Pletcher brings talent for Sunday Stakes

November 24, 2022

Aqua Dulce breaking her maiden at Belmont at the Big A Oct. 27. NYRA/Coglianese

Hopes continued momentum for Agua Dulce in $120,000 Tepin
Vies for record-extending victory in $150K Discovery with Saint Tapit, Be Better

By Brian Bohl

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Bass Stables’ Agua Dulce (GB) showed improvement from her debut to her subsequent start and will look to continue that upward trajectory in making her stakes debut in Sunday’s $120,000 Tepin for juvenile fillies contesting one mile over the Aqueduct Racetrack inner turf.

Agua Dulce went three-wide on the first turn in her debut, stayed well off the pace and could never muster a serious challenge in finishing sixth going 1 1/16 miles on the Big A turf in September. Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher entered the English homebred at the same distance and track a month later and his charge responded with a one-length gate-to-wire victory on October 22.

After working four furlongs in 49.61 seconds on Sunday over the Belmont Park dirt training track, Pletcher said the daughter of Flatter has continued to take positive steps as she elevates in class.

“She breezed well, and I thought she had a big improvement second time out,” said Pletcher, who saddled South of France to victory in the inaugural running of the Tepin in 2018. “She kind of got involved early and that helped. That’s the way it unfolded because she broke alertly, so she got into a good, comfortable spot. I think if the pace scenario is right, sure [she could go to the lead again], but I don’t think she’s one that needs to.”

Hall of Famer Javier Castellano will have the call from post 8.

The Pletcher-trained Gambling Girl, the winner of the Joseph A. Gimma in September at the Big A, was entered for the main track only. 

Smokie Eyes recorded a career-best 70 Beyer Speed Figure when running third in her stakes bow last out in the 1 1/16-mile Chelsey Flower at Belmont at the Big A on October 28. Smokie Eyes, a New York-bred Nyquist filly owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Darlene Bilinski and Steven Rocco, has not finished off the board in her first four starts, posting a 1-2-1 record that encompasses a maiden-breaking 3 1/2-length score on October 8 at Aqueduct.

The Christophe Clement trainee, bred in the Empire State by Kathleen Schweizer and Daniel Burke, will cap her 2-year-old campaign on Saturday, cutting back to one mile for the first time. Dylan Davis will be in the irons from post 6.

“She ran very well against open company when third,” Clement said when reflecting on the Chelsey Flower. “She’s a stayer and a galloper. This will be her last race of the year and we’ll give her a break afterwards.”

Trainer Jorge Abreu will saddle a pair of contenders, including the English-bred Alluring Angel, (GB) who ran fourth last out in the Grade 2 Miss Grillo on October 1 at Aqueduct. 

Alluring Angel, owned by Lawrence Goichman, was a first-out winner in August at Saratoga Race Course and followed with a runner-up in the Ainsworth in September at Kentucky Downs before returning to New York for her first graded stakes action the following month. Jockey Jose Ortiz drew the assignment and will ride from post 9 on Saturday.

Abreu will also send out SJB Stable’s Thirty Thou Kelvin, who will make her first stakes appearance in her fourth start and race for the first time since posting a 1 1/4-length victory in a race taken off the turf on October 1 at Aqueduct. Jose Lezcano will ride from post 7.

Thirty Thou Kelvin breaking maiden at Belmont at the Big A Oct. 15. NYRA/Coglianese

Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown sends out maiden winner Private Credit [post 4, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] in pursuit of his first Tepin win.

Klaravich Stables’ Private Credit, by Into Mischief, graduated gate-to-wire at second asking in September at Monmouth Park. The $260,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase finished third on debut in Alluring Angel’s maiden score.

Brown has also entered maiden winners Shidabhuti and Interpolate for the main-track only.

Trainer Michael Trombetta entered two contenders, with Bulsara, a maiden-breaking winner at third asking last out on October 24, and Lifelovenlaughter, fourth in the Chelsey Flower following a win at second asking in September at Pimlico. Kendrick Carmouche will ride Bulsara from post 2 while Paco Lopez will break from post 5 aboard Lifelovenlaughter.

The Classy One, fifth in the Chelsey Flower in her turf debut, will make her third consecutive stakes start for trainer Kelly Breen, drawing post 3 under Junior Alvarado.

Rounding out the field is Next Episode, who has posted two wins and two runner-up efforts in her four starts, who will make her stakes bow for conditioner Niall Saville [post 10, J.D. Acosta]; and Sweetlou’sgotaces, looking for her first win in her fourth start and her first stakes appearance for trainer Ray Handal [post 1, Joel Rosario]. Sweetlou’sgotaces is cross-entered in Saturday’s Central Park against male rivals. 

The fifth running of the Tepin is carded as Race 6 on Sunday’s nine-race program.

Saint Tapit crushing his debut by 4 lengths under Luis Saez June 26 at Belmont Park. Photo by Chelsea Durand

Pletcher vies for record-extending victory in $150K Discovery with Saint Tapit, Be Better

Pletcher will saddle two contenders in hopes of securing a record-extending seventh victory in Sunday’s $150,000 Discovery, a nine-furlong main track test for sophomores, at Aqueduct. 

Pletcher, whose wins in this event came with Early Warning [1998], Left Bank [2000], Magna Graduate [2005], Roman Dynasty [2006], Protonico [2014] and Tommy Macho [2015], will saddle Whisper Hill Farm’s homebred Saint Tapit and Repole Stable’s homebred Be Better in the 78th edition of the Discovery.

Saint Tapit, a royally bred son of Tapit out of 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, will look to improve from a last-out third-place effort in an October 20 optional claimer at Keeneland. There, he rallied from sixth-of-12 to finish 5 3/4 lengths back of the victorious Trademark. That effort came one month after his only off-the-board effort in four lifetime outings when a distant ninth in the 1 3/16-mile Bourbon Trail at Churchill Downs. 

“We were really perplexed by his race at Churchill and the next day, he had a temperature, so we felt like that was the reason for the off performance,” said Pletcher. “He came back and ran better at Keeneland, and this is his last chance to try straight 3-year-olds.”

Owner Mandy Pope of Whisper Hill Farm with jockey Luis Saez and trainer Todd Pletcher after Saint Tapit’s maiden win. Photo by Susie Raisher

Pletcher added he is confident Saint Tapit is returning to the good form that saw him win his first two outings this summer, beginning with a four-length maiden score sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs in June at Belmont Park. He followed with a professional 1 1/2-length triumph against winners in a first-level July allowance at Saratoga Race Course where he garnered a 90 Beyer Speed Figure. 

Irad Ortiz, Jr. has the call from post 7. 

Be Better, the more seasoned of the two Pletcher runners, arrives from an off-the-board finish when trying turf for the first time in the Grade 2 Hill Prince on October 22 at Belmont at the Big A. The dark bay son of Uncle Mo stalked four lengths off the pace in fifth and improved to be third at the three-quarters call but faded to ninth at the stretch call and was defeated 4 1/2 lengths by the winning Celestial City. 

“I was a little disappointed in his effort,” said Pletcher. “He trained better on the turf than that, but we’ll go back to the dirt now and see what he can do.” 

His other two victories came this summer at Monmouth Park, scoring a maiden win at second asking with a prominent trip in June and following with a closing allowance victory in July, both traveling a mile and 70 yards. Be Better then contested the restricted Curlin at Saratoga for his next-out stakes debut but was soundly defeated after having difficulty making up ground from mid-pack. 

Be Better’s last win at Monmouth Park July 4 in an Allowance. 

“His two races at Monmouth leading into the Curlin [were good], but I was disappointed in his effort in the Curlin,” said Pletcher. “I think he was one of several horses that we ran at Saratoga that didn’t care for that deep, demanding surface. He threw in a total clunker. Hopefully, he’ll get back to his good form.”

Be Better has worked over the Belmont dirt training track three times since the Hill Prince, most recently covering a half-mile in 49.90 seconds in company with stakes-placed Diamond Hands on Sunday. 

“He breezed pretty well Sunday and does as much as his workmate does,” said Pletcher. “I thought it was a useful breeze.” 

Dylan Davis will ride from post 1. 

Barese winning the Gander at Aqueduct in February, his third consecutive victory. Photo by Susie Raisher

Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher’s New York-bred Barese [post 3, Manny Franco] will test open company after finishing on-the-board in three consecutive outings against fellow state-breds. Trained by Mike Maker, Barese was last seen finishing a close third in the Empire Classic on October 30 at Belmont at the Big A. That effort was preceded by a game runner-up effort in the Albany in August at Saratoga and a strong four-length victory in the New York Derby in July at Finger Lakes Racetrack. 

Barese has already proven his talents over the Big A main track, boasting a pair of stakes scores this winter in the Rego Park and Gander against New York-breds, as well as a third-place finish in the NYSSS Times Square this April. His lone off-the-board finish at Aqueduct came with an even fifth-place effort in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial in April. 

Bred in the Empire State by Sequel Thoroughbreds and Lakland Farm, the son of Laoban has banked over $400,000 in total earnings through a record of 9-4-1-2. 

Eloquist’s last win at Delaware Park Oct. 27.

Cash is King and LC Racing’s Eloquist [post 6, Paco Lopez] streaks in from two optional claiming victories for conditioner Butch Reid, Jr. The gelded son of Nyquist rallied from off-the-pace to claim a 1 1/2-length victory last time out traveling one mile and 70 yards over a muddy and sealed main track at Delaware Park, one month after a pacesetting victory going the same distance at Parx. 

Eloquist, a $70,000 purchase at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale, will make his first appearance at Aqueduct since finishing a well-beaten fifth in last year’s Grade 2 Remsen behind the victorious Mo Donegal. 

Completing the field are JKX Racing’s four-time winner Naval Aviator [post 2, Abner Adorno] for trainer Michael Jones, Jr.; Whisper Hill Farm’s dual winner Winit [post 4, Kendrick Carmouche] for trainer John Kimmel; and Colts Neck Stables’ stakes-placed Affable Monarch [post 5, Jose Ortiz] for trainer Jorge Duarte, Jr.

The Discovery is slated as Race 7 on Sunday’s loaded nine-race card that includes the $150,000 Autumn Days in Race 8. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.

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