May 26, 2024

Gold Standard among several Comely contenders on the rise

Gold Standard (Coady Photography)

Many of the leading contenders in Friday’s $200,000 Comely (G3) at Aqueduct are lightly raced, fitting for a race that in the recent past has served as an early proving ground for the likes of champion Forever Unbridled and multiple Grade 1 winner Wedding Toast rather than established stars.

The nine-furlong Comely, for three-year-old fillies, is one of three stakes on the Big A’s Black Friday program. Gold Standard, whose win streak ended at three when a close second to Lady Apple in the Remington Park Oaks (G3) in late September, could go off a slight favorite.

“She has a lot of class and we feel that she’s a graded stakes filly; she proved that last time,” trainer Brad Cox said. “We think she has a big future and will improve with age as well.”

Arrifana puts her unbeaten record on the line for trainer Kelly Rubley, who’s conditioned the daughter of Curlin to four consecutive wins, three at allowance level. Three of the four wins were at Laurel, the other at Saratoga. She’s a half-sister to the Grade 1 turf winner Lukes Alley.

Stand for the Flag has won two straight for Jason Servis, including an entry-level allowance at Parx by four lengths last time. The Todd Pletcher-trained Bellera was first or second in her first four outings, but lost jockey Jose Lezcano soon after the start of a roughly-run edition of the Turnback the Alarm H. (G3) earlier this month.

“Thankfully, she came out of it unscathed,” Pletcher said. “You hate to waste an effort like that, but she seems to have bounced out of that in good shape. She’s been training well since then.”

Also entered were Mother Goose (G2) runner-up Classic Fit, a distant third in the Remington Park Oaks last time, and Oxy Lady, who captured the Tempted (G3) over this track a year ago.

The $150,000 Gio Ponti, for three-year-old at 1 1/16 miles on the outer turf course, marks the return to action of Forty Under. Unraced since trailing the Penn Mile (G2) in June, the gray son of Uncle Mo notably captured last year’s Pilgrim.

Halladay enters off a strong third in the $100,000 English Channel at Belmont, while Kadar gets class relief after running up the track in the Saratoga Derby and Jockey Club Derby, both $1 million events.

The leading contenders in the $150,000 Forever Together, a 1 1/16-mile inner turf test for fillies and mares, appear to be Sweet Bye and Bye and Andina Del Sur, the respective second- and third-place finishers in the October 20 Athenia (G3).