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2022 Comely Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Is Kathleen O. Too Rusty For Her Return?
Kathleen O. (Coglianese Photos / Lauren King)

2022 Comely Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Is Kathleen O. Too Rusty For Her Return?

Magic previews the 2022 Comely Stakes (G3) from Aqueduct, then gives his top picks & long shots. After finishing fifth in the 2022 Kentucky Oaks (G1) last May, multiple Grade 2 winner Kathleen O. disappeared for over 5 months and Magic’s concerned that she’ll be too rusty to play at a short price in her return. Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The track press release:

Winngate Stables’ dual graded stakes winner and Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks alumna Kathleen O. resumes serious business against a field of seven other sophomore fillies in Friday’s 73rd running of the Grade 3, $175,000 Comely going nine furlongs at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained by Hall of Famer and three-time Comely winner Shug McGaughey, Kathleen O. has not raced since finishing fifth in the Kentucky Oaks, arriving at the prestigious event unbeaten in four starts.

The daughter of third crop sire Upstart bragged triumphs in the Grade 2 Davona Dale on March 5 at Gulfstream Park and her two-turn debut in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks one month before facing a deep Oaks field that included reigning Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Echo Zulu, Grade 1-winner Nest, and graded stakes winner Secret Oath. Following a bad break, Kathleen O. was 13 lengths back in 12th through the first point of call and made up enough ground to finish fifth beaten four lengths by Secret Oath over the wet fast main track.

Kathleen O. has progressed well since her run in the Kentucky Oaks according to McGaughey, who breezed the filly a half-mile in 48.07 seconds over the Belmont Park training track on Sunday.

“Her works have all been very good. She worked a half this morning very well, 48 and change, 1:01 and change to get her ready,” McGaughey said. “I’m looking forward to getting started. I gave her some time and brought her back and she’s done everything right so far.”

Kathleen O. returns to the Big A for the first time since a come-from-behind debut victory last November over a muddy and sealed main track, where she went from sixth-to-first in the last two points of call. She followed this effort with a New Year’s Day triumph in the one-mile Cash Run at Gulfstream Park.

“She was kind of a tall, lanky filly early on, so I gave her some time and all her races have been good. Her maiden race at Aqueduct in the mud was a good race,” McGaughey said. “She came back in the stake on New Year’s Day, and the Davona Dale, and Gulfstream Park Oaks and all that got her ready for the Kentucky Oaks. She didn’t get the best of breaks. She got in a little trouble and didn’t get to run our race that day. She only got beat four lengths. I’m looking forward to getting her back on the road and I think we’ll have a fresh horse.”

McGaughey said he would “definitely” keep going through the winter with Kathleen O., and mentioned the Grade 3, $150,000 Royal Delta on February 18 at Gulfstream Park as a possible target into her 4-year-old season.

“She’ll come down to Payson Park and I’ll find a spot at Gulfstream for her sometime after the first of the year and take it from there,” McGaughey said. “I’m thinking about maybe the Royal Delta that’s there at Gulfstream and there’s some other spots out of town that could fit, or something back in New York.”

Kathleen O., bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds and Bridlewood Farm, is the first progeny out of the stakes-placed Blame mare Quaver, whose second dam is multiple graded stakes producer Pretty N Smart. Consigned by Niall Brennan Stables at the 2021 OBS April Sale, Kathleen O. was bought for $275,000. 

Hall of Famer Javier Castellano has piloted Kathleen O. in all five of her lifetime starts, and retains the mount from post 4.

WinStar Farm and CHC Inc.’s Falconet will attempt to keep a highly consistent record afloat while seeking her first graded stakes triumph for Hall of fame trainer Todd Pletcher. The Uncle Mo bay, out of the Grade 1-winning Summer Bird mare Birdatthewire, enters the Comely off a pair of runner-up efforts at stakes level, earning black type in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks on July 9 at Prairie Meadows and the Seneca Overnight on September 24 at Churchill. Both races run at a two-turn 1 1/16 miles.

“She was very game last time. It was a tough beat. I don’t think she’s a must-have-the-lead type, but she has natural speed, so we’ll take advantage of that,” Pletcher said. “She’s doing excellent. I think she’ll handle [nine furlongs] well and she’s been training forwardly. We’ve been pointing to this race for a little while.”

Never worse than second in five lifetime starts, Falconet broke her maiden in her two-turn debut on April 21 at Keeneland before cutting back to a one-turn mile to defeat winners at Churchill Downs six weeks later.

“She’s done well. She’s mentally matured a lot and has become more and more professional. She’s matured nicely,” Pletcher said.

Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride Falconet for the first time when she breaks from post 7.

LC Racing, Cash is King and Gary Barber’s heavily seasoned Morning Matcha enters the Comely off her lone layoff in 16 lifetime starts for trainer Butch Reid, Jr. The Pennsylvania-bred, New York-sired Central Banker bay was most recently second at 48-1 odds behind Society in the Grade 1 Cotillion on September 24 at Parx Racing two starts following a 10-length allowance romp at the Bensalem oval.

The durable Morning Matcha brags field best earnings of $632,390 while hitting the board 13 times, six at stakes level. Her lone stakes victory took place in Parx’s Main Line on March 8.

Paco Lopez, the rider in her last three starts, will retain the mount from post 6.

Reid, Jr. will also saddle LC Racing and Cash is King’s Pistol Liz Ablazen, a last-out 9 1/2-length winner of her two-turn debut on October 25 at Parx Racing. The Daredevil filly, who will make her first start outside of Parx, showed frontrunning dimensions for the first time in her most recent effort, which was contested over a sloppy and sealed main track.

Frankie Pennington ships in to pilot Pistol Liz Ablazen from post 1.

Racing and breeding powerhouse Godolphin will be after their third Comely conquest with Kentucky homebred Nostalgic, who is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott.

The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro captured the Grade 3 Gazelle on April 8, the final local prep for the Kentucky Oaks, in her most recent victory. Following a troubled 10th in the Kentucky Oaks, Nostalgic earned Grade 1 black type when a distant third to Nest in the Coaching Club American Oaks on July 23 at Saratoga Race Course. She enters off a runner-up against elders in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm on November 4 at the Big A.

Nostalgic will attempt to become the first filly to capture the Gazelle-Comely double since New York-bred Saratoga Dew in 1992.

Breaking from post 5, Nostalgic will be ridden by Junior Alvarado.

KimDon Racing’s Tizzy in the Sky makes her stakes debut for trainer Jose Camejo following two decisive triumphs at Aqueduct. The dark bay or brown Sky Kingdom filly showed frontrunning dimensions in her third out maiden victory, where she defeated next-out winners Signal From Noise and Inventing by 5 3/4 lengths on September 23. She arrives off a 9 3/4-length triumph against winners going the Comely distance on October 28.

Jose Ortiz will ride from post 8.

Completing the field are MyRacehorse and Spendthrift Farm’s Sixtythreecaliber [post 2, Kendrick Carmouche], who bested Falconet in the Seneca Overnight, and Rigney Racing’s dual winner Skratch Kat [post 3, Manny Franco].

The Comely honors the James Butler homebred filly who defeated males in the inaugural Fall Highweight Championship – then run as the Autumn Highweight – as a 2-year-old. The Comely is carded as Race 7 [3:14 p.m.] on Friday’s nine-race program, which also features the Grade 3, $300,000 Long Island, the $150,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship and the $100,000 Notebook. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.