State-breds stakes top year-end Big A card
By Bob Ehalt
A long and memorable year will come to an end in a few days with an extended New Year’s schedule at New York racing’s winter wonderland of Aqueduct.
There will be racing through New Year’s Day on Tuesday and stakes each afternoon, beginning with two on Saturday and ending on Tuesday with the $150,000 Jerome, a Kentucky Derby prep for 3-year-olds.
Saturday’s program features the $100,000 East View and the $100,000 Alex M. Robb, a pair of stakes for New York State-breds.
The East View is a one-mile test for 2-year-old fillies that attracted a large field of 11 headed by Sassy Agnes, the 3-1 morning line favorite.
Trained by Linda Rice, Sassy Agnes has been no worse than second in her last five races. In her most recent starts, the daughter of Central Bank was second in the New York Stallion Stakes as a 1-2 favorite and a 1 ¼-length victor in the Key Cents Stakes before that.
The main threats promise to be Espresso Shot and Take Me to Hardoon, who were second and third, respectively, in the Key Cents.
Espresso Shot (5-1) closed strongly from 12th to finish second by 1 ¼ lengths in the six-furlong Key Cents and should relish the added distance of the East View. Trained by Jorge Abreu, Expresso Shot’s only other dirt race was a 2 ½-length maiden win.
Take Me to Hardoon (4-1) was third in the Key Cents and should appreciate the mile distance.
The rest of the field includes Shelley Ann (6-1), Forever Changed (6-1), Little Song (20-1), Elegant Zip (10-1), Awesome Alana (15-1), Maiden Beauty (15-1), Three Birds (20-1) and Lem Me Have It (15-1).
Control Group is the 9-5 favorite in the Robb off a solid 2018 campaign with four wins in nine starts.
In his last start, the 4-year-old was third in the Red Smith, a stakes that was switched from the turf course to the main track last month. In seven starts at Aqueduct, he has three wins, a second and two thirds.
Trained by Rudy Rodriguez, Control Group was fifth in the $300,000 Empire Classic in his previous start.
The mile-and-an-eighth stakes attracted eight starters including Mr. Buff, the 2-1 second choice. A winner of two straight allowance races, Mr. Buff was also third in the Empire Classic.
Twisted Tom (5-1) ended 2017 with three straight wins, capped by the Empire Classic. But after returning from a nine-month layoff for trainer Chad Brown, he was fourth in the Saginaw and fifth in the Evan Shipman, both times as the favorite.
Switched to Bill Mott’s barn for Saturday’s race, Twisted Tom will be his making his first start on Aqueduct’s main track.
The field also includes Winston’s Chance (8-1), Testosterstone (20-1), Hit It Once More (12-1), Caledonian (10-1) and Black Tide (15-1).