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Gazelle Stakes 2024 | Aqueduct Picks [Kentucky Oaks]
Barbratina (Coady Photography)

Gazelle Stakes 2024 | Aqueduct Picks [Kentucky Oaks]

Trainer Brad Cox will send out a pair of talented contenders in Gin Gin and Barbratina in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Gazelle Stakes, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The nine-furlong test for sophomore fillies, which offers 100-50-25-15-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top five finishers, is slated as Race 8 on a stacked 11-race card headlined by the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino in Race 10.

First post is 11:30 a.m. Eastern.

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Calumet Farm’s Kentucky homebred Gin Gin [post 7, Manny Franco] has already banked 41 points, taking 35 of that allotment at Aqueduct for her one-length score over muddy and sealed footing in the nine-furlong Busanda Stakes [20 points] in January which preceded her third-place effort [15 points] last out in the one-turn mile Busher Invitational on March 2.

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

The Hightail bay 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.

Black Type Thoroughbreds, Swinbank Stables, Big Tufff Stables, Steve Adkisson and Tommy Humphries’ Barbratina [post 4, Joel Rosario] will make her New York debut from a runner-up effort in the one-mile Cincinnati Trophy on March 1 over the Turfway Park synthetic.

The Catholic Boy bay won her debut with Humphries as conditioner sprinting seven furlongs on August 11 at Ellis Park before a private sale. She returned in October with Cox as trainer and closed to finish second in a 6 1/2-furlong optional-claimer at Churchill Downs. Barbratina has made her last two outings with runner-up efforts traveling one-mile over the Turfway synthetic, including a rallying defeat as the favorite in a January optional-claimer.

The $21,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky February Mixed Sale purchase is out of the Tapit mare Sally Ride, who is a full-sister to Grade 2-winner Conquest Big E.

Repole Stable’s Life Talk [post 5, Kendrick Carmouche] will add blinkers as she returns to the site of her romping 3 3/4-length score in the Grade 2 Demoiselle traveling nine-furlongs over muddy and sealed going on December 2.

Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, who won this event previously with My Miss Sophia [2014] and Always Shopping [2019], Life Talk arrives from an uncharacteristic last-of-6 finish as the favorite in her seasonal debut in the one-mile and 40 yard Suncoast on February 10 at Tampa Bay Downs.

“It was disappointing no matter how you slice it,” Pletcher said of the Suncoast effort. “We’re going to put some blinkers on her. Her last couple of breezes have been with blinkers and seem to have her a little more dialed in as well.

“She ran a good race in the Demoiselle and has a win over the track at the distance, so I felt like it made sense to take her back there,” Pletcher added. “Hopefully, she can recover with a good effort and see her run to her capabilities.”

The Gun Runner bay, a $335,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, graduated at second asking in August at Saratoga Race Course and followed with a pair of Grade 1 defeats to eventual Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Just F Y I when third in the Frizette in October at Belmont at Aqueduct and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in November at Santa Anita Park.

Life Talk is out of the winning Bernardini mare Touchy Feely, who is a half-sister to graded stakes-winner Indian Firewater.

Pletcher will also be represented by Repole Stable’s maiden winner Princess Vino [post 3, Jose Gomez], who graduated two starts back in an open-company maiden special weight travelling the Gazelle distance.

The New York-bred daughter of Vino Rosso has made all five career starts at Aqueduct, completing the trifecta in a trio of state-bred maiden sprints before stretching out to win by 5 1/2-lengths on February 18 with a prominent performance. She enters from a third-place finish to her victorious returning rival Munny Grab in an open-company optional-claiming mile on March 14 at Aqueduct.

Bred in the Empire State by Sequel Thoroughbreds and Lakland Farm, Princess Vino is out of the multiple stakes-placed Malibu Moon mare Lunar Gaze.

Cash is King and LC Racing’s multiple stakes-winner Carmelina [post 9, Mychel Sanchez] will look to improve on a strong second last out in the Busher for trainer Butch Reid, Jr.

The Pennsylvania-bred daughter of the Reid, Jr.-trained Maximus Mischief boasts a record of 7-4-1-0 for purse earnings of $261,800. She has accrued 25 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points thus far, good for 19th in the standings towards a spot in the maximum 14-horse field.

Carmelina won on debut in June sprinting 4 1/2-furlongs and took the restricted Keswick at five furlongs just two starts later in August at Colonial Downs. She won Penn National’s state-bred Shamrock Rose in November at six furlongs and closed out a productive juvenile campaign with a win in the seven-furlong Gin Talking against open company at Laurel Park.

Reid, Jr. said Carmelina performed admirably in her seasonal debut when stretched out to a one-turn mile for the first time.

“It was her first time going that far, so we were very proud of her effort. She came out of it really good, and I know this [the Gazelle] is about the limit of how far she wants to go, but you never know until you give it a try,” Reid, Jr. said. “She’s a hard-trying filly and should be forwardly placed. Speed carries a lot, so we’re hoping it will.”

Carmelina is out of the stakes-winning St Averil mare Complete St., who is a half-sister to graded stakes-placed Complete Zen.

Michael McMillan’s graded stakes-placed maiden Where’s My Ring [post 1, Jose Lezcano] ships in from California for her East Coast debut for trainer Val Brinkerhoff.

The Twirling Candy bay, who sports a ledger of 7-0-3-1 for purse earnings of $92,620, finished fourth in her stakes debut in the Grade 3 Surfer Girl in October over the Santa Anita Park turf one start before a distant eighth-place effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

She has made both of her sophomore starts at Santa Anita, finishing second in both a one-mile maiden in February ahead of a rallying effort to finish five lengths back of Kinza in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Santa Ysabel on March 9.

The $100,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase is out of the winning Tapit mare Mapit, who is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-placed Gold Standard and stakes-winner Merlazza.

Courtlandt Farms’ Whocouldsaskformo [post 2, John Velazquez] will look to make the grade for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.

The Uncle Mo dark bay graduated at second asking in December traveling one mile and 40 yards at Tampa Bay Downs when stretched out to two turns for the first time. She followed with a rallying effort from last-of-6 in the Suncoast going the same distance to finish 2 3/4-lengths back of Power Squeeze, who won Saturday’s Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks.

Whocouldaskformo enters from an even fifth-place effort in the one-mile Grade 2 Davona Dale on March 2 at Gulfstream.

The $450,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, a half-sister to graded stakes-placed Ghost of Midnight, is out of the winning Bernardini mare Midnight Belle – a half-sister to 2010 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic-winner Unrivaled Belle.

Rounding out a talented Aqueduct field are:

  • Stakes-placed Munny Grab [post 10, Isaac Castillo] for trainer Horacio De Paz
  • Naiden winner Regulatory Risk [post 8, Dylan Davis] for four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown
  • Maiden-claiming winner Six Pack Senorita [post 6, Romero Maragh] for trainer Rudy Rodriguez