Bees and Honey, who broke her maiden for a $75,000 tag a little more than six weeks ago, improved her value significantly when posting a 13-1 upset of the $200,000 Comely S. (G3) at Aqueduct on Friday.
Better placed to strike from behind a slow pace than 7-5 favorite Crazy Beautiful, who stumbled at the start, Bees and Honey took aim at long-time leader Played Hard in upper stretch and pulled away to a 2 3/4-length victory under Jose Lezcano. She returned $28.20 after completing 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:54.41. Played Hard held second by a half-length over Crazy Beautiful. Shalimar Gardens, Vegas Weekend, and Hybrid Eclipse completed the order of finish.
Bred in Kentucky by owners Andrew Rosen, in whose colors she raced, and Gainesway Stable, Bees and Honey is trained by Reeve McGaughey, the son of Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey who was saddling his first graded stakes winner.
“It just worked out that this race fell on the calendar as the last chance against three-year-fillies, so we took a chance,” McGaughey said.
The Comely was the fifth career start for Bees and Honey, who belatedly commenced her career in late July. After running third and second in her first two starts at Ellis Park, Bees and Honey added blinkers for her maiden claiming win at Keeneland over seven furlongs on Oct. 13. She was runner-up in an entry-level allowance at Churchill Downs in her most recent start Nov. 7.
“They’ve focused her a little bit,” said McGaughey regarding the blinkers. “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.
“The distance was a big factor. 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. 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.”
Bees and Honey, who has now earned $180,700, is by Union Rags and out of Wickedly Smart, a Smart Strike half-sister to Alcibiades (G1) winner Wickedly Perfect.
Earlier in the card, Never Surprised dominated the $150,000 Gio Ponti S. for three-year-olds while setting a course record for 1 1/16 miles on the good inner turf. Leading from start to finish under Kendrick Carmouche, Never Surprised won by 6 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:40.75 and paid $3.40.
Owned by Repole Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher, Never Surprised won his first two starts, both over the Aqueduct turf last season, including the Central Park S. In prior starts this season, the son of Constitution has finished second in the Kitten’s Joy (G3), Saranac (G3), and Hill Prince (G2).
“He’s much like his sire Constitution — just ultra-consistent and really a good horse,” Pletcher said. “This colt has never run a bad race.
“They have the Tropical Park Derby on Dec. 26 at Gulfstream. We might take a look at that.”
Flower Point was up in the final strides to deny Giacosa by a neck in the $145,000 Forever Together S. for fillies and mares. Guided by Jose Lezcano, the five-year-old Point of Entry mare earned her first stakes victory in a time of 1:42.28 for 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf and paid $3.30.
Previously third in the Noble Damsel (G3), the Steve Feiger homebred is trained by Shug McGaughey.