Trainer Linda Rice will start a trio of runners in Saturday’s $100,000 Gravesand Handicap at Aqueduct including the 7-5 morning line favorite Palace, who will be seeking his fourth win in a row.
The colt is coming off his first graded victory where he ran down Strapping Groom to win the Fall Highweight (G3) while carrying 129 pounds. He will carry 118 on Saturday including his regular jockey Cornelio Velasquez.
Rice will also saddle a couple of longshots in Frazil (10-1) who won the 2011 Gravesand and Abra (15-1) who has won just one of five starts since the trainer claimed him for $15,000, but he does bring some early zip into the race.
The nine-race card on Saturday also includes the $100,000 Don Rickles for juveniles that will go six furlongs. Christophe Clement will send out the 4-5 morning line favorite Pure Sensation.
The colt broke his maiden in his third career start and then last out set the early fractions and was nailed late in the James F. Lewis III at Laurel Park, beaten a neck for the top spot. The winner of that race was Jessethemarine, who returned to finish second in the Marylander in his next outing on Dec. 7 at Laurel Park.
The second choice on the morning line is the Michael Trombetta trained Extrasexyhippzster, who ran fourth in the Marylander.
The lone stakes winner in the field is Sing the Dream (12-1) who shipped to Finger Lakes to win the Tin Cup Chalice by 9 ¼ lengths. The colt returned in the state bred Bongard last out but tired to finish a well-beaten sixth.
Let’s head out to Aqueduct for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Aqueduct Race 8 The Gravesand Handicap (Post time 3:43 ET)
6 Palace 7-5
1 Battier 4-1
4 Strapping Groom 2-1
5 Abra 15-1
Palace comes into the race riding a three-race win streak and he has won eight of his 14 career starts, not bad for a colt that broke his maiden against state bred $20,000 foes last fall. He was claimed out of that race by the Linda Rice barn and he has won three stakes. Last out the colt came from off the pace to run down Strapping Groom to win the Fall Highweight (G3) despite catching a racing strip that was kind to inside speed that day. The colt has shown he can handle the inner track, beating $50,000 starter optional claimers here last December with first of his three triple digit Beyers. He should get a good pace set up in this spot.
Battier is cutting back from a mile where the Todd Pletcher trainee stalked the early pace and finished evenly in a third place finish in the Time for a Change. His five previous starts all came in graded company and he was fourth or better in four of those trips including a third in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2), beaten 2 ½ lengths by Will Take Charge. The blinkers go on and this guy has run well around one turn. The barn is 22% winners moving runners from a route to a sprint.
Strapping Groom exits the Fall Highweight where he battled for the early lead while in between foes, headed for home with the lead but could not hold off the winner late. The David Jacobson barn claimed him for $35,000 back in May and four starts later he won the Vosburgh (G1). The six-year-old owns the edge in early and mid pace numbers, but it looks as if Rice likely is going to get Abra into the mix early to assure a solid early pace for Palace.
WIN: Palace to win at 6-5 or better.
EXACTA: 1,6 / 1,4,6
TRIFECTA: no play