“We think she stepped on a shoe, and it cut right through the bandage,” said her Hall of Fame trainer, H. Allen Jerkens. “For some reason, it took a really long time to heal it up. That’s why she was out for so long. I never saw anything like it before.”
“But Mr. Shields said he’d like to run her another year,” said the trainer. “”She came back from the farm [this spring] okay. So if she’s going to do it, this is the time to do it.”
“This” would be Friday's 30th edition of the Grade 2, $150,000 First Flight Handicap at seven furlongs, a race with which Jerkens is quite familiar. Having won it five times beginning with Missy’s Mirage (1991), and continuing with Raise Heck (1993), Dixie Flag (1997) and Shine Again (2001-02), Jerkens would be looking to add the First Flight to Any Limit’s already lengthy resume, which includes six victories in 19 career starts, with one second and five third-place finishes.
“When she first came to us as a two-year-old, she was a nice-looking filly,” said Jerkens. “I had trained her father (Limit Out), who was a pretty honest horse, too. She works fast, runs well, and tries hard.”
Under Cornelio Velasquez, Any Limit, now five years old, returned to action on May 17, and finished third behind Genuine Devotion in a six-furlong allowance on a soft course. Less than two weeks later, she came back to finish fourth behind Looky Yonder in the Grade 2 Vagrancy.
“We thought the problem [with the ankle] would be better on grass, and she came back quickly,” said Jerkens. “Now, she’s had time to regroup. If she does well here we’d like to be optimistic and win at Saratoga. There’s a couple of races for her there, the [Grade 2] Honorable Miss [August 1] and the [Grade 1] Ballerina [August 24].”
In addition to Any Limit, the First Flight drew seven other fillies and mares, including the Rick Dutrow-trained Looky Yonder and Ice Cool Kitty, who won seven of her 11 starts last year, mostly against state-breds. But, having entered the pair, Dutrow said he would not make a decision until sometime Thursday about which of the two, if either, will run.
“I might go to Florida (Princess Rooney at Calder) with Looky Yonder,” said Dutrow. “If we decided to run Ice Cool Kitty, she would be coming off the bench [first start since November] so I don’t know. We’re way up in the air.”
Confirmed starters in the First Flight include the Tim Ritchey-trained Akronism; Baroness Thatcher, third to Looky Yonder in the Vagrancy; Rite Moment, first or second in seven starts for trainer Gary Contessa including victories in the Grade 2 Bed o’Roses and Grade 2 Distaff Handicaps; Wild Gams, winner of the My Juliet at Philadelphia Park in her last start, and Windy, who will be making her first start of the year.
The field for Friday’s Grade 2 First Flight Handicap:
PP Horse Jockey Wgt. Trainer
1a Ice Cool Kitty Edgar Prado 114 Richard Dutrow Jr.
2 Rite Moment Rajiv Maragh 118 Gary Contessa
3 Baroness Thatcher John Velazquez 116 William Mott
4 Windy Javier Castellano 113 Chad Brown
5 Akronism Pablo Morales 114 Tim Ritchey
6 Wild Gams Alan Garcia 116 Ben Perkins Jr.
7 Any Limit Cornelio Velasquez 115 H. Allen Jerkens
8a Looky Yonder Garrett Gomez 116 Richard Dutrow Jr.