Owned by Silverton Hill, Bahia Beach has won four races from 12 starts, including two straight at Charles Town. She held on gamely by a nose in a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer on November 6 and aired by 8 ¾ lengths in a seven-furlong allowance December 16.
“She seems to be doing better with the cooler weather,” said Runco. “We stretched her out, and she did well, and then ran her back going seven furlongs against a small but talented field. I think she’ll like the inner track and that she wants more distance. Seven furlongs is a little short for her, actually.”
With Bahia Beach in career form, Runco wants to strike while the iron is hot.
“Now’s a good time to try to get stakes placed in New York,” said Runco. “This is definitely a step up, but when these fillies get good, it’s a good time to try stepping up.
David Cohen will ride Bahia Beach, a 15-1 long shot, from post 6 in the Affectionately.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has entered a pair in Saturday’s race, with Katy Now the 8-5 morning-line favorite and Love and Pride the 4-1 fourth choice.
Katy Now, owned by Nicholas Brady’s Mill House, earned her first stakes victory three starts back when she defeated a trio of opponents in the Dispute overnight stakes on September 30 at Belmont Park. In two subsequent starts at Aqueduct, she was an even fourth in the Grade 2 Go for Wand Handicap, a one-mile race around one turn on the main track November 25, and third after setting the pace in the Ladies Handicap on New Year’s Day.
Mike McCarthy, assistant to Pletcher, said the 1 1/8-mile Ladies was probably beyond Katy Now’s scope.
“Katy Now is one who seems to have distance limitations,” said McCarthy. “Last time, a mile and an eighth and two turns may have been a little too far, but this time of year those are the races you are going to get.”
Junior Alvarado has the assignment aboard Katy Now from the rail.
Green Hill Farm’s Love and Pride has finished third in her three most recent starts, including the Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile Gazelle on the Aqueduct main track November 26. Whit Beckman, Pletcher’s other New York-based assistant, said she “may have regressed a little” when she faded to third, beaten 8 ½ lengths, in the Let Me Linger, a one-mile, 70-yard race on the inner track December 18.
“She trained well up until the [Let Me Linger] and never give us any indication that she wouldn’t run her best that day,” added Beckman. “She had everything her way, but she just didn’t run the kind of race she can run.”
Love and Pride will leave from post 2 with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons.
The Affectionately field also includes Bahama Bound, Indian Burn, and Orbiston Parva.