OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Previous stakes-winning distaffers over the Aqueduct main track will return to action when Thankful and Lake Avenue face six additonal fillies and mares in Saturday’s sixth running of the $125,000 Heavenly Prize Invitational going a one-turn mile at the Big A.
Arriving off a score in the nine-furlong Ladies Handicap on January 17 at Aqueduct is Bass Stables’ Thankful, who displayed tactical speed, battling in the upper stretch with pacesetter Miss Marissa before taking control inside the sixteenth-pole for a three-quarter length win for trainer Todd Pletcher.
The 4-year-old bay daughter of 2015 Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah broke her maiden at third asking going nine furlongs on August 20 at Saratoga Race Course before shortening up to a one-turn mile victory against winners on September 27 at Belmont.
Prior to notching her Ladies triumph, Thankful was a distant third to Mrs. Danvers in the Grade 3 Comely on November 27 at Aqueduct.
“She’s training well,” said Pletcher’s assistant Byron Hughes. “We’d like to go two turns with her, but we know she’ll handle the one turn with no problem. She’s holding her weight well. She’s full of energy and I’m happy the way she’s doing.”
Thankful is out of the Cat Thief mare Beholden and was bought for $625,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale.
Breaking from post 2, Thankful will be piloted by leading rider Kendrick Carmouche.
Godolphin’s Lake Avenue boasts a record of two triumphs in three starts over the Aqueduct main track and returns to the Big A following a Gulfstream Park optional-claiming score for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
The daughter of Tapit out of two-time Grade 1-winner Seventh Street made her Big A debut a winning one in November 2019 when a second career start resulted in a wire-to-wire 12 ¾-length romp going seven furlongs. Lake Avenue parlayed such winning ways into graded stakes company when leading at every point of call to win the Grade 2 Demoiselle going nine furlongs at Aqueduct.
After three consecutive losses, Lake Avenue received some time off and returned from a six-month layoff with a disappointing sixth in a seven-furlong allowance optional claiming event on November 26 at Churchill Downs.
Lake Avenue made amends in her last start, overcoming a slow start before rallying into contention to power home a 4 ½ length winner in the seven-furlong sprint.
“That might’ve been as good a performance as she’s had,” said Jimmy Bell, president of Godolphin USA. “The Churchill race was a head scratcher, but the time off was obviously an important aspect of it. Billy gave her some fresh sunshine in Florida down at Payson. She’s obviously very effective off the bench and I’m hoping that was the missing ingredient.”
Lake Avenue arrives off a bullet half-mile work at Payson Park training Center in South Florida, which she completed in 48.60 seconds – the fastest of 36 recorded works at the distance.
Jockey Manny Franco will ride Lake Avenue from post 8.
Trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero will ship Portal Creek back to the Big A for stakes action after a disappointing fourth as the post time favorite in the Interborough on January 18.
Owner Ten Strike Racing claimed the daughter of Shanghai Bobby last February for $25,000 at Oaklawn Park after a victory going six furlongs. After four starts with trainer Randy Matthews, Portal Creek was transferred to Guererro’s barn at Parx Racing, where she won her first start for the trainer by an eye-catching 14 lengths. Following a third to next-out winners Cinnabunny and Madam Meena at Parx, she notched two more victories at the Philadelphia oval before finishing a close second in the Grade 3 Go for Wand on December 5 at Aqueduct.
Portal Creek will break from post 5 under Jorge Vargas, Jr.
Gone Glimmering, owned and trained by Linda Rice, seeks her second straight victory after an optional claiming score going the Heavenly Prize distance on February 5 at Aqueduct.
The chestnut daughter of Tapiture won her first start for Rice after being claimed for $62,500 from former trainer Rob Atras, who saddled Gone Glimmering to a pair of victories at seven furlongs.
Boasting a consistent 14-6-2-2 record, Gone Glimmering will make her first stakes appearance since finishing third in the My Trusty Cat at Delta Downs in November 2019 for original trainer Tom Amoss.
Gone Glimmering will be ridden by Eric Cancel from post 1.
Completing the field are Landing Zone [post 3, Victor Carrasco], Flashndynamite [post 4, Dylan Davis], Needs Supervision [post 6, Trevor McCarthy], and Halo City [post 7, Pablo Morales].
The Heavenly Prize Invitational is slated as Race 8 on Saturday’s 10-race card. First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.
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Aqueduct Press Release
Photos: Thankful (left) and Lake Avenue (Chelsea Durand)