La Verdad looks to end recent streak of bad luck in Fall Highweight

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November 23rd, 2015

The last several weeks have been tough ones for La Verdad and her connections, but there will be much for all of them to be thankful for if the five-year-old New York-bred mare can pull off a victory in the $250,000 Fall Highweight H. (G3), the Thanksgiving Day feature at Aqueduct on Thursday.

Worn down late by Wavell Avenue in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Keeneland on the last day of October, La Verdad suffered another defeat last week when her four-length victory in the Honorable Miss H. (G2) at Saratoga in July was reportedly forfeited after trace amounts of clenbuterol, a medication prohibited on race day, was discovered in post-race tests.

Despite the loss in the Breeders' Cup to Wavell Avenue, a rival she had previously beaten in the Gallant Bloom H. (G2), La Verdad remains a logical favorite to be named champion female sprinter. In addition to the Gallant Bloom, she also captured the Distaff H. (G2) and Vagrancy H. (G3) earlier this year, as well as two state-bred stakes.

The cut back from seven furlongs to six furlongs for the Fall Highweight should work to the advantage of the speedy mare, who will tote 127 pounds. However, she failed to make the lead in last year's edition, contested in the slop, and trailed in the field of seven.

"Cutting back to six furlongs is obviously a good thing for her," trainer Linda Rice said. "Against the colts, it's questionable. Last year didn't go well for us but I think that she's in much better form right now."

From the late 1960s through the early 1980s, several fillies clinched sprint titles in the Fall Highweight, including Ta Wee (1969-70), Chou Croute (1972), What a Summer (1977), and Gold Beauty (1982). The last female to win the Fall Highweight was Funistrada in 1986.

Salutos Amigos seeks to become the first back-to-back Fall Highweight winner since What a Summer (1977-78). The David Jacobson trainee rallied from off the pace to win the 2014 renewal by 1 3/4 lengths and later thrived during the inner dirt meet winning the Tom Fool H. (G3), Toboggan (G3), and Gravesend.

Salutos Amigos has not been quite as sharp outside the Big A this year, but was only beaten a neck in the Vosburgh (G1) two back and was most recently fifth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) after a troubled trip. He carries top weight of 134 pounds on Thursday.

Rice and Jacobson will have other Fall Highweight starters. Palace, a multiple Grade 1 winner at Saratoga for Rice in 2014, enters with a three-for-four record over Aqueduct's main track and exits a third in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel on November 14.

Jacobson has also entered Fabulous Kid, who has won two of three starts since joining the barn, but the improving colt might race instead in the $200,000 Fabulous Strike H. at Penn National on Wednesday night.

Other contenders include Captain Serious, a multiple New York-bred stakes winner who ran third in last year's Fall Highweight, and Pulling G's, who makes his stakes debut after winning three allowances this season.

Earlier on Thursday, the second- through fourth-place finishers in the Matron (G2) -- Constellation, Tonasah, and Wave of Glory -- square off again in the $150,000 Furlough for two-year-old fillies at six furlongs. Last-out maiden winners Shayna Lady and Summer Reading complete the small field of five.

(NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)