Monday, November 23, 2015

La Verdad could cap career with G3 Fall Highweight win

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - In what could be the final start of her illustrious career, La Verdad will take on males for the second straight year in the Grade 3, $250,000 Fall Highweight Handicap on Thursday at Aqueduct Racetrack.

A daughter of Yes It's True out of the Hook and Ladder mare Noble Fire, La Verdad has won 16 of 23 starts with earnings in excess of $1.6 million. In 2015 alone, the 5-year-old mare has finished first in six of seven starts. Her lone defeat this year came in her last start - the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint - in which she set the pace but tired late to finish second on just seven days rest.

"We were very happy," said Rice, who trains La Verdad for Lady Sheila Stable. "There were a lot of tough decisions for a couple weeks going into Showcase Day and the Breeders' Cup. With all the moving parts - the Breeders' Cup payment because she wasn't nominated, the seven furlongs, facing the colts or the fillies - after all was said and done we were pleased with the path we chose."

In addition to going out on a high note, La Verdad will look to redeem herself in the six-furlong Fall Highweight. In last year's edition, she was beaten 15 ¾ lengths after pressing the early pace on a sloppy track.

"Cutting back to six furlongs is obviously a good thing for her," said Rice. "Against the colts, it's questionable. Last year didn't go well for us but I think that she's in much better form right now."

La Verdad will break from outermost post 7 with regular rider Jose Ortiz in the irons.

Rice also entered Palace, a New York-bred and multiple Grade 1 winner owned by Antonino Miuccio. The 6-year-old son of City Zip has not enjoyed the same success in 2015 that he had last year, when he won the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt and Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga Race Course, but has run consistently well in five outings this year. He will break from post 2 with Cornelio Velasquez aboard.

Salutos Amigos will look to defend his crown in the Fall Highweight for trainer David Jacobson. The 5-year-old son of Salute the Sarge is coming off a troubled fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, checking in 4 ½ lengths behind winner Runhappy. Two starts ago, the bay gelding missed by a neck to Rock Fall in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Invitational on September 26 at Belmont.

Salutos Amigos, who has won his past six starts at Aqueduct including three graded stakes, will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. from post 6.

Rounding out the field are Captain Serious, second to Palace in the Hudson Handicap last out; Pulling G's, winner of an optional claimer at Belmont in his most recent outing; and Fabulous Kid and Green Gratto, who finished 1-2 in an optional claimer on November 18 at Aqueduct.

Earlier on Thanksgiving Day at the Big A, 2-year-old fillies will square off in the $150,000 Furlough at six furlongs on the main track.

Leading the field is Constellation for trainer Steve Asmussen and owner LNJ Foxwoods. The daughter of Bellamy Road has not won since her debut, but has turned in respectable performances in two subsequent outings, finishing third in the Grade 1 Spinaway and second in the Grade 2 Matron last out. She will be ridden by Ortiz, Jr. from post 5.

Constellation will be challenged by Tonasah and Wave of Glory, third and fourth, respectively, in the Matron, as well as Shayna Lady and Summer Reading.

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