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Aqueduct Preview | Comely Stakes 2023: Defining Purpose, Honor D Lady Face Off
Defining Purpose (Candice Chavez/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Aqueduct Preview | Comely Stakes 2023: Defining Purpose, Honor D Lady Face Off

Grade 1-winner Defining Purpose and graded stakes winner Honor D Lady will look to build on their sophomore accomplishments in Saturday’s 74th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Comely for 3-year-old fillies going nine furlongs at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The Comely is carded as Race 9 on Saturday’s 10-race program. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern. 

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Katsumi Yoshida’s Defining Purpose, a gray daughter of Cross Traffic, enters from a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Mother Goose on October 28 at Belmont at the Big A for trainer Kenny McPeek. She was three wide entering the first turn and utilized her usual stalking tactics down the backstretch before matching strides with Xigera exiting the far turn but could not reel her in down the stretch, finishing 3 1/2 lengths back.

Defining Purpose, who boasts a 12-4-1-2 record with field-high earnings of $833,388, has made all dozen starts around two turns, including a 20-1 victory in the Grade 1 Ashland on April 7 at Keeneland. Following a next-out seventh in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 5 at Churchill Downs, she emerged from a two-month layoff to capture the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks on July 8 at Horseshoe Indianapolis. She followed that effort with a career-high 90 Beyer Speed Figure when third in the 10-furlong Grade 1 Alabama presented by Keeneland Sales on August 19 at Saratoga Race Course.

“The Comely is an ideal spot for her. She ran well there last time, the winner looks like a pretty special filly,” McPeek said. “We were thrilled to see her get the Grade 1 win at Keeneland and hopefully she can add this to her resume.”

Defining Purpose has remained in New York with McPeek’s Belmont Park division and breezed a half-mile in 48.45 on Saturday over the dirt training track.

“She breezed well. It was another nice and professional workout from her,” McPeek said.

Defining Purpose, out of the multiple stakes-winning Strong Hope mare Defining Hope, was bred in Kentucky by Colette Marie VanMatre.

Junior Alvarado will pilot Defining Purpose from post 7.

McPeek also sends out Indiana-bred stakes winner Corningstone [post 5, Dylan Davis] following a recent open allowance score on October 17 going nine furlongs at Keeneland. The Kantharos bay won this year’s Ellen’s Lucky Star Handicap and Indiana First Lady Handicap for owner Five Fillies Stable and Balios Racing Stable.

Trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. will send out Final Furlong Farm and Madaket Stables’ Honor D Lady, who will strive for another meaningful win on dirt following a victory in the Grade 3 Remington Park Oaks on September 24 at its namesake Oklahoma oval.

The dark bay daughter of Honor Code stalked three-wide a close third and made a rallying move around the far turn en route to a 2 1/2-length score under Tyler Conner. This was Honor D Lady’s first start on dirt since her career debut, when she finished a distant second to the eventual stakes winner Infinite Diamond last September at Gulfstream Park.

Prior to her last start, Honor D Lady acquired most of her prominence on turf or the all-weather with a stakes win in the May 6 Honey Ryder over the Gulfstream Park turf. Over the all-weather surface, Honor D Lady finished third in the Grade 3 Mazarine last November and was a distant second in the Grade 3 Selene in July, both races were over the Tapeta at Woodbine Racetrack.

“We just wanted her to break and get in a good spot,” Joseph, Jr. said of the Remington Park Oaks. “Tyler put her in a good position and – on the dirt – she just put herself in a more forward spot, so that was good to see. She showed more speed back in her early starts.”

Conner will return to the helm from post 3.

Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown will saddle Alpha Delta Stable’s Kentucky homebred Raging Sea [post 8, Manny Franco] following a redeeming first-level allowance score on October 20 at Keeneland.

The Curlin chestnut was a respective fourth and second beaten 1 3/4 length both times in her prior 2023 starts, both at allowance optional claiming level. She rounded out her 2-year-old season with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland.

Stonestreet Stables’ Kentucky homebred Julia Shining [post 2, Kendrick Carmouche] will strive to return to winning form for Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, a two-time Comely winning trainer.

The daughter of Curlin, out of the Grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia, is a full-sister to dual Eclipse Award Champion Malathaat and enters from a pair of distant efforts at graded level. Prior to a fourth-place finish in the Mother Goose, she emerged from a four-month layoff to finish ninth in the Alabama. Last year, Julia Shining was a perfect 2-for-2 during her juvenile campaign when capturing the Grade 2 Demoiselle at the Big A after a triumphant career debut going seven furlongs at Keeneland.

Completing the field are:

  • The New York-bred stakes winner Ichiban [post 1, Jose Lezcano] for trainer Linda Rice
  • The stakes-placed Jose Jimenez-trained Just Katherine [post 4, Trevor McCarthy]
  • The multiple stakes-placed Jamie Ness-trained Warrior’s Ransom [post 6, Ruben Silvera]