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Thursday, November 27, 2008


JUVENILES HIGHLIGHT HILL ‘N’ DALE CIGAR MILE UNDERCARD


When Thoroughbred owner Jeff Puglisi expanded and restructured his racing operation in 2008, included in his business plan was a multi-million commitment to purchase 2-year-olds, the vast majority of which would be fillies.

“In terms of residuals, fillies hold their value better than colts,” explained trainer Steve Klesaris. “If they become graded stakes winner and have some family, they’re worth something.”

From a business standpoint, Puglisi made a good choice.


From a racing standpoint, he made a great choice.

While 2-year-old colts Ask Joe, Sunday Blitz and Forty Thieves all became winners, several of Puglisi’s 2-year-old fillies have become standouts, notably Grade 1 Spinaway and Grade 2 Adirondack winner Mani Bhavan, Grade 3 Tempted winner Livin Lovin, and Grade 1 Frizette winner Sky Diva, who on Saturday at Aqueduct will seek to add the Grade 2, $200,000 Demoiselle Stakes to her resume.

The 1 1/8th mile Demoiselle, run for the 87th time, and its counterpart, the 94th edition of the Grade 2, $200,000 Remsen for two-year-old colts and geldings, are the supporting stakes for Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile, the centerpiece of Aqueduct’s four-day HolidayFest. Kicking off the holiday stakes offerings are the 95th running of the $100,000-added Fall Highweight Championship on Thursday, the 69th edition of the Grade 2, $150,000 Top Flight Handicap for fillies and mares on Friday, and the 29th running of the $75,000-added Montauk Handicap for New York-breds on Sunday.

A tall, leggy daughter of Sky Mesa, Sky Diva has earned $464,000 with two victories and a third in three starts, more than making back her purchase price of $250,000 at the Fasig-Tipton sales in February.

“She was the only one we got out of that sale, and she turned out to be the right one,” said Klesaris. “In addition to meeting all our criteria, she had a great presence. She’s a big, sizeable filly with quite a bit of length. I saw a lot of Unbridled (her maternal grandsire) in her.”

After breaking her maiden at Delaware Park on September 8 by 10 lengths, Sky Diva scored a three-length win in the Frizette at Belmont Park and next traveled to California to finish third to Stardom Bound in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Among those she may face Saturday are Jay Em Ess Stable’s Ain’t Love Grand, Dell Ridge Farm’s Bluegrass Princess, Peachtree Stable’s Boleyn, James and Alice Apara’s Springside, Francis J. Paolangeli’s Stormy’s Smile, and Edward P. Evans’ Subprime.

“Sky Diva has been doing very well since the Breeders’ Cup,” said Klesaris. “The Demoiselle will be her last start this year, and I want her last start of the year to be on dirt. The Demoiselle is a traditional race, a good mile and an eighth on the dirt, and my filly will appreciate the added distance.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher is hoping the added distance will benefit his trio of juveniles on Saturday -- Boleyn in the Demoiselle, and American Dance and Idol Maker in the Remsen.

“She is a good-sized filly, and we are hoping she will step forward and improve,” said Pletcher of Boleyn, second in an overnight stakes at Delaware Park on October 18.

American Dance, owned by Edward P. Evans, and James Scatuorchio’s Idol Maker have but three starts between them, with American Dance prevailing in his second start at Aqueduct on November 5 and Idol Maker a winner at first asking on October 19.

“They’re light on experience going into a race like this, but there’s not a lot of allowance opportunity especially at this distance,” said Pletcher. “We’re stepping out a bit in jumping out of conditions, but I think both will improve as they stretch out in distance.”

Also being pointed to the Remsen are Willmott Stables’ Awesome Mich, Elizabeth Valando’s Hello Broadway, WinStar Farm’s Hold Me Back, Fox Hill Farm’s Old Fashioned and Roddy Valente’s Rip Rap.

“It’s always an interesting race,” said Pletcher of the Remsen. “This time of year these two-year-olds are going to be the ones who stretch out and run this distance. It’s a stepping-stone to the bigger three-year-old races next year.”


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