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Busher Stakes 2024 | Aqueduct Picks [Kentucky Oaks]
Gin Gin (Sue Kawczynski/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Busher Stakes 2024 | Aqueduct Picks [Kentucky Oaks]

Calumet Farm’s Kentucky homebred Gin Gin will look to add to her 26 Kentucky Oaks points in Saturday’s Listed $200,000 Busher, at Aqueduct Racetrack. The one-turn mile for sophomore fillies offers 50-25-15-10-5 qualifying points to the top-five finishers towards the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.

The Busher is slated as Race 7 on Saturday’s stacked 10-race card at Aqueduct, which also features:

  • The Listed $150,000 Stymie in Race 8
  • The Grade 3, $175,000 Tom Fool Handicap in Race 9
  • The Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham in Race 10, which offers 50-25-15-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-five finishers

First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.

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Gin Gin [post 2, Trevor McCarthy] is seventh in the Kentucky Oaks standings having secured the maximum allotment of 20 points for her one-length score over muddy and sealed footing in the nine-furlong Busanda at Aqueduct in January.

That victory added to the five points picked up for her runner-up effort in the 1 1/16-mile Rags to Riches in October at Churchill Downs and the single point secured in a fifth-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Golden Rod at the Louisville oval in November.

Trained by Brad Cox, the Hightail bay graduated in September at Churchill Downs with a frontrunning score in a seven-furlong maiden special weight.

Last out, with Trevor McCarthy aboard for the first time, Gin Gin exited the inside post and rated in third position as returning rival Princess Mayfair set the tempo through splits of 24.01 seconds and 47.93. McCarthy angled Gin Gin three-wide in the final turn and took command from the stubborn pacesetter at the three-sixteenths en route to a one-length score in a final time of 1:53.31.

Cox credited McCarthy with an astute ride.

“I thought he put her in a great position and she responded well,” Cox said. “He’s been out to work her a time or two since and there’s no need to change. I was very happy with what he was able to accomplish with her last time.”

Gin Gin has breezed back four times over the Belmont Park dirt training track since her Busanda score, including a half-mile effort in 49.95 seconds on Friday.

“She’s always been very steady in the mornings and a good workhorse,” Cox said. “She always carries good flesh and she obviously handled everything very well at Aqueduct last time. She’s cutting back to a one-turn mile, but she broke her maiden going seven-eighths at Churchill so we’re pretty confident she can handle a one-turn race.”

Cox said a good effort Saturday could propel Gin Gin to the nine-furlong Grade 3, $200,000 Gazelle on April 6 at Aqueduct, offering 100-50-25-15-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points.

“Hopefully, we’ll get a good trip and she can continue to march forward and if all goes well we can look at the Gazelle afterwards,” Cox said. “They only run 14 in the Oaks and we didn’t get in last year with Punchbowl, so you do have to make sure you get enough points.”

Gin Gin is out of the graded stakes-placed Hard Spun mare Before You Know It, who won the Karakorum Electra and finished second in the Grade 3 Top Flight Handicap in 2015, both at Aqueduct. Before You Know It’s half-sister, Instant Reflex, produced Hard to Justify, winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in November.

Parkland Thoroughbreds and Sportsmen Stable’s Jody’s Pride [post 6, Jose Lezcano] was last seen finishing a game second to Champion 2-Year-Old filly Just F Y I in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in November at Santa Anita Park.

Trained by Jorge Abreu, who won this event with horses co-owned by Parkland Thoroughbreds in 2019 with Espresso Shot and in 2022 with Venti Valentine, Jody’s Pride was an impressive winner of her first two starts, taking off-the-turf runnings of a 5 1/2-furlong maiden in August at Saratoga Race Course and the six-furlong Matron in October at Belmont at the Big A.

The American Pharoah dark bay wintered in Florida where she breezed at Palm Meadows Training Center and at Gulfstream Park before shipping up to New York and working a half-mile in 49.85 Saturday over the Belmont dirt training track.

Jody’s Pride is out of the undefeated Parkland Thoroughbreds’ campaigned Scat Daddy mare Jody’s Song – a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-placed Make Mischief.

Cash is King and LC Racing’s multiple stakes-winner Carmelina [post 7, Mychel Sanchez] enters on a two-race win streak for trainer Butch Reid, Jr.

The Pennsylvania-bred bay arrives at the Busher from a frontrunning score in the seven-furlong Gin Talking on December 30 at Laurel Park which followed a prominent 8 3/4-length romp over fellow state-breds in the six-furlong Shamrock Rose in November at Penn National.

Despite the recent pacesetting scores, Reid, Jr. said the daughter of Maximus Mischief, who won nine-furlong Grade 2 Remsen here in 2018 for the veteran conditioner, can settle and make a run.

“I was a little surprised she was on the lead in there,” said Reid, Jr. of the Gin Talking effort. “She doesn’t need the lead. She’s a very versatile filly. She can do whatever you want. She’s another one by Maximums Mischief, who I believe will get better when she stretches out.”

Carmelina has notched wins at four different tracks, including a debut maiden win in June at Parx and a half-length score in the restricted Keswick in August at Colonial Downs.

“We’ve shipped her every start. She had one start at her home track for the whole year last year,” Reid, Jr. said. “She’s been a good traveler and never has a problem getting on the van. She’s a nice filly for us.”

The Pennsylvania-bred Carmelina has breezed back twice, including a half-mile in 51.21 Saturday at Parx. Carmelina is the first foal out of the stakes-winning St Averil mare Complete St., who is a half-sister to graded stakes-placed Complete Zen.

A and J Racing Stable’s Aoife’s Magic [post 5, Wilfred Vasquez], who was perfect through four starts at Parx last year for trainer David Dotolo, will make her seasonal debut after recently being named the 2023 Parx Horse of the Year at Bensalem, Pennsylvania track.

A Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Smarty Jones, Aoife’s Magic debuted with a 10 3/4-length romp sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs against fellow state-breds on September 11 over a good main track.

Aoife’s Magic followed with a pair of 4 1/4-length scores, taking the state-bred Imply at 6 1/2-furlongs on September 23 over sloppy and sealed footing ahead of an open-company victory going six furlongs on a fast track in an optional-claimer on November 15.

The $16,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale purchase enters from a three-length score in her two-turn debut in the one-mile and 70 yard Miss Behaviour over good and sealed going on December 27.

Rounding out a talented field are:

  • Princess Mayfair [post 4, Julio Hernandez], a game second last out in the Busanda, who will race with blinkers off for trainer Steven Chircop
  • Maiden winner Regulatory Risk [post 1, Manny Franco] for trainer Chad Brown
  • Maiden Sicilian Princess [post 3, Ramon Vazquez] for trainer William Walden