Aqueduct Stakes Preview - 04/04/13
The Aqueduct winter meeting is coming to a close. It is the last big weekend at The Big A with five graded stakes. The big one is obviously the Grade I Wood Memorial featuring the two unbeatens, Vyjack and Verrazano. Both are already assured a spot in the Kentucky Derby next month, so the rematch is already set, but it will be interesting to see who fires the first shot. I will handicap all the graded stakes right here beginning with the Grade II Ruffian Handicap.
GII - Ruffian Handicap
1 Mile, Aqueduct
Six ladies will hit the Aqueduct main track in the fourth race on a 12 race card. The only one who looks to be in over her head in Centrique. She has won run recently, but the level of competition is not close to what she will find in here. Onepointhreekarats jumps off the page. She ran a big race at the end of last year, then trailed off a little bit her next time out. She will be coming off a layoff with some decent workouts so I expect her to run back to her previous form. Funnys Approval and Withgreatpleasure I expect to see on the lead early. The others will settle in a few lengths back. My Wandy's Girl has been progressing nicely from three years-old to four. Withgreatpleasure should run well after throwing in two duds, but I do not think she has enough to win it here. Consider her underneath here.
3 - 2 - 4 - 1
GII - Gazelle Stakes
1 1/8 Miles, Aqueduct
Walkwithapurpose draws the rail here after winning five of her six career starts. She has advanced nicely from her juvenile season to now, increasing distance and speed together. Her main competition will be Princess of Sylmar, winner of the Busher Stakes at Aqueduct in February. Close Hatches should also impress here. The others look largely unappealing aside from Let Me Entertain U. She seems to have some grit to her. Once she got her legs underneath here at the end of last year, she has run consistently well. This will be a boost in class for her, but she can compete in here.
1 - 2 - 6 - 4
GIII - Bay Shore
Salutos Amigos ships in from the west coast for this seven furlong sprint after a disappointing run in the San Felipe last month out at Santa Anita. I think he stands to run better returning to the shorter distance. If he can find the form he had when he broke his maiden, he could be tough in here. I expect three horses to run out for the lead down the back stretch, Clawback, Retrieve and The Truth and K G. I believe there will be enough speed up front to give some of the late pace types a chance in here as well. Maleeh and Honorable Dillon stand to benefit. Clearly Now ran well at this distance last month at Gulfstream in the Swale. He will be running well, settling in mid-pack and make his move around the far turn. As for Honorable Dillon, I think we can toss out his Tampa Bay Derby and hope he returns to his previous form. I like him if he does.
6 - 8 - 2 - 1
GI - Carter Handicap
Sahara Sky is the one that jumps off the page here. The five year-old has been running out at Santa Anita and has won the last two times out. The form cycle would suggest he will run another big one before he takes a break, certainly the one to beat. There looks to be some decent speed up front in here so I like Saturday Charm. He seems to like the 7f distance and has been running well. He could go off at a decent price as well. Discreet Dancer can never be overlooked either, I expect to see him on or near the lead in the early going. Fort Loudon might help set some decent fractions up front.
4 - 1 - 2 - 7
GI - Wood Memorial
1 1/8 Miles, Aqueduct
It is a ten horse field for the Wood Memorial, worth 100 points to the winner in the new scoring system for a spot in the Kentucky Derby. The two headliners, as mentioned above, undefeated Vyjack and Verrazano. The latter will break from the 8th post, while others may be concerned about the wide post with the first turn not too far away, but the better horses find a way to overcome that obstacle and I suspect he will here. Verrazano has answered every question we have had in his short career and I think he will put an exclamation point on it Saturday. Vyjack has been nothing short of impressive in his four career starts, all at Aqueduct. This has all the makings of a classic duel. I can only hope we get to see them both run their best race. Verrazano will be on the lead and I suspect Vyjack will like to stay close. The speed will be nothing too crazy so the late comers had better find a little extra. Normandy Invasion and Mr Palmer, that means you. Freedom Child, who has won at this distance, will set the pace with Verrazano, but as I mentioned, the speed won't be too fast or too slow. I think Always in a Tiz will run a big race here and it should be a decent price. His last start in the GIII Southwest was over a muddy track where everyone was beaten soundly by Super Ninety Nine. He is also adding blinkers for the first time. Elnaawi is intriguing in here because he will be making his second start off the layoff and ran well in the Gotham, finishing third. He also gets a jockey change to Eddie Castro on Saturday. Mr Palmer is another one that could sneak in underneath the big two. He has also won at this distance and will be making his third start off the layoff. Would I be shocked if Normandy Invasion came in and took this whole thing? A little bit, but not entirely. He ran well his last time out, despite the fifth place finish, he was not beaten by much. He should have his legs under him after a few months off prior to the Risen Star and should be a threat.
8 - 5 - 7 - 2
There you have it, all five races. The Chalk will be at Aqueduct bright and early Saturday morning for the full card of races. I will have constant updates on twitter and Instagram. Check back here throughout the day for both feeds on the side of page. Tweet me your picks @TheChalkBlog, use hashtag #CBS6TheChalk. I will also be posting photos from around the track, follow misterpictures on Instragram. Good luck and have a great day at The Big A.