February 22, 2024

Red Smith anchors three-stakes card at Big A

Aqueduct Starting Gate
Aqueduct turf starting gate (Photo by Coglianese Photos)

A trio of Aqueduct stakes on Saturday is anchored by the $300,000 Red Smith (G2), a 1 3/8-mile grass test for older horses. Soldier Rising will look to improve on his close third-place finish in the race last year, while also hoping for more luck than he had when finishing fourth to the mare War Like Goddess in last month’s Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1).

“I thought in his last race, he did not have much racing luck,” trainer Christophe Clement said. “He was down on the inside. He had to check at the eighth pole and he’s a steady kind of horse with a great turn of foot. If you stop his momentum, it’s a bit difficult. The mare was much the best that day and I thought we could have been second with a better trip.”

Two starts back, Soldier Rising closed well to finish third in the Sword Dancer (G1), one length behind Gufo.

Trainer Chad Brown will saddle multiple contenders. Highest Honors has placed in three of his last four, including a last-out third in the Sycamore (G3) at Keeneland. Balthus, who made his stakes debut in the Oct. 14 Sycamore and finished fifth after a troubled journey, arguably has more upside, having raced only seven times previously.

Grade 2 scorer Astronaut exceeded expectations by finishing third in the Joe Hirsch at odds of 67-1 in his debut for Tom Albertrani. Temple, who captured the Mac Diarmida (G2) last winter and most recent finished second in the Sycamore, has won or placed in all three prior runs over the Aqueduct turf. Mooney Love, who began his career in Italy, steps up in class off of a first-level allowance win at Saratoga July 27 in his U.S. debut.

Earlier in the card, Runninsonofagun aims to follow up his recent win in the Bold Ruler (G3) while toting co-top weight of 132 pounds in the $175,000 Fall Highweight H. (G3) over six furlongs. The stakes action kicks off with the $120,000 Central Park, a one-mile grass test for two-year-olds in which the Shug McGaughey-trained General Jim will look to make it three straight on the grass following an impressive allowance score at Keeneland.