In Tuesday's Ladies’ Handicap at Aqueduct, Carolyn Wilson’s Arena Elvira will
attempt to regain the winning form she maintained from August 2011
through March 2012. During that span,
she captured straight stakes, including a pair graded victories.
After finishing third, beaten 11 lengths, in the Grade 3 Sixty
Sails Handicap in April at Hawthorne, Arena Elvira went to the sidelines
for six months. She was sixth
in her return, the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm in October at
Belmont, then was fourth in the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap on November 22 at Churchill.
“In that first race back off the long layoff, I imagine she
needed it,” said Neil Poznansky, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bill
Mott. “Judging off the way she has
been training going into this one, I’m looking forward to a big effort.
I get on her myself and I’ve been getting on her for a long time, and
she’s as good as I’ve ever seen her. I’d be surprised if she doesn’t run
Arena Elvira, the 7-5 morning-line favorite, will depart from post 4 with Junior Alvarado aboard.
Villanesca, a daughter of 2004 Grade 1 Frizette heroine
Balletto, will make her first stakes foray when she competes in the
A Darley homedbred, Villanesca broke her maiden in her second start, a six-furlong sprint in September at
then was fourth in an optional claimer going one mile over the Big
Sandy in October. In her most recent outing, she won a 6 ½-furlong
optional claimer by 2 ½ lengths on December 5 at Aqueduct.
“We think she is this kind of filly,” said Art Magnuson,
assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “The timing is not what we
envisioned, but we’re going to play what’s
dealt to us. She’s training very well, so we’re going to run. To go
from 6 ½ [furlongs] to a mile and an eighth isn’t ideal, but we’re not
going to worry too much about it. She ran a mile one time before, and
she was a little speedy, ran into a good one, the
timing wasn’t all that great, and she didn’t run as well as we hoped,
but we think longer will be better for her.”
Eddie Castro has the assignment aboard Villanesca, 5-2, from post 2.
The Ladies field also includes Silver Prize and Dial Direct, who
are riding two-race winning streaks; R Gypsy Gold, a dual stakes
winner; and Dial Direct, third in an
allowance on December 17 at Parx Racing. Smart Cash and Dial Direct
will be coupled in the wagering.