUBAI DANCER (A.P. Indy) are other logical candidates.
TO HONOR AND SERVE (Bernardini), a most impressive winner of the Nashua S. (G3) three weeks ago, figures to be heavily favored in the $200,000 Remsen S. (G2) over nine furlongs. The Bill Mott trainee, after dropping his debut by two lengths, has won his last two by a combined margin of 12 3/4 lengths. Another son of Bernardini, BUFFUM, might prove to be his main competition. The Darley-owned colt was successful by a nose in his debut at Belmont going a mile, earning a 105 BRIS Speed rating.
Also among the Remsen field are Champagne S. (G1) runner-up MOUNTAIN TOWN (Cape Town), Nashua runner-up MUCHO MACHO MAN (Macho Uno), and dual stakes winner BANDBOX (Tapit).
The top three finishers in the November 6 Tempted S. (G3) -- FULL MOON BLUES (Petionville), TAP FOR LUCK (Tapit) and DIXIE CITY (Dixie Union) -- return for the $200,000 Demoiselle S. (G2) at 1 1/8 miles. Full Moon Blues shook loose on an uncontested lead in that one mile contest and could see more pressure this time.
Making their Big A debuts are BELIEVE IN A. P. (A.P. Indy), fourth in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) last out after a blowout maiden win at Philadelphia, and the Todd Pletcher-trained SUMMER LAUGH (Distorted Humor), who remained undefeated from two starts with a narrow score in last month's Blue Hen S. at Delaware Park.
On the New York worktab
Grade 1 victor HOMEBOYKRIS (Roman Ruler), unraced since a 16th in the Kentucky Derby (G1), breezed five furlongs Wednesday in 1:03 1/5 over Aqueduct's fast main track.
Grade 2 winner MARY'S FOLLIES (More Than Ready), second when returning off a 11-month layoff in the October 16 Athenia S. (G3), breezed six furlongs in 1:14 3/5.
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