by Brian Bohl
Miss Marissa found a comfort level going two turns in a stellar sophomore campaign and will look to follow a similar recipe in her 4-year-old bow as part of a seven-horse field of fillies and mares 4-years-old and up in the 150th running of Sunday’s $100,000 Ladies Handicap going nine furlongs at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Miss Marissa, sixth last out in the Grade 3 Comely on November 27 over an Aqueduct track rated good, is the field’s most accomplished entrant, having won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan on October 3, Preakness Day, at Pimlico Race Course for trainer James Ryerson.
Miss Marissa, owned by Cammarota Racing, won just once in her first nine starts. But the He’s Had Enough filly found a comfort zone when placed at longer distances, winning three straight entering the Comely, including 1 1/8-mile victories against optional claimers on August 13 at Saratoga and the Black-Eyed Susan, where she edged Bonny South by a neck over a fast track.
After tiring in the stretch in the Comely to cap her sophomore year, Ryerson said Miss Marissa has been training forwardly at Belmont in anticipation of her 4-year-old bow. She breezed four furlongs in 47.40 seconds on Wednesday over the main track.
“We’re happy with her. She breezed real well yesterday,” Ryerson said. “We’re excited about running. We’re hoping we get a good track, but whatever we get, we’ll try either way and hopefully she’ll show up.
“We’ll race here and then I think we’ll give her a break after this, but hopefully we’ll be seeing her at Belmont later on,” he added.
Jose Lezcano will pick up the mount for the first time since riding her to a fourth-place finish in the seven-furlong Wide Country last February at Laurel Park. The duo will break from post 4 with Miss Marissa carrying the 122-pound highweight.
“We decided to make a change and Jose knows her; he got to ride her going seven-eighths and he never had the chance to ride her in a two-turn race, so we’re really happy to have him,” Ryerson said.
Jeff Drown’s Smooth With a Kick has finished in the money in three of her last four starts, including a victory against allowance company going the Ladies’ distance on August 9 at the Spa and a 3 ¼-length score against optional claimers at 1 1/16 miles on October 11 at Keeneland.
Trainer Chad Brown moved the Candy Ride mare up to stakes company last out in the Grade 2 Falls City going nine furlongs on November 26 at Churchill Downs. Despite finishing fifth, she posted an 86 Beyer, the highest in her 13 career starts, and has trained at Belmont since December. Smooth With a Kick will carry 120 pounds.
“She’s real straightforward,” said Whit Beckman, an assistant to Brown. “No bad habits and nothing too tricky about the filly. You just take her out there and she does the rest. She’s easy to be around and has a professional attitude. That makes a good racehorse.”
Manny Franco will ride from post 2.
Bass Stables’ Thankful earned blacktype in her stakes – and Aqueduct Racetrack – debut last out and will look to build on that effort in returning to the Big A.
Thankful capped her sophomore campaign with a third-place effort in the Grade 3 Comely. The Todd Pletcher trainee did not race as a juvenile but posted a 2-1-1 mark in five starts during her 3-year-old season, breaking her maiden at third asking on August 20 at Saratoga before edging next-out winner Mrs. Danvers in a one-turn mile on September 27 when facing older horses at Belmont Park, netting a personal-best 89 Beyer Speed Figure.
The daughter of 2015 Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah will look to register the trifecta at NYRA-operated tracks in her second start at Aqueduct as she seeks her first stakes win.
Thankful, a $625,000 purchase at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton New York Select Sale, will have the services of meet-leading rider Kendrick Carmouche from the outermost post 7 and carry 120 pounds.
Ten Strike Racing’s Lucky Move dispatched fellow New York-breds in consecutive stakes, starting with the Empire Distaff Handicap in October at Belmont and the Bay Ridge last out on December 13 at Aqueduct, and will face open company for trainer Juan Guerrero.
Bred by Maltese Cross Stables and Stonegate Stables, Lucky Move will make the first start of her 7-year-old year, with the veteran compiling a 7-7-4 record through 32 starts. Jorge Vargas, Jr. will be in the irons from the inside post [121 pounds].
Ujjayi, a T.L. Wise Pennsylvania homebred conditioned by Mike Maker, bested optional claimers at the Ozone Park-based track on December 13 and has half of her four career wins at the Big A. The Smarty Jones mare will break from post 6 with Trevor McCarthy aboard carrying 120 pounds.
Am Impazible earned the right to try stakes company after returning from a 10-month layoff with a win against allowance company on December 18 going a one-turn mile at the Big A. Overall, the Kelly Breen trainee has won her last four starts dating to November 2019, with all those victories coming at Aqueduct.
Owned by Richard Troncone, Jr. and Troncone, Sr., the New York homebred will have jockey Eric Cancel’s services from post 5 and carry 118 pounds.
Bridlewood Farm’s Bridlewood Cat is seeking her first win since 2019 and will be making her third consecutive stakes appearance for trainer Jonathan Thomas. Dylan Davis has the call from post 3. Bridlewood Cat will carry 118 pounds.
The Ladies Handicap is slated as Race 8 on Aqueduct’s nine-race program, which offers a first post of 12:20 p.m. Eastern.