Likely Derby, Oaks contenders start at Aqueduct

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November 3rd, 2017


It may seem amazing while the Breeders’ Cup is on at Del Mar, but there are some good quality graded stakes races to interest punters at other North American venues this weekend.

Aqueduct, Churchill Downs, and Woodbine host graded races Nov.3-5, and two of them will be of interest to those looking for next year’s big races for 3-year-olds.

The first of them is the Tempted Stakes (G3), for 2-year-old fillies over a mile. It’s been won by a number of horses that went on to become major grade one winners – among them Stopchargingmaria, Ajina, Flawlessly, and the 1980 Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk. Last year’s winner Miss Sky Warrior started third favorite for the Kentucky Oaks.

The 4-5 morning-line favorite is the Anthony Dutrow-trained Navajo (Union Rags). Runner-up at her debut, she then scored a 3 ¼-length maiden victory at Belmont Park Oct. 1 over a mile. Her toughest opponent looks to be the Pennsylvania-bred Daisy (Blame), the 5-2 second pick after winning her only start by eight lengths at Parx Oct. 9.

Saturday features three graded stakes races for fillies and mares. Aqueduct hosts the Long Island Handicap (G3), over 1 ½-miles on turf, where the morning-line favorite is the Graham Motion-trained Arles. Since arriving from Germany last year she’s run three times at grade 3 level for three second-placd finishes, though she hasn’t raced since the La Prevoyante Handicap at Gulfstream Park Jan. 28. Summersault and the Chad Brown-trained pair Texting and Galileo’s Song look the threats.

Churchill Downs hosts the one-mile Chilukki Stakes (G2) on dirt, featuring a good field of 14. The morning-line favorite is Money’soncharlotte, directed to this race after finishing second, albeit well beaten by Elate, in the Beldame Stakes (G1) Sept. 30. She had won her three prior races, including the Molly Pitcher Stakes (G3), and twice finished ahead of last week’s Turnback the Alarm Handicap (G3) winner Eskenformoney. Farrell, Motown Lady, Tiger Moth, and Shenandoah Queen head the rest.

In Canada, a field of eight is entered for the Maple Leaf Stakes (G3) at Woodbine, over 1 ¼-miles on the all-weather track. Last year’s winner Ice Festival returns, but she faces a strong challenge from the Josie Carroll-trained stablemates Involuntary and Gamble’s Ghost.

Sunday sees the running of the Nashua Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct. Though it’s not part of the Road to the  Kentucky Derby series, it does usually feature Derby-bound horses that aren’t quite precocious enough for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile the day before. Its winners include 2016 Derby fourth-place finisher Mohaymen, 2006 Derby runner-up Bluegrass Cat, 1992 Preakness Stakes winner Pine Bluff, 1998 Travers Stakes winner Coronado’s Quest, and in recent years the promising young sires Violence, To Honor and Serve, and Cairo Prince.

The best-performed runner coming into this year’s race is Aveenu Malcainu, winner of the Funny Cide Stakes for New York-breds before finishing seventh to Firenze Fire in the Champagne Stakes (G1). He has to give away between four and six pounds to all his opponents, who include two-time Laurel Park winner Blue Ridge Scout, and the maiden winners Super Sermon, Avery Island, Under the Graydar, and Crea’s Bklyn Law.