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Arson Squad Favored in Evening Attire

Five older horses who have combined to win 33 races from 132 starts will attempt to open their 2011 seasons with a victory when they compete in Saturday’s $65,000 Evening Attire over 1 1/16 miles at Aqueduct Racetrack.


Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out a pair of late-bloomers in Heart Butte and Alma d’Oro, both winners on the inner track in December in their most recent starts.


Claude Paul’s Heart Butte has blossomed since he was fitted with blinkers: finishing fifth over Keeneland’s artificial main track in October; running away to a 6 ½-length allowance score when switched back to dirt at Churchill Downs on November 7; and pouncing to a three-length decision in an Aqueduct optional claimer on December 5.


“He has improved as he has matured and with the addition of blinkers,” said Pletcher. “He’s probably like other sons of Empire Maker who have gotten better with age. It was a pretty good field he beat the other day, and the fact he ran so well in his first start at Aqueduct is encouraging.”


Heart Butte drew post position 2 and will be ridden by David Cohen as the 5-2 second choice.


Alma d’Oro became a stakes winner in his 14th start when he captured the Grover Delp Memorial at Delaware Park on October 6, and, following a fourth in Delaware’s Brandywine on October 30, came to Aqueduct to take the Forty Niner by 4 ¼ widening lengths on December 19.


“We were really pleased with his last race,” said Pletcher, who trains the 5-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro for Robert J. and Mary Ellen Bourque and Stuart and Shari Goldstein. “He settled well and closed strongly, and he’s always been a promising horse. Everything has gone according to plan since that race.”


Alma d’Oro, tabbed as the 3-1 third choice on the morning line, will be reunited with Fernando Jara, who rode the colt in the Delp and Brandywine. The duo will leave from post position 3.  


More Than a Reason and Arson Squad, respectively first and third in the Grade 3 Queens County at Aqueduct on December 11, will square off once again in the Evening Attire.


After More Than a Reason earned his first stakes victory in the Queens County, trainer Randi Persaud considered giving the Anthony Calabrese color-bearer a brief respite from racing before electing to run him back eight days later in the Forty Niner, in which the durable veteran finished third in what was his 19th start of 2010 and 61st race in his four-year career.


“I take my time with the horse and train him lightly,” said Persaud. “We’re very high on him right now as he is doing very well.”


Eddie Castro will ride More Than a Reason, 10-1 on the morning line, from the rail.


The connections of Arson Squad, a seven-time stakes winner who lost as the odds-on favorite in the Queens County, hope their charge will get a cleaner trip on Saturday as he attempts to push his lifetime earnings over the $1.2-million mark.


“He probably didn’t like being between horses last time,” said Samantha Siegel, managing partner for Jay Em Ess Stable. “He’s always been pretty tractable, and Ramon [Dominguez] will ride him once again.”


Arson Squad, the 8-5 morning-line favorite, will leave from post 5.


Navesink Breeders’ Goombada Guska, who ended his sophomore season with an easy win against 3-year-olds in the Cosmic Bob at Aqueduct on December 15, will take on older horses in a stakes for the first time since winning the Charles Hess III Handicap for New Jersey-breds at Monmouth Park in September.


“The light bulb has gone on with him recently,” said trainer Scott Volk. “If he can get something to run at, he’ll pick up the pieces.”


Jose Valdivia, Jr. will ride Goombada Guska, installed at 5-1 on the morning line, from post four.


The field for the $65,000 Evening Attire:








More Than a Reason (KY)

E Castro


R Persaud



Heart Butte (KY)

D Cohen


T A Pletcher



Alma d'Oro (KY)

F Jara


T A Pletcher



Goombada Guska (NJ)

J Valdivia, Jr.


S J Volk



Arson Squad (PA)

R A Dominguez


R E Dutrow, Jr.





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