November 30, 2023

Aniston among two leading Busanda contenders for Pletcher

Todd Pletcher (Photo by NYRA/Coglianese Photography)

Trainer Todd Pletcher won the 2021 Kentucky Oaks (G1) with Malathaat and already has a serious contender for this year’s Oaks with that retired champion’s full sister, Demoiselle (G2) heroine Julia Shining. But the Hall of Fame conditioner could have another daughter of Curlin ready to make a splash on the Oaks trail in Aniston, who will break outside four rivals in Saturday’s $100,000 Busanda S. at Aqueduct.

The Busanda, contested over 1 1/8 miles, will award Oaks qualifying points of 20-8-6-4-2 to the respective five finishers. It’s a race Pletcher has won five times, including with Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar in 2013.

Campaigned by Spendthrift Farm, Aniston made little impression on debut going a mile at Aqueduct in mid-September. However, in her most recent start in a Nov. 25 maiden over the Busanda distance, Aniston rated close to a slow pace early and won comfortably by 4 3/4 lengths.

“She’s a big scopey filly and it seems like she wants to run all day. That’s our mindset with her and she’s proved us right so far,” assistant trainer Byron Hughes said.

Another last-out maiden winner to watch out for in the Busanda is the Chad Brown-trained Occult, a daughter of Into Mischief and the Barbara Fritchie H. (G2) winner Magical Feeling. A non-threatening fourth in her debut, Occult rebounded last month to take a one-mile maiden by 4 1/4 lengths.

Bringing a bit more experience into the Busanda are Affirmative Lady and the Pletcher-trained Gambling Girl, who were run down late by Julia Shining in the Dec. 3 Demoiselle. Affirmative Lady, a maiden daughter of the late Arrogate, missed by a neck, while the New York-bred stakes-winning Gambling Girl finished another three-quarters of a length behind in third.

The Busanda field is rounded out by Sweetest Princess, who graduated against state-breds last time in her first attempt on dirt.

Named for the 1951 Suburban H. winner who later reared the Hall of Fame colt Buckpasser, the Busanda is the eighth race on a nine-race program and has a scheduled post time of 3:47 p.m. ET.