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Mike previews the 2022 Garland of Roses Stakes from Aqueduct, then gives his top picks & long shots. A hot pace early could be the undoing of the favored Hot Peppers, so who does Mike think picks up the pieces for the upset? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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Michael Dubb and Michael J. Caruso’s graded-stakes winner Hot Peppers returns from a three-month layoff in Saturday’s $120,000 Garland of Roses, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Rudy Rodriguez, the Khozan sophomore has won 5-of-8 starts this season, including a three-quarter length score in the Grade 3 Victory Ride in July at Belmont Park ahead of a game runner-up effort to Chi Town Lady in the Grade 1 Longines Test in August at Saratoga Race Course. She was last seen finishing a pacesetting fourth in the Grade 2 Prioress on September 2 at the Spa.
Hot Peppers was scratched from the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in November at Keeneland.
“We took her to Keeneland and she stepped on a stone and got a bruise five days before the race and scratched. So, we had to regroup,” Rodriguez said. “These things happen for a reason and that was a very tough race.”
Hot Peppers breezed twice in November over the Belmont dirt training track, including a swift half-mile on November 27 in 47.07 – the second-fastest clocking of 135 efforts at the distance.
“She’s breezing very good and she looks like she’s ready to run. I put some company on her that day and they went very nice,” Rodriguez said.
Hot Peppers was purchased privately from her former owner/trainer Ronald Spatz out of a 14 1/4-length maiden win on January 6 at Gulfstream Park. She remained with Spatz through her next three starts, including a pair of scores against winners at Gulfstream ahead of a troubled off-the-board effort in the Sophomore Fillies in March at Tampa Bay Downs.
She then joined Rodriguez in New York, winning the six-furlong Jersey Girl in June over a good Big Sandy ahead of her Victory Ride coup.
All five of Hot Peppers’ wins have come in gate-to-wire fashion and Rodriguez said that strategy is not likely to change.
“I tell the jockey not to get in her way,” Rodriguez said. “If she breaks good, go from there. If someone wants to chase her, that’s up to them but we’re not going to take the speed away from her. I think this spot suits her perfect.”
Bred in Florida by Brent Fernung and Crystal Fernung, Hot Peppers is out of the Friends Lake mare Friends Pro. She will exit post 2 under Manny Franco.
Brad King, Stan Kirby, Suzanne Kirby and Barbara M. Coleman’s graded-stakes placed Smash Ticket [post 5, Kendrick Carmouche] will look to make amends from an off-the-board effort last out in the Grade 2 Raven Run on October 22 at Keeneland.
Trained by Rob Atras, the Midnight Lute sophomore launched her career with conditioner Todd Fincher, graduating at second asking in July 2021 at Del Mar ahead of a distant third in the Grade 2 Sorrento one month later at the same track. She made her seasonal debut with an 11-length allowance score against older company in May at Lone Star Park before joining Atras for a winning debut in July at Saratoga, besting returning rival and eventual graded-stakes placed 4-year-old Betsy Blue by a neck in an optional-claimer.
Smash Ticket earned a career-best 96 Beyer Speed Figure next out in the six-furlong Weather Vane on September 24 at Pimlico ahead of her Keeneland outing.
Atras said a return to six furlongs should benefit Smash Ticket after her disappointing effort in the Raven Run when stretched out to seven furlongs for the first time.
“I think you can draw a line through that,” said Atras of the Raven Run. “Obviously, time will tell, but she’s too good of a filly to have a race like that on her form. I’m not saying she can’t get seven [furlongs], but she’s won at six for us a couple times.”
Smash Ticket has breezed back four times, including a half-mile Saturday in 49.55 over the Belmont dirt training track.
“It was a solo move first thing in the morning and she’s been training good,” Atras said. “I’m very happy with her right now. We’re hoping to get her back in form.”
Bred in Kentucky by Brad King, Smash Ticket, out of the multiple stakes-winning Roll Hennessy Roll mare Hennesey Smash, is a half-sibling to Slammed, who won the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America in October at Keeneland.
Cash is King and LC Racing’s multiple stakes winner Disco Ebo [post 6, Eric Cancel] posted a pair of uncharacteristically poor performances this summer with distant off-the-board efforts in the Blue Sparkler in July over the turf at Monmouth Park and the Dr. Teresa Garofalo Memorial in August at Parx.
However, the Pennsylvania-bred Weigelia sophomore has since notched a pair of prominent wins, taking an optional-claimer in October at Penn National ahead of a last-out score in the Youngstown Oaks on November 21 at Mahoning Valley to provide jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. a record-tying 76th stakes win on the season.
“She had a really bad accident and fell on the concrete when she got loose one morning training. She came out of it physically pretty quick, but mentally wasn’t quite where we wanted her. I think that threw her for a loop a wee bit,” said trainer Butch Reid, Jr. regarding the back-to-back poor efforts. “We got that race in her at Penn National against a group she had over a barrel and got her confidence back. She really showed up in the stake out at Mahoning Valley.”
Disco Ebo boasts a record of 12-5-2-1 for purse earnings of $307,684, including a win in the Shamrock Rose against fellow Pennsylvania-breds last November at Penn National.
Out of the Disco Rico mare Katarica Disco, Disco Ebo is a full-sister to multiple stakes winner Smooth B and stakes winner Fat Kat, who were both conditioned by Reid, Jr.
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The graded-stakes placed Beguine [post 7, Dylan Davis], a Charles T. Matses homebred trained by Edward Allard, earned a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure in a last-out runner-up effort in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance sprint versus older company here on November 13.
With Irad Ortiz, Jr. up in her first appearance for Allard, the Gun Runner sophomore tracked in second as the stakes-placed Rossa Veloce set splits of 22.42 and 45.98, opening up a two-length lead at the stretch call. Beguine, four-wide throughout, was roused at the quarter-pole and chased gamely in the final furlong to miss by a half-length in a final time of 1:16.58. She will add blinkers for Saturday’s test.
The improving chestnut, previously trained by Daniel Peitz, graduated at third asking in March at Oaklawn Park when stretched out to 1 1/16-miles for the first time. She followed with a narrow neck loss to Yuugiri one month later in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Fantasy at the same track before setting the pace and fading to 12th in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan in May at Pimlico. Beguine entered her last-out effort from a prominent fifth in a Keeneland allowance tilt in October when racing from a nearly five-month layoff.
Out of the Allard-trained stakes-winning Eltish mare Shannies Song, Beguine is a half-sister to graded-stakes winner Favorable Outcome and the multiple graded-stakes placed Bellamentary.
Five Hellions Farm’s multiple stakes-winner Dontletsweetfoolya [post 4, Sheldon Russell] makes her first start since an allowance win on October 30 at Laurel Park.
Trained by Lacey Gaudet, the 5-year-old Stay Thirsty mare enjoyed a productive 2020 campaign, winning 5-of-6 starts, including the Primonetta and Willa On the Move at Laurel. After winning 1-of-6 starts in 2021, Dontletsweetfoolya focused on a turf campaign for 6-of-10 starts this season, notching an optional-claiming win in August at Colonial Downs. Her last-out win marked a return to the main track for the first time since March.
Dontletsweetfoolya has breezed extensively over the Laurel main track for her return, including a bullet half-mile in 47.80 on Monday.
Rounding out the field are Betsy Blue [post 1, Jose Lezcano] for trainer Linda Rice; and four-time winner Snicket for conditioner David Duggan [post 3, Luis Rodriguez Castro].
The Garland of Roses is slated as Race 8 on Saturday’s nine-race card. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.
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