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Aqueduct Preview | Long Island Stakes 2023: Vergara Seeks Another Long Distance Win
Vergara (Carson Blevins/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Aqueduct Preview | Long Island Stakes 2023: Vergara Seeks Another Long Distance Win

Gary Broad’s long distance specialist Vergara will seek her fourth stakes triumph in Sunday’s 67th running of the Grade 3, $300,000 Long Island going 11 furlongs for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward over the inner turf at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The Long Island is slated as Race 4 on Sunday’s nine-race program, which also features the listed $150,000 Artie Schiller. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.

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Vergara, a 4-year-old Noble Mission bay, is the lone millionaire in the Long Island field having banked $1,110,988 through a 14-4-2-3 record. She earned a 1 5/16-mile victory two starts back in the Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon on September 9 before finishing a last-out fifth in the Grade 3 Dowager on October 22 at Keeneland for trainer Graham Motion. A winner of last September’s Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs, Vergara will return to the site of her first stakes conquest after capturing the 1 1/16-mile Tepin in November 2021 at the Big A. She also finished second in the local Grade 2 Sands Point last October to round out her sophomore season.

“I’m wheeling her back a little bit quickly which worries me a bit, but we’re at that time of year where we’re running out of chances to do this,” said Motion, a four-time winner of the Long Island. “She seemed to come out of her last race well and had kind of an awkward trip. I love the filly and I think she’s doing well at the moment.”

Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride from post 2.

Trainer Christophe Clement will attempt his fifth Long Island victory when he saddles multiple graded stakes-placed Atomic Blonde [post 3, Joel Rosario]. The 4-year-old daughter of The Grey Gatsby was third in her North American debut for Clement when finishing 1 1/4 lengths behind stablemate Amazing Grace in the Grade 3 Orchid in April at Gulfstream Park. She later rounded out the trifecta in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay in May at Belmont Park and the Grade 2 Canadian in September at Woodbine Racetrack.

Atomic Blonde will attempt to make amends following an uncharacteristic eighth in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor on October 8 at Woodbine.

“Her last race was one to draw a line through. She’s doing well,” Clement said.

A victory would make Atomic Blonde, who was bred in Germany by Gestut Karlshof, the third German-bred to capture the Long Island, joining previous victresses Uriah [2002] and Moonlady [2000]. She is owned by Michaela Faust, West Point Thoroughbreds and Winters Equine.

After saddling last year’s winner Temple City Terror, trainer Brendan Walsh will be represented by the formful R Calli Kim [post 4, Jose Ortiz], who has won three straight races after a yearlong layoff. The 6-year-old Revolutionary mare made her seasonal debut in a $32,000 claiming event in August over the Saratoga inner turf before stretching out to 1 5/16 miles in September at Kentucky Downs to capture an allowance optional claimer by two lengths. She enters from a score in a 12-furlong second-level allowance at Keeneland, which she won by 2 3/4 lengths.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle Barry Schwartz’s New York homebred Whatlovelookslike [post 1, Irad Ortiz, Jr.], who enters from a pacesetting third in the John Hettinger on September 22 at Belmont at the Big A. The 4-year-old English Channel chestnut has made three trips to the winner’s circle this season, including an open company allowance optional claiming score going the Long Island distance on August 6 at Saratoga and a triumph in the July 4 Port Washington over yielding Belmont inner turf.

Completing the field are the Bobby Ribaudo-trained Rhombique [post 5, Dylan Davis], Embrace Me [post 6, Trevor McCarthy] for two-time Long Island-winning trainer Tom Albertrani, and Unruly Julie [post 7, Manny Franco] for Hall of Famer Bill Mott. New York-bred stakes-winner Amanda’s Folly has been entered for main track only.