By NY Hot List Staff
The menu at Aqueduct will shift from turkey to stakes as a trio of added-money events will highlight Saturday’s card.
Heading the card, and serving as the most attractive wagering opportunity, is the $400,000 Long Island, a 1 3/8-mile turf stakes for fillies and mares.
There were 15 entries for the Long Island, including one horse on the also-eligible list and two main track only starters.
Trainer Graham Motion has a strong hand with three of the 12 probable starters, a group that includes the uncoupled trio of Empressof the Nile, Mercilla and Si Que Es Buena (ARG).
Si Que Es Buena won the Via Borghese Stakes the La Prevoyante Stakes earlier in the year at Gulfstream Park then, after taking the summer off, was sixth in the E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine in her last start.
Empressof the Nile was second in the Grade 2 Glens Falls Stakes, then was seventh in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl and won the Zagora Stakes, a 1 ½-mile turf stakes at Aqueduct.
Mercilla, a 3-year-old, was second in the Virginia Oaks but then faded to sixth in the Zagora, finishing 1 ¼ lengths behind Empressof the Nile.
The others to watch in the stakes for fillies and mares are Romantic Pursuit, Homeland Security, My Sister Nat (FR) and Decorating.
The Discovery Stakes is for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles and matches one of the year’s better 3-year-olds against two up-and-coming runners testing stakes waters for the first time.
Tax provided a rags-to-riches saga on the Triple Crown trail, rising from a $50,000 claimer into a horse who finished second in the Wood Memorial and then won the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. He has not raced since finishing seventh in the Travers and trainer Danny Gargan is hoping the Discovery will propel the gelding into races such as Pegasus, Saudi Cup and Dubai World Cup.
“He’s been training great and doing all that we can ask of him,” Gargan said. “He’s been a really nice horse, we’re just blessed to have him in the barn. He’ll go to Florida for the winter and we’ll evaluate him from there. We expect him to show up and run well.”
Performer is trained by Shug McGaughey and will bring a streak of three straight wins into the Discovery, making him a main threat.
“So far, so good. All of his races have been good, even when he ran last year it was a good race,” McGaughey said. “This was the next stop down the line so it’s what I’ve been planning on. He seems to have done really well since his race at the end of September. The space is good, the works have been good. A mile and an eighth around two turns is a new ball game, but I think he’s up for it. We’ve liked him all along and so far he hasn’t disappointed us.”
Another key contender will be Mubarmaj, who comes off two sharp wins for trainer Chad Brown.
Rounding out the trio is the Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship, a six-furlong contest where Fully Vested looks like the one to catch and beat.