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Aqueduct offers the final Grade 1 race of the season in New York, and this year’s Cigar Mile looks to be worthy of the honor. With an intriguing mix of sprinters and distance horses, as well as 3-year-olds and older males, the $750,000 feature appears to be a wide-open affair. Independence Hall, off a romping win in the Grade 2 Fayette, is the most likely favorite, but Ginobili, Americanrevolution, Code of Honor, and Following Sea all should get plenty of support.
The Cigar Mile is the headliner on Saturday, but the Big A actually has four consecutive graded stakes races to close the card. The Remsen, for the boys, and the Demoiselle, for the girls, feature 2-year-olds hoping to make a splash in the final start of their juvenile seasons. And finally, the one mile Go For Wand is a female version of the Cigar Mile.
This week we will focus not only on the four graded stakes races from Aqueduct, but also on a pair of dirt stakes for the fillies at Los Alamitos.
Looking to be in the best form of his career, Independence Hall tops a wide-open field of eight males set for Saturday’s $750,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. The son of Constitution exits a career-best performance, having won the Grade 2 Fayette on a sloppy track at Keeneland by more than 7-lengths. Trained by Michael McCarthy, he also has a perfect record at Aqueduct from early in his career.
Chief among his competition could be Ginobili, who has been red-hot at Del Mar of late, having romped in an allowance race three starts back, before winning the Grade 2 Pat O’ Brien and then finishing second to Life Is Good in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. A trio of others also figures to be prominent players in this Grade 1 affair. Code of Honor is a multiple Grade 1 winner of nearly $3 million and nearing the end of his career, while Americanrevolution and Following Sea are a pair of talented sophomores from the Hall of Fame barn of Todd Pletcher, each looking for the biggest win of their careers.
Americanrevolution (4/1) – This progressive 3-year-old looks ready to step up to the big leagues with an important late-season win.
Last week they were included in the first round of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, this week Mo Donegal and Zandon, two good-looking maiden winners in New York, figure to vie for favoritism when they headline a field of eight entered in Saturday’s Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Mo Donegal was the preferred colt in the Future Wager, and will likely go favored in the 9 furlongs Remsen. A son of Uncle Mo, he rolled home late to win at Belmont Park in his second career start.
Meanwhile, Zandon has made only one start, but hails from the powerhouse barn of Chad Brown. His debut came at Belmont Park eight weeks ago and began with a bit of an awkward start. The son of Upstart quickly got into stride, though, and after stalking in fourth early, he won the 6 furlong maiden race going away. Of the rest, the third-place finisher from the Grade 3 Nashua, Judge Davis, figures to bet the most. The son of Distorted Humor is trained by Shug McGaughey, who has already won the Remsen on four occasions.
Mr Jefferson (15/1) – Going with a long shot here, as I see this as a race with vulnerable favorites, and this Maryland shipper is 2-for-2 on dirt.
Led by Magic Circle and Nest, the fillies who ran a close second and third in last month’s Tempted Stakes, a field of eight 2-year-old fillies are entered in Saturday’s $250,000 Demoiselle Stakes at the Big A. Nest finished just behind her rival last time, but the well-bred daughter of Curlin could still go favored, as she was running best late in the one-mile race, and now gets an extra furlong in her third career start for trainer Todd Pletcher. Magic Circle, meanwhile, was a game second and before that finished fourth behind the soon to be champion, Echo Zulu, in the Grade 1 Frizette.
Chief among their rivals will be two fillies who impressed while winning their respective career debuts. Tap the Faith is a well-bred daughter of Tapit, who rallied nicely on the inside to get up and win her debut at Belmont Park four weeks ago. Trained by Christophe Clement, she will be ridden by Joel Rosario on Saturday. A Godolphin homebred, Nostalgic has also unveiled a winner at Belmont Park when she beat fellow maidens by nearly eight lengths in October for trainer Bill Mott.
Nest (5/2) – A full sister to the Big Cap winner Idol, she should love the added distance of the Demoiselle.
Lady Rocket will look to carry her impressive speed the full mile, when she headlines a field of seven entered for Saturday’s $250,000 Go For Wand Stakes at Aqueduct. The 4-year-old Tale of the Cat filly came back this summer from a brief freshening to run three strong stakes races. First, she easily handled her competition in the 7 furlongs Pink Ribbon at Charles Town, then followed that up with a solid second to the Grade 1 winning Bella Sofia in the 6 1/2-furlong Grade 2 Gallant Bloom at Belmont Park. Most recently, the Brad Cox-trainee was a game-winner over tough mares in the Pumpkin Pie Stakes on a sloppy Belmont track.
Chief among her competition will be the race’s defending champion, Sharp Starr. Trained by Horacio DePaz, the 4-year-old daughter of Munnings has never finished out of the money in six career starts at Aqueduct. Included in that record is a 15 3/4-length romp last year against fellow New York-breds, which preceded her hard-fought victory in the 2020 edition of the Go for Wand. Last out, she easily won the $250,000 Empire Distaff on a sloppy track at Belmont Park.
Bella Vita (4/1) – The California shipper should sit a good stalking trip behind the favorite and be ready to pounce at the top of the lane.
Trainer Bob Baffert has absolutely dominated the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes over the years and looks to be in a great position to do it again when he sends out the formidable trio of Eda, Grace Adler, and Benedict Canyon in a compact field of six entered for the $300,000 feature on Saturday at Los Alamitos. Baffert will be shooting for his fifth straight Starlet victory and eighth overall. Grace Adler, a daughter of Curlin, could be the favorite off a smashing win in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante two starts back. She could not repeat that form next out, though, as she finished a well-beaten fifth in the Grade 2 Chandelier.
Eda, a speedy daughter of Munnings, also should get plenty of support. The beaten favorite in the Del Mar Debutante, she came right back to win back-to-back stakes, scoring in the 6 furlongs Anokia and the 6 ½ furlong Desi Arnaz Stakes in her last two starts. If anyone can prevent Baffert from winning this race again, Cairo Memories might have the best shot. Although she has plenty of dirt pedigree, she has made her first three starts on the turf for trainer Bob Hess, Jr. She has won two of three, including the Surfer Girl Stakes, but finished off the board last time in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, although beaten less than three lengths.
Cairo Memories (7/2) – This daughter of Cairo Prince should make a smooth transition to dirt and can upset the Baffert trained favorites.
As Time Goes By may find the step down in class to her liking when she faces six other fillies and mares in Sunday’s Grade 3 Bayakoa Stakes on Sunday at Los Alamitos. A two-time Grade 2 winner, the daughter of American Pharoah finished eighth last out in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, but before that she had run a number of solid races this season, including victories in the Santa Margarita and Santa Maria in April and May at Santa Anita for trainer Bob Baffert. In her only previous start at Los Alamitos, the 4-year-old filly was an impressive winner of a maiden race one year ago.
Several others in the field have the credentials to upset As Time Goes By on Sunday, including graded stakes winners Harvest Moon, Moonlight d’Oro, and Warren’s Showtime. The youngest of the trio could be the most interesting in the Bayakoa. A 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, Moonlight d’Oro was runner-up in last month’s Seashell Stakes at Del Mar after nine months on the sidelines. Previously, she was an impressive come-from-behind winner of the Grade 3 Las Virgenes in February, which followed a nice maiden score at Los Alamitos.
As Time Goes By (8/5) – She looks to be the classiest of the bunch in an overall solid field set for the Bayakoa.
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Email: [email protected]
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