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Dr. Miranda previews the 2023 Busher Stakes from Aqueduct, then gives her top picks & long shots from this 2023 Ketucky Oaks (G1) prep race. Impressive debut winner Ziaerati takes the giant step up to the Oaks trail – is she prepared for the challenge? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Highly impressive first-out maiden winner Ziaerati will attempt to carry her momentum onto the Road to the Kentucky Oaks when taking on five other sophomore fillies for Saturday’s $200,000 Busher going a one-turn mile, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Busher is the penultimate local prep for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 5 at Churchill Downs, offering the top-five finishers points according to a 50-20-15-10-5 scale. The Busher is one of three stakes carded for Saturday’s action-packed program, which also includes the Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham – a 50-20-15-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifier – as well as the Grade 3, $150,000 Tom Fool for older horses sprinting six furlongs.
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Owned by John Grossi’s Racing Corp. in partnership with trainer Robert Falcone, Jr., Ziaerati was an 8 1/4-length debut winner going seven furlongs on January 15 at the Big A where she defeated next-out winner Promiseher America. The daughter of Into Mischief was in command throughout and extended her advantage through each point of call to complete the journey in a time of 1:26.72. The win garnered a field-best 83 Beyer Speed Figure.
“We always had a feeling she could run. She always breezed like she could, but you never know until you send them over there,” Falcone, Jr. said. “For her to take how she was working in the morning and transfer it to the afternoon is a good feeling. Having a horse like her in the barn definitely makes the job a lot easier. It’s nice having one like her.”
Ziaerati was purchased for $145,000 at the 2022 OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, where she worked an eighth of a mile in 10.2 seconds under tack. From the same sale, Falcone, Jr. also acquired Wasabi Boy – who finished second to subsequent Champion 2-Year-Old Male Forte on debut – as well as Lady Shylock, who broke her maiden at first asking in November.
Bred in Kentucky by Whitehorse Stable, Ziaerati is out of the stakes-placed Munnings mare Zia.
Trevor McCarthy, who returns to action on Friday following a 3 1/2-month absence due to injury, will ride Ziaerati from post 3.
Four-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Chad Brown will be in pursuit of his second Busher conquest when sending out a pair of contenders in Shidabhuti [post 5, Dylan Davis] and Asset Purchase [post 6, Manny Franco].
Shidabhuti and Asset Purchase worked in company on February 24 over a Belmont training track rated “good,” logging their respective half-mile breezes in 48.95 seconds.
“They both have always trained well, they just took a little while to come around,” said Brown, who sent out eventual Kentucky Oaks runner-up Search Results to a Busher win in 2021. “I’m looking forward to trying them in a stakes race for the first time. They worked in company and it was excellent. It was executed perfect and they’re ready to go.”
Peter Brant’s Shidabhuti, undefeated in two starts, debuted in September at Monmouth Park with an off-the-pace 6 1/2-length score going six furlongs. The Practical Joke bay did not return to action until January 22, defeating fellow Busher aspirant La Vita Sofia by two lengths in an optional-claiming mile. Both victories registered a 62 Beyer.
“She [looked impressive] and I expect her to take another step forward,” Brown said of her last effort.
Asset Purchase, a Dialed In dark bay owned by Klaravich Stables, romped to an eight-length victory in her January 29 debut at the Big A. She stalked the pace from third down the backstretch and took control around the far turn under no urging from Franco to earn a 76 Beyer.
“She certainly did [have something left]. Shidabhuti has a little more experience, but she’s improving and maturing, so I’m excited about that,” Brown said.
Shidabhuti was a $310,000 acquisition from the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and is out of the Candy Ride mare A.P. Candy. Shidabhuti’s second dam is multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Dream Supreme, who is the dam of Grade 1-winner and producer Majestic Warrior.
Asset Purchase is out of the New York-bred Dublin mare Quick Hit Fever, whose dam Hello Lucky was Grade 1-placed. She was bought for $75,000 at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale.
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Juddmonte’s Capella will put an unscathed record on the line following two wins in as many starts for trainer Brad Cox. The Kentucky homebred has won both of her efforts going a two-turn mile over the all-weather surface at Turfway Park. Following a frontrunning 3 1/4-length win on December 29, she defeated winners on February 3, staving off challenges from several foes to win by a neck.
Capella is out of the Tapit mare Touch the Star, which makes her a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winning millionaire Bonny South. Her third dam, Nijinsky Star, is the granddam of multiple Grade 1-winning multimillionaire Sightseek.
Florent Geroux will ship in to pilot Capella from post 2.
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez will vie for his third Busher victory when sending out La Vita Sofia. The Cross Traffic gray is the most seasoned entrant with five starts under her belt, including local efforts in the Tempted on November 6 and the Grade 2 Demoiselle in December, finishing a respective fourth and fifth. Her lone victory was a three-length win at second asking over a sloppy and sealed main track in October at Belmont at the Big A.
La Vita Sofia is owned by Sofia Soares, Matthew Mercurio, Michael Imperio, Douglas Allocco, Gary Cioffi and Vincent Valente.
Jose Gomez will ride from post 4.
Completing the field is Gold Square’s Check Engine Light, who enters as the lone maiden in the field. Although winless in a trio of starts, the daughter of Uncle Mo has shown improvement through each race and arrives off a narrow loss going the Busher distance in a local maiden special weight on February 5.
Check Engine Light is trained by Jorge Abreu, who captured the Busher with New York-breds Espresso Shot  and Venti Valentine . She will be ridden by Kendrick Carmouche from post 1.
The Busher honors the 1945 Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame inductee. Busher, a daughter of Triple Crown winner War Admiral, won 15-of-21 starts, which included triumphs against both males and females. She captured the 1944 Adirondack, Matron and Selima during her juvenile season before capturing elusive victories in the following year’s Hollywood Derby, San Vicente, Arlington Handicap and Washington Park Handicap, the latter of which saw her defeat eventual Hall of Famer Armed and champion Durazna. Busher is the maternal granddaughter of influential matriarch La Troienne.
The Busher is carded as Race 4 on Saturday’s 10-race program. First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.
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