Red Smith, Discovery highlight Aqueduct’s Saturday card

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Jen Caldwell

November 9th, 2016

Twelve runners, including one main-track only entrant, will take to Aqueduct’s turf on Saturday going 1 3/8 miles in the $200,000 Red Smith Handicap (G3).

One race later, 11 sophomores will head out onto the main track for the $150,000 Discovery Stakes (G3) at nine furlongs.

Messi and Wake Forest are the top draws in the Red Smith, with the former seeking a return to the winner’s circle and the latter taking a class drop after running against Grade 1 rivals in his past five races.

Wake Forest should relish the class relief in the Red Smith but didn’t do all that bad against Grade 1 company. In fact, the bay six-year-old triumphed in the Man o’ War Stakes (G1) at Belmont in just his second start this season. That followed a head second in the Pan American Stakes (G2) to kick off the year on April 2 in what was only his second try stateside.

Since the Man o’ War, Wake Forest has also placed in the United Nations Stakes (G1), Northern Dancer Stakes (G1) and Canadian International (G1). He actually just missed by a neck in the Northern Dancer and enters this one for trainer Chad Brown with Javier Castellano in the irons.

Messi has gone against Grade 1 competition only once, with that resulting in a seventh-place finish in the 2015 Sword Dancer Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. Immediately following that he captured the Knickerbocker Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park before closing out last year’s campaign with a fifth in the River City Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs.

Messi has made four starts thus far this season for trainer Graham Motion, running third in both the Fort Marcy Stakes (G3) and Arlington Handicap (G3), winning the Sky Classic Stakes (Can-G2), and fading to 10th most recently in the John Henry Turf Championship Stakes (G2). In this spot the six-year-old gelded son of New Approach reunites with jockey Edgar Prado, who rode him to victory in the Sky Classic in their only other time partnering.

Another in with a shot is Bigger Picture, who just missed by a nose when second in the Sycamore Stakes (G3) going 1 1/2 miles at Keeneland on October 20. The former claimer brings Jose Ortiz along for the ride.

The Discovery features a number of contenders as well as an unbeaten colt making his stakes bow.

Gift Box ranks first in the field in both BRIS Prime Power and Speed thanks to a fourth-place run behind recent Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) hero Arrogate in the Travers Stakes (G1) on August 27. The gray ridgling was well beaten that day but still earned a career-best, and field-topping, 104 BRIS Speed rating for his effort. Castellano has the call for Brown.

Sticksstatelydude goes in here for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin off a half-length second in the Oklahoma Derby (G3) on September 25 while multiple Grade 2-placed stakes winner Governor Malibu is exiting a runner-up effort against fellow New York-breds in the Empire Classic Handicap on October 22 for conditioner Christophe Clement.

Wild About Deb and My Man Sam were separated by only a neck in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) most recently on September 24, with the former finishing third and the latter fourth. Sunny Ridge also ran in the Penn Derby, but could only manage a well-beaten 11th in his first start back since rallying for third in the Haskell Invitational (G1) in late July.

Hot Seat is a new shooter in regards to stakes company. The Jason Servis pupil just broke his maiden by 13 lengths at Parx Racing on September 6, good for a 101 BRIS Speed rating, and returned last out on October 11 to triumph by seven lengths against allowance rivals at the same track.

Wake Forest photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography
Governor Malibu photo courtesy of NYRA/Chelsea Durand/Adam Coglianese Photography