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Mike previews the 2022 Forever Together Stakes from Aqueduct, then gives his top picks & long shots. Fluffy Socks will be a big favorite to win the race for trainer Chad Brown, but Mike thinks she’s beatable. Find out his upset pick & tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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Robert Amendola’s Evvie Jets will look to double up on stakes scores in Sunday’s $135,000 Forever Together, a 1 1/16-mile outer turf test for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Mertkan Kantarmaci, the 4-year-old Twirling Candy bay has made her last two starts in graded company at the Big A, finishing a close second in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Athenia in September ahead of a last-out 1 1/4-length score on October 22 in the one-mile Grade 3 Noble Damsel.
Evvie Jets tracked in second position in the Noble Damsel as returning rival Por Que No led through a half-mile in 48.60 over the firm footing. Eric Cancel gave his charge her cue late in the far turn with a three-wide bid and took command in upper stretch en route to a comfortable score in a final time of 1:35.65. The victory provided both Kantarmaci and Evvie Jets their first graded win.
Evvie Jets was claimed for $80,000 out of a nose defeat in a one-mile turf test last September at Belmont Park and has since posted a record of 9-3-4-0 with each of those three wins coming at one mile on turf.
Ilkay Kantarmaci, brother and local assistant to Mertkan, said the talented bay has a will to win.
“She’s really smart. She’s little, but she has a big heart,” Kantarmaci said. “She always tries. It doesn’t matter if it’s from the front or from behind. If it’s Saratoga, Belmont or here – she just tries. That’s her.”
Evvie Jets bested a field of five last out, but could have more company near the lead in Sunday’s eight-horse field.
“I think it will be a jockey’s game. Every horse in there has a chance to win this race, but we believe in her,” Kantarmaci said. “She can be close or she can be on top, but Eric knows her so well. We do our plan to bring the horse in with the same health and condition – after that, everything depends on Eric. If he wants to take the lead, he takes the lead. If he wants to wait, he waits.”
Kantarmaci said Evvie Jets has trained well out of her graded score, including a half-mile breeze in 54 flat Tuesday over the Belmont dirt training track.
“She’s doing good. She’s happy and on the same routine,” Kantarmaci said. “After this race, she’ll have a nice vacation and come back next year for the turf meet.”
Bred in Kentucky by Farfellow Farms, Evvie Jets is out of the Consolidator mare Natchez Trace. She will exit post 4 under her returning rider.
Head of Plains Partners’ Kentucky homebred Fluffy Socks [post 5, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] looms the one to beat, boasting a record of 17-4-7-2 for field-best purse earnings of $687,680.
Trained by four-time Eclipse Award-winner Chad Brown, who won the inaugural edition of this event in 2017 with Penjade, the multiple graded-stakes winning daughter of Slumber will be looking for her first win in six starts this campaign.
Fluffy Socks captured the 2020 Grade 3 Jimmy Durante at Del Mar to close out her juvenile campaign and added the Grade 2 Sands Points to her ledger last year, besting multiple graded-stakes placed Runaway Rumour by a neck in the nine-furlong test at Belmont. That effort was surrounded by Grade 1-placings when third in both the Del Mar Oaks and American Oaks at Santa Anita Park. She has finished second on four occasions this season, missing by less than one length each time, including in a trio of graded events.
Ted Hoover’s New York-bred stakes winner Finest Work [post 6, Manny Franco] has finished first or second in each of her six starts since being transferred to trainer George Weaver for her current campaign.
The 4-year-old Outwork bay, previously conditioned by Harold Wyner, launched her season with a pair of seven-furlong turf wins over fellow state-breds on firm Belmont turf. She captured the nine-furlong John Hettinger in September here ahead of a narrow head defeat in the 1 1/16-mile Ticonderoga to Runaway Rumour.
Bred in the Empire State by Repole Stable, Finest Work is out of the Pleasantly Perfect mare Nero’s Pleasure, who is a half-sister to multiple graded-stakes winning millionaire Burning Roma.
Blue Devil Racing Stable’s graded-stakes placed Messidor [post 8, Joel Rosario] finished third last out in the Noble Damsel for conditioner Christophe Clement, who won this event in 2020 with Feel Glorious.
The 4-year-old Vadamos bay boasts a record of 17-5-1-6 for purse earnings of $277,562, including a pair of optional-claiming wins this season on the NYRA circuit.
Al Shira’aa Farms’ stakes-placed Miss Dracarys [post 7, Dylan Davis] arrives from a front-running 2 1/4-length optional-claiming score on October 20 at the Big A traveling nine furlongs over firm turf.
Trained by Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale, the 4-year-old Malibu Moon mare was a close third here last November in the 1 1/16-mile Winter Memories to close out her sophomore season. She made a pair of starts over the Belmont turf at the spring/summer meet before returning off a four-month layoff for her last-out score.
Rounding out the field are stakes-winners Por Que No [post 1, Abner Adorno] and Coconut Cake [post 2, Jose Lezcano]; along with the stakes-placed Lashara [post 3, Trevor McCarthy]. Exotic West is entered for the main-track only.
The Forever Together is slated as Race 7 on Sunday’s 10-race card which also features the $100,000 Key Cents in Race 3. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.
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