OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Trainer J. Reeve McGaughey took one step closer to following in his Hall of Fame father’s footsteps when sending out his first graded stakes winner with Gainesway Stable and Andrew Rosen’s Bees and Honey, who captured Friday’s 76th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Comely for sophomore fillies going nine furlongs at Aqueduct Racetrack.
McGaughey is the son of Shug McGaughey, a three-time winner of the Comely. En route to providing the younger McGaughey with his first graded stakes score, Bees and Honey ran in a first-level allowance event on November 7 at Churchill Downs, closing late to finish second at 16-1 odds behind graded stakes-placed Amendment Nineteen.
“I spent a few years up in New York and always enjoyed going to Aqueduct,” McGaughey said. “It just worked out that this race fell on the calendar as the last chance against 3-year-old fillies, so we took a chance.”
Breaking a touch slowly from post 5, Bees and Honey was four wide into the first turn as second-choice Played Hard commanded the pace through an easy opening quarter-mile in 25.49 seconds over the fast main track. Vegas Weekend, who entered off a four-race win streak, kept close company to her outside in second while under a hold from jockey Manny Franco.
Played Hard maintained her command through a half-mile in 50.18 seconds while Bees and Honey inched her way closer to the front under coaxing from Jose Lezcano. Bees and Honey battled to the outside of Played Hard in the first half of the stretch drive and drew off to win by 2 ¾ lengths in a time of 1:54.41. Played Hard held second by a half-length over the late-closing favorite Crazy Beautiful, who was in pursuit of her fourth graded stakes triumph.
Shalimar Gardens, Vegas Weekend and Hybrid Eclipse completed the order of finish. Army Wife and Ninetypercentbrynn were scratched.
“She broke really good today and I sat there. I lost a little ground in the first turn but she was pretty comfortable,” said Lezcano, who earlier on the program captured the Forever Together aboard Flower Point for the elder McGaughey. “On the backside, I dropped a little in and stayed comfortable the whole way around. She’s a big filly and I started a little early at the five-sixteenths pole. She started gaining ground and when I really asked her, she looked good.”
The Comely was a first start beyond one mile for Bees and Honey. McGaughey said the distance played a big factor in shipping to Aqueduct.
“We really didn’t have a chance to run her long like that and in all of her races she’s shown she’ll run as far as they’ll let her run,” McGaughey said. “Every race she’s run, she’s gotten stronger in the last eighth of a mile. Coming up there to run a mile and an eighth on that track was a big part of it.”
McGaughey said the addition of blinkers for her maiden score in October at Keeneland has played a major role in Bees and Honey’s improved form.
“They’ve focused her a little bit,” McGaughey said. “She wasn’t quite running a full race for us the first couple times. She was really spotty, and it’s got her to be more consistent throughout the race.”
McGaughey, who will send horses to Tampa Bay Downs for the winter, said Bees and Honey would likely stop in Ocala, Florida for a brief freshening before joining his winter contingent at the Oldsmar oval.
“We’ll figure that out in the next couple days, but she’ll start heading south,” McGaughey said.
Martin Garcia, aboard Played Hard, said his filly didn’t quite get acclimated to the Aqueduct surface.
“I was really comfortable after going that easy, but when it was time to ask, she didn’t love the track,” Garcia said. “The track is great but some horses like a firm track and others like a loose track, and in this case the track is a little loose. She was peddling and peddling and took a while to get going and when it was time to go, it was too late. She’s a good filly and we got beat by a good horse.”
Carmouche, aboard Crazy Beautiful, said his filly was hampered after being bumped at the start.
“She stumbled leaving there and I wanted to be more forward than out the back door. It didn’t set up the way I wanted,” Carmouche said. “They were going easy up front and I tried to get her up there so when the running started, she wouldn’t have so much to overcome.”
Bees and Honey, a chestnut daughter of Union Rags, rewarded her backers in payouts of $28.20 for a $2 win wager as the second longest shot in the six-horse field. She banked $110,000 in victory, enhancing her lifetime bankroll to $180,700.
Bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds and AR Enterprises Inc., Bees and Honey is out of the Smart Strike mare Wickedly Smart – a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Wickedly Perfect.
Live racing resumes Saturday at the Big A with a 10-race card featuring the $100,000 Central Park in Race 7, the $150,000 Discovery in Race 8, the Grade 3, $400,000 Long Island in Race 9 and the $150,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship in Race 10. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.
America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the fall 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 fall meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
Aqueduct Racetrack Press Release
Photo: Bees and Honey, (Susie Raisher Photo)