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Cicada Stakes 2024 | Aqueduct Picks
Ghalia Princess (3) wins at Fair Grounds (Bentley Breland/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Cicada Stakes 2024 | Aqueduct Picks

Sumaya U.S. Stable’s stakes-placed Ghalia Princess will cut back slightly in distance in search of her first stakes win in Saturday’s $100,000 Cicada, a six-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The Cicada is slated as Race 6 on Saturday’s eight-race card. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern. 

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Trained by two-time Eclipse Award-winner Brad Cox, the American Pharoah bay was last seen finishing a good second in the local Ruthless sprinting seven furlongs on February 17.

Ridden by returning pilot Manny Franco, she set the tempo over the good Aqueduct footing in an early duel with returning rival Reconcile before being met with a challenge from Halina’s Forte in the turn.

Ghalia Princess kept on valiantly when asked by Franco at the top of the lane, but settled for place 1 3/4 lengths back. The effort was awarded a career-best 81 Beyer Speed Figure.

“She’s doing excellent and is an awesome filly,” said Dustin Dugas, Cox’s Belmont Park-based assistant. “She’s big and stretching out wouldn’t bother us at all, but cutting back doesn’t either. She does everything so effortless.”

Ghalia Princess graduated on debut sprinting the Cicada distance in a key maiden in January at Fair Grounds that saw the second and third-place finishers, Motown Dynamic and Harbor Springs, exit to win next out.

Ghalia Princess captured the sprint over a fast main track when delivering a well-timed run from two lengths off the pace in 4th-of-11 early under Florent Geroux. She improved her position at each point of call to get up just in time and score by a head in a final time of 1:10.81.

Ghalia Princess has worked twice over the Belmont Park dirt training track since her Ruthless effort, the first of which was a half-mile move in 48.25 seconds on March 1 that Dugas said left him impressed.

“Brad wanted us to go an easy half in that first work back, but she clipped off that 48 and change like it was a walk in the park,” said Dugas. “I was in awe and was on her myself. She was so smooth. She’s had two good breezes since the race and is moving right along. I think she’s a pretty pliable filly and will do whatever you ask of her.”

Bred in Kentucky by International Equities Holding, Ghalia Princess was a $575,000 RNA at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale and is out of the stakes-winning Medaglia d’Oro mare Ghalia.

Franco retains the mount from post 1. 

Dual stakes-winner Miss Harriett [post 4, Kendrick Carmouche] looks to continue her good run of form for trainer Brandon McFarlane on the heels of a narrow victory in the seven-furlong Wide Country on February 24 at Laurel Park.

A Maryland homebred for David Baxter’s Narrow Leaf Farm, the Blofeld gray graduated in style in her October debut at odds of 62-1, posting a neck score in Laurel Park’s Maryland Million Lassie, a six-furlong sprint for eligible Maryland-sired juvenile fillies.

Miss Harriett attended the early pace under Jean Briceno and battled strongly throughout to take a 1 1/2-length lead at the stretch call and fend off the late rush of Sheilahs Warcloud.

“The first time, the decision was kind of, ‘You know what? She has done nothing wrong and she’s a cool filly,’” McFarlane said of the decision to debut the filly in a stakes. “I actually never, ever let her run in the morning before. I never let her really go, so until the race, we thought she was nice, but we had no clue [she would perform so well].”

Miss Harriett made her next three starts in open company at Laurel, taking a 5 1/2-furlong optional-claimer gate-to-wire by seven lengths on January 14 in her seasonal debut and returning last out with a prominent three-quarter length score over Determined Driver in the Wide Country.

Miss Harriett is the latest foal to race produced from the winning Sea of Secrets mare Tejano Sea, who has seen seven of her eight foals to race trained by McFarlane at some point in their careers.

Though Miss Harriett has excelled as a pacesetter, McFarlane said he believes she can be effective from off the pace as well.

“I think she is all sprinter,” said McFarlane. “Out of that mom, all seven are basically the same, they are all sprinters. It is funny, with her [Miss Harriett’s] body, it’s not like she trains all sprinter, but that’s just who I think she is. She is a quick, quick horse too. It is hard to take away something that is working, but I actually do think she can pass horses.” 

Tejano Sea is a half-sister to the McFarlane-trained graded stakes-placed Hemp and stakes-winner Keep Momma Happy.

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Lewin’s Value Area [post 3, Dylan Davis] enters off a third-place effort in the Ruthless where she finished 4 1/4 lengths behind Ghalia Princess for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.

The More Than Ready dark bay boasts a perfect on-the-board record of 7-1-4-2 that includes a determined graduation at sixth asking in an Aqueduct seven-furlong maiden tilt on January 27 won by a neck with a prominent trip over next-out winner Best Impression.

She utilized different tactics in the Ruthless next out when rallying from 6th-of-7 to put in a mild run for show honors.

The $210,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale purchase is out of the graded stakes-winning Include mare Her Smile and is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winner Pink Sands and graded stakes-placed Wharton.

Completing the field are Triple M Racing Stable’s optional-claiming winner Anna’s Wish [post 2, Eric Cancel] for conditioner George Weaver and Robert S. Evans’ stakes-placed Kentucky homebred Reconcile [post 5, Jose Lezcano] for trainer Adam Rice.