OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Michael Dubb’s Battle Bling, last out winner of the nine-furlong Ladies, will look to double up in stakes scores when facing four other stakes winners in Sunday’s $125,000 Heavenly Prize Invitational, a one-turn mile for older fillies and mares at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Rob Atras and perfectly piloted by Trevor McCarthy in the January 16 Ladies at the Big A, Battle Bling rallied from fifth to win by a neck over Miss Leslie and third-place finisher Kiss the Girl, who exited that effort to win the Geisha and Nellie Morse at Laurel Park.
Atras haltered Battle Bling, a dark bay daughter of Vancouver, for $62,500 out of a runner-up effort to Heavenly Prize rival Maiden Beauty in a one-mile optional-claimer on December 19 at the Big A.
“I’m not really concerned with the cut back. I think she’s a versatile filly and is very competitive and has a lot of ability,” Atras said. “She made a big move on the turn last race and it looked like she might be getting a little bit late, but she held her own in the last sixteenth and prevailed. I think she can run just as good if not better at a mile.”
The consistent filly, who boasts a record of 13-3-4-1, worked five-eighths in 1:02.73 February 27 over the Belmont dirt training track.
Atras said he will entrust McCarthy with engineering a winning trip.
“She’s got a little tactical speed that I think Trevor will be able to put her where she needs to be in the race depending on what the pace is like,” Atras said. “In these kind of races, there’s no room for error and for a rider to know where to position a horse in a race is definitely important.”
Battle Bling will leave from post 3.
Hidden Brook Farm, Joseph McMahon and Anne McMahon’s Bank Sting boasts a record of 5-for-6 at the Big A, including an 8 1/4-length score in the NYSSS Staten Island on December 5 and a game neck win in the La Verdad last out on January 2.
Trained by John Terranova, the 5-year-old New York-bred daughter of Central Banker will be making her first start against open company. The talented bay, who won the Critical Eye in May at Belmont, worked five-eighths in 1:02.21 February 27 over the Belmont dirt training track.
Dylan Davis, leading rider at the Big A winter meet, retains the mount from post 2.
John Grossi’s Racing Corp.’s Maiden Beauty enters on a two-race win streak at the Big A, launched December 19 in a key optional-claiming mile besting Battle Bling just 11 days before taking the nine-furlong Bay Ridge in gate-to-wire fashion over a sloppy and sealed main track.
Trained by Robert Falcone, Jr., the 6-year-old New York-bred Revolutionary mare boasts a record of 14-5-3-1 at Aqueduct.
“She’s doing real well. She hasn’t missed a beat since her last race,” said Falcone, Jr. “We wanted to give her a little time since she ran back so quickly. She ran two hard races back to back, so we wanted her to regroup. She hasn’t missed a meal or had an off day since then. She’s going in the right direction.”
Kendrick Carmouche retains the mount from post 4.
Truth Hurts, trained and co-owned by Chad Summers with J Stables, enjoyed a solid 2021 campaign, posting a record of 9-2-1-1 for purse earnings of $195,100 led by stakes scores at Belmont in the Pumpkin Pie and off-the-turf Perfect Sting.
The 5-year-old graded stakes placed daughter of Tonalist tested deeper waters over the summer at Saratoga, finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap and sixth in the Grade 1 Ballerina Handicap. She earned graded black type with a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Go for Wand Handicap in December at the Big A.
Bred in Ontario by William D. Graham, Truth Hurts was last seen finishing fourth in the Mrs. Claus on December 28 at Parx. She breezed a half-mile in 50.55 February 17 over the Belmont dirt training track.
Summers said Saturday’s test is part of a longer-term goal to contest the Grade 3, $150,000 Distaff Handicap, a seven-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares on April 9 at the Big A.
“We gave her a month off after the Mrs. Claus in December and she’s only had a few works,” Summers said. “She’s not going to be 100 percent geared up for this race, but it will be a stepping stone for the Distaff going seven-eighths on Wood Memorial Day. We’ll look to that as our main spring objective. She won the Perfect Sting going a mile, so I think the distance [in the Heavenly Prize] is no problem for her.”
Luis Rodriguez Castro will guide Truth Hurts from post 5.
Rounding out the field is Sharp Starr, who captured the 2020 Grade 3 Go for Wand at the Big A for trainer Horacio De Paz and owner-breeder Barry Schwartz.
The 5-year-old New York-bred daughter of Munnings was an impressive winner of the Empire Distaff in October over a sloppy and sealed main track at Belmont. She followed with a distant fourth in her Go for Wand title defense on December 4 at the Big A ahead of an even third last out in the Bay Ridge.
Manny Franco has the call from the inside post.
The Heavenly Prize is slated as Race 7 on Sunday’s eight-race card. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.
America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the winter meet at Aqueduct Racetrack on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Aqueduct Racetrack, and the best way to bet every race of the winter meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com
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Battle Bling under Trevor McCarthy beat Miss Leslie to the wire by a neck earning Black Type in the Ladies Stakes Jan. 16, 2022, at Aqueduct. (Susie Raisher)