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Godolphin’s Kentucky homebred Comparative will look to make a successful return to stakes company in Saturday’s $150,000 Ladies, a nine-furlong test for older fillies and mares, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Ladies is slated as Race 8 on Saturday’s nine-race card which also features the $150,000 Jerome in Race 3. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.
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Trained by Brad Cox, the 4-year-old Street Sense bay finished a distant eighth in her stakes debut in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan in May at Pimlico Race Course, but returned with aplomb last out to best her elders here at Aqueduct on November 25 in a one-turn mile optional-claimer.
With NYRA’s 2023 leading rider Manny Franco up in the last-out score, Comparative tracked from just off the pace of longshot Crypto Mama before being hustled into contention on the turn. She dueled with Crypto Mama into the final sixteenth before putting that one away and was ridden to the wire a 1 1/4-length winner off the six-month layoff.
“She will only do as much as you ask, and Manny had to ride hard in that last race – he earned it,” said Dustin Dugas, the New York-based assistant for Cox. “She’s a very one-paced filly and you need to be aggressive with her, and Manny was. I think the extra furlong helps her. She can go all day long. The extra distance can only benefit her.”
Comparative entered the Black-Eyed Susan from a pair of wins traveling 1 1/16-miles, graduating at sixth asking in February at Fair Grounds ahead of a prominent optional-claiming score in April at Keeneland.
She has breezed back four times over the Belmont Park dirt training track, including a bullet five-eighths breeze in 1:01.41 Saturday.
Comparative, out of the Bernardini mare Collective, is a full-sister to dual graded stakes-winner Shared Sense. Franco retains the mount from post 5.
James Wigan and Denford Stud’s Evidencias [post 2, Dylan Davis] won the Group 1 Henrique de Toledo Lara at Ciudad Jardim in her native Brazil last October for her former conditioner Emerson Garcia.
The 5-year-old Drosselmeyer bay added the Group 2 25 de Janeiro to her ledger in January at Ciudad Jardim in her final start for Garcia before joining the barn of Christophe Clement. Evidencias has since made a pair of local starts, finishing a distant seventh in the nine-furlong Athenia over firm turf in October ahead of a runner-up effort last out in a one-turn mile optional-claimer won by next-out stakes-winner Hot Fudge.
Evidencias’ second dam is dual Grade 1-winner Fiji, the 1998 Champion Grass Mare.
RRR Racing’s Kentucky homebred Rayya Valentine [post 3, Javier Castellano] will make her stakes debut for trainer Chad Summers.
The regally-bred 4-year-old daughter of Quality Road is out of the 2018 Group 3 UAE Oaks-winner Rayya, who is a half-sister to graded stakes-winner Curlin Road.
“Rayya won the UAE Oaks and then was second in the UAE Derby the day that Mendelssohn kind of freaked,” Summers said. “She’s a staple of our breeding program and is over at Lane’s End. This is her first foal. She has an Into Mischief yearling, a Speightstown weanling and she’s in foal to Essential Quality.”
Rayya Valentine graduated last out at fourth asking with a smart 4 1/2-length maiden score traveling a one-turn mile here at Aqueduct on December 15.
With Hall of Famer Javier Castellano up from post 4, Rayya Valentine bumped with a rival at the break before pressing the pace from third position through a half-mile in 47.44 seconds on the fast main track. She took command at the three-eighths and opened up by 1 1/2-lengths at the stretch call en route to a comfortable score in a final time of 1:37.30 that garnered a career-best 76 Beyer.
The victory was her third straight start at Aqueduct following a third-place effort in a one-turn mile in September and a pace-pressing fourth traveling nine-furlongs in October.
“She’s a big girl. She was in Dubai with Doug Watson as a 2-year-old and just wasn’t able to make it to the races,” Summers said. “She’s one that was always going to take a little while to get going. She’s a little slow to switch her leads, but I’m proud of her race last time. Castellano had her in the right spot and she went on with it, which was encouraging.
“We tried the maiden race at a mile and an eighth and a couple of tactical errors might have cost her, but the two races she lost at the Big A were solid fields,” he added. “A lot of horses have come out of those races and run well. She wasn’t embarrassed in either race.”
Summers said he is hopeful that Rayya Valentine will continue to progress.
“A chance to finish third in a race like this helps her and her mother as well,” Summers said. “The added distance shouldn’t be a problem for her. It’s a solid group of fillies and she’ll have to keep improving, but I think it’s worth a shot.”
Michael J. Ryan’s Saddle Up Jessie [post 6, Sheldon Russell] will look to double up on stakes scores for trainer Brittany Russell following a prominent last-out score in the nine-furlong Carousel on December 23 at Laurel Park.
The 5-year-old More Than Ready dark bay has won 4-of-7 starts since being haltered for $20,000 in January at Santa Anita and moving to the Russell barn. Saddle Up Jessie won a pair of off-the-turf routes at Delaware Park this summer and cruised to a two-length score in a 1 1/16-mile optional-claimer in November at Laurel ahead of taking her stakes debut.
Saddle Up Jessie, a $270,000 purchase at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale, is out of the Bernardini mare Zondaq, who is a half-sister to graded stakes-winners Discreet Dancer and Travelin Man as well as the graded stakes-placed Sweet N Discreet.
Rounding out a talented field are stakes-winner Know It All Audrey [post 1, Jose Lezcano], who finished fifth in Thursday’s Bay Ridge here at Aqueduct for trainer Oscar Barrera, III; and two-time winner She’s Mo Bubbly [post 4, Kendrick Carmouche] for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.
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