With the Christmas holiday break in the rearview mirror, Aqueduct on Friday will begin a five-day race week that runs through New Year’s Day. Four New York-bred stakes are scheduled, and the week concludes Tuesday with the $150,000 Jerome, a mile race for 3-year-olds.
The highest-level race Friday is a 6 1/2-furlong first-level allowance for fillies and mares. The six-horse field includes Noble Freud, who earlier this month won a second-level statebred optional claimer while making her first start for trainer Jeremiah Englehart, and a pair from the Bill Mott barn, Naples Princess and Harkness, who have been competitive but unable to break through at this level.
Noble Freud returned from a 54-day freshening off two works to hold on for a half-length win over late-running 9-1 shot Fair Regis on Dec. 7. The 78 Beyer Speed Figure she was awarded is competitive with this group, and she merits extra attention as the lone front-runner in the lineup.
It will be Manny Franco’s job to ration Noble Freud’s speed. Franco went 6 for 23 last week to tie with Eric Cancel as the winningest Aqueduct riders on the week.
Naples Princess, oddly, has finished third in six straight starts, the last four under Junior Alvarado, who will be back aboard Friday. Alvarado leads the standings at the winter meet, which began Dec. 7, with 15 wins, two more than Franco and Dylan Davis.
A 4-year-old daughter of Distorted Humor, Naples Princess doesn’t have much early foot and is pace dependent. To win, she’ll need Noble Freud to come back to her.
Davis will be aboard Harkness, who returned from a nine-month layoff to be second going a mile Nov. 30. She was unable to catch pacesetting even-money favorite Face It that afternoon in a good effort. The concern is that the shorter distance and expected quicker fractions of this race may work against her.
Hoponthebusgus will be attempting to transfer her turf form to the main track for Rudy Rodriguez. Hoponthebusgus, whom Rodriguez claimed as a 2-year-old for $50,000 in September 2016, is 4 for 14 on turf and 0 for 5 on dirt.
Shimmering Moon was sent off at 3-1 against similarly priced Noble Freud last time out and finished third, beaten four lengths. That race was her first in four months and her debut for Linda Rice. She has a right to improve Friday and possesses enough speed to stay close to Noble Freud early.
Lonsghot Norma’s Charm, who will ship in from Parx Racing for trainer Uriah St. Lewis, rounds out the field.
◗ Friday’s eight-race card will mark a return to the saddle for Jose Lezcano, who broke the bridge of his nose in a Dec. 20 spill. He has three mounts – Take Your Place, who is 3-1 on the morning line in race 1; Dance for Oro, who is 5-2 in race 3; and We Should Talk, who is 6-1 in race 6.
◗ The Saturday card is headlined by a pair of $100,000 stakes for New York-breds, the Alex M. Robb and the East View. The Alex M. Robb will match eight 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, and the East View is a mile race for 2-year-old fillies that has a field of 11.
Favoritism in the Robb could go to Control Group or Mr. Buff. The field also includes 2017 New York-bred champion 3-year-old Twisted Tom, who has been transferred to Mott.
In the East View, Sassy Agnes will be coming back on two weeks’ rest for Rice after finishing second to the now 2-for-2 Forgotten Hero in the Fifth Avenue division of the New York Stallion Series.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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