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Aqueduct Preview | Hill Prince Stakes 2023: Integration Tries For Back-To-Back Victories
Integration (Sophie Shore/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Aqueduct Preview | Hill Prince Stakes 2023: Integration Tries For Back-To-Back Victories

West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Thoroughbreds’ graded stakes-winner Integration will look to notch back-to-back graded victories in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Hill Prince, a nine-furlong inner turf test for sophomores, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The Hill Prince is slated as Race 5 on Saturday’s 10-race card, which also features the $150,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship in Race 9, the $100,000 Notebook in Race 4 and the $100,000 Key Cents in Race 7. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.

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Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, the son of Quality Road was last seen scoring an off-the-pace triumph in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Virginia Derby on September 9 at Colonial Downs in his first start against winners. There, he rated 6 1/2 lengths off the pace under returning rider Kendrick Carmouche and unleashed a strong turn of foot down the stretch to sweep past his rivals and prevail by 1 1/4 lengths over Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational-winner Program Trading. The effort was awarded a 96 Beyer Speed Figure.

McGaughey said the lightly-raced Integration stepped up to the task gamely after an open-lengths debut graduation facing elders on August 12 at the New Kent oval.

“I thought he ran really good [last time]. I didn’t know what to expect,” said McGaughey. “It’s not my style to run a maiden winner back in a stake, but it looked like the time to take a chance and it worked out.”

The royally-bred Integration was a $700,000 purchase at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale and is out of the multiple graded stakes-winning Scat Daddy mare Harmonize, who won the 2016 Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks going nine furlongs over the grass.

“He’s a nice Quality Road looking horse. He cost $700,000 so he looks good and I knew his mother and watched her run,” McGaughey said. “It’s all worked out pretty good so far.”

Integration, who worked three furlongs in 39 seconds over Fair Hill’s all-weather surface on Saturday, will emerge from post 3.

Gatsas Stables, R.A. Hill Stable and Steven Schoenfeld’s Freedom Trail [post 1, Jose Ortiz] looks to break through at the graded level for trainer John Terranova after a strong optional claiming performance against elders on September 21 at Belmont at the Big A. The son of Collected finished a game second to Exact Estimate, who was runner-up next out in the Artie Schiller, in a nine-furlong turf tilt when rallying from 6 1/2 lengths back and came up just a neck shy, earning a career-best 93 Beyer.

“Fantastic,” Terranova said of the effort. “Best race I think to date. He’s finally put it all together. We always thought he was a very talented runner from the beginning. He’s the type that the others kind of caught up to him and he needed to just mature a little bit and get stronger.”

Freedom Trail graduated on debut last September over the Big A lawn and followed with a successful stakes debut over the same course in the 1 1/16-mile Awad, and a close effort in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs to close out his campaign. This year, he finished off-the-board in his first three outings before finishing third in Delaware Park’s Kent in July.

Terranova said Freedom Trail has continued to learn and mature with each of his starts.

“He won his first couple of starts early just based on raw talent and ability,” said Terranova. “I think he needed this season to get stronger and he finally put it all together throughout the summer. When we ran in the allowance against older horses, it came back a strong and fast race. He did it really well and we’ve been looking forward to this since.”

Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown will have three chances to win his fourth Hill Prince with I’m Very Busy [post 8, Manny Franco], Equitize [post 4, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] and Faraday [post 5, Javier Castellano].

Team Hanley, Richard Schermerhorn and Paul Braverman’s graded stakes-placed I’m Very Busy makes his fourth start of the year after a strong last-out allowance victory against elders on October 4 over the Big A green with a rallying trip that garnered a 92 Beyer. The Cloud Computing bay will face his farthest race yet in the Hill Prince, but graduated on debut traveling 1 1/16 miles ahead of a game second going the same distance in the Grade 2 Pilgrim last year.

Klaravich Stables’ Equitize returns from an eight-month respite to make his first start against winners after a debut win in March at Tampa Bay Downs. The Kingman bay stalked and pounced to a 2 1/4-length victory in a 1 1/16-mile turf maiden ahead of his layoff and returned to the work tab August. He most recently covered a half-mile in 50.66 seconds over the Belmont main track on Saturday.

William H. Lawrence and Woodslane Farm’s Faraday enters on a two-race win streak that includes a second-out victory in July at Saratoga Race Course and a last-out allowance score by a nose on September 10 at Kentucky Downs, both facing elders. The Ghostzapper gelding will cut back in distance after making his last two starts at 1 3/8 miles and 1 5/8 miles, respectively.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher sends out Whisper Hill Farm’s Classic Catch on the heels of a narrow defeat in an off-the-turf edition of the Jockey Club Derby Invitational on October 7. There, the son of Classic Empire rated in last-of-5 early before making up ground down the backstretch and into the turn, coming up three-quarter lengths shy of stablemate Lost Ark at the wire.

Classic Catch, who makes his turf debut after his last two starts were moved to the main track, will exit post 9 in rein to Junior Alvarado.

Completing the field are allowance winners Toofareastiswest [post 6, Joel Rosario] for trainer Michael Trombetta and Quality Chic [post 7, Isaac Castillo] for trainer David Jacobson; and maiden winner Laurel Valley [post 2, Dylan Davis] for conditioner Mike Maker.

Crupi has been entered for the main track-only.