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Aaron previews the 2022 Discovery Stakes from Aqueduct, then gives his top picks & long shots. Trainer Todd Pletcher takes aim at winning his record 7th race title with a tough pair of entries in Saint Tapit and Be Better, but did Aaron take either horse to win? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle two contenders in hopes of securing a record-extending seventh victory in Sunday’s $150,000 Discovery, a nine-furlong main track test for sophomores, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Pletcher, whose wins in this event came with Early Warning , Left Bank , Magna Graduate , Roman Dynasty , Protonico  and Tommy Macho , will saddle Whisper Hill Farm’s homebred Saint Tapit and Repole Stable’s homebred Be Better in the 78th edition of the Discovery.
Saint Tapit, a royally-bred son of Tapit out of 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, will look to improve from a last-out third-place effort in an October 20 optional claimer at Keeneland. There, he rallied from sixth-of-12 to finish 5 3/4 lengths back of the victorious Trademark. That effort came one month after his only off-the-board effort in four lifetime outings when a distant ninth in the 1 3/16-mile Bourbon Trail at Churchill Downs.
“We were really perplexed by his race at Churchill and the next day, he had a temperature, so we felt like that was the reason for the off performance,” said Pletcher. “He came back and ran better at Keeneland and this is his last chance to try straight 3-year-olds.”
Pletcher added he is confident Saint Tapit is returning to the good form that saw him win his first two outings this summer, beginning with a four-length maiden score sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs in June at Belmont Park. He followed with a professional 1 1/2-length triumph against winners in a first-level July allowance at Saratoga Race Course where he garnered a 90 Beyer Speed Figure.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. has the call from post 7.
Be Better, the more seasoned of the two Pletcher runners, arrives from an off-the-board finish when trying turf for the first time in the Grade 2 Hill Prince on October 22 at Belmont at the Big A. The dark bay son of Uncle Mo stalked four lengths off the pace in fifth and improved to be third at the three-quarters call, but faded to ninth at the stretch call and was defeated 4 1/2 lengths by the winning Celestial City.
“I was a little disappointed in his effort,” said Pletcher. “He trained better on the turf than that, but we’ll go back to the dirt now and see what he can do.”
His other two victories came this summer at Monmouth Park, scoring a maiden win at second asking with a prominent trip in June and following with a closing allowance victory in July, both traveling a mile and 70 yards. Be Better then contested the restricted Curlin at Saratoga for his next-out stakes debut, but was soundly defeated after having difficulty making up ground from mid-pack.
“His two races at Monmouth leading into the Curlin [were good], but I was disappointed in his effort in the Curlin,” said Pletcher. “I think he was one of several horses that we ran at Saratoga that didn’t care for that deep, demanding surface. He threw in a total clunker. Hopefully, he’ll get back to his good form.”
Be Better has worked over the Belmont dirt training track three times since the Hill Prince, most recently covering a half-mile in 49.90 seconds in company with stakes-placed Diamond Hands on Sunday.
“He breezed pretty well Sunday and does as much as his workmate does,” said Pletcher. “I thought it was a useful breeze.”
Dylan Davis will ride from post 1.
Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher’s New York-bred Barese [post 3, Manny Franco] will test open company after finishing on-the-board in three consecutive outings against fellow state-breds. Trained by Mike Maker, Barese was last seen finishing a close third in the Empire Classic on October 30 at Belmont at the Big A. That effort was preceded by a game runner-up effort in the Albany in August at Saratoga and a strong four-length victory in the New York Derby in July at Finger Lakes Racetrack.
Barese has already proven his talents over the Big A main track, boasting a pair of stakes scores this winter in the Rego Park and Gander against New York-breds, as well as a third-place finish in the NYSSS Times Square this April. His lone off-the-board finish at Aqueduct came with an even fifth-place effort in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial in April.
Bred in the Empire State by Sequel Thoroughbreds and Lakland Farm, the son of Laoban has banked over $400,000 in total earnings through a record of 9-4-1-2.
Cash is King and LC Racing’s Eloquist [post 6, Paco Lopez] streaks in from two optional claiming victories for conditioner Butch Reid, Jr. The gelded son of Nyquist rallied from off-the-pace to claim a 1 1/2-length victory last time out traveling one mile and 70 yards over a muddy and sealed main track at Delaware Park, one month after a pacesetting victory going the same distance at Parx.
Eloquist, a $70,000 purchase at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale, will make his first appearance at Aqueduct since finishing a well-beaten fifth in last year’s Grade 2 Remsen behind the victorious Mo Donegal.
Completing the field are JKX Racing’s four-time winner Naval Aviator [post 2, Abner Adorno] for trainer Michael Jones, Jr.; Whisper Hill Farm’s dual winner Winit [post 4, Kendrick Carmouche] for trainer John Kimmel; and Colts Neck Stables’ stakes-placed Affable Monarch [post 5, Jose Ortiz] for trainer Jorge Duarte, Jr.
The Discovery is slated as Race 7 on Sunday’s loaded nine-race card that includes the $150,000 Autumn Days in Race 8 and the $120,000 Tepin in Race 6. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.
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