Summer Applause, who knocked off subsequent Kentucky Oaks winner
Believe You Can last winter in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes at the Fair
to action Saturday as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the 73rd running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares, 3-years-old and up,
attracted a field of eight, including Twice the Lady and
Withgreatpleasure, who dueled to an exciting
finish January 26 in the Affectionately Stakes at the Big A.
Owned in partnership by Gillian Campbell, of
4-year-old Summer Applause was transferred January 30 from the barn of
Bret Calhoun to Chad Brown four days after a sixth in the Houston Ladies
In that race, Summer Applause was forced to check hard early and
jockey Miguel Mena’s boots came out of the irons. He recovered on the
far turn, and the daughter of
Harlan’s Holiday crossed the finish line 16 lengths behind winner Joyful Victory.
Brown said the race is easily tossed off her resume, and
believes Summer Applause has the potential to rank this year among the
leading fillies in the country. Last
year, she finished second to Believe You Can in the Silverbulletday at
the Fair Grounds, turned the tables in the Rachel Alexandra, missed by a
head to her rival in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks and then was beaten
four lengths in the Kentucky Oaks.
Summer Applause was sidelined after that for the remainder of
the year when she underwent surgery for a chipped knee. The comeback in
the Houston Ladies Classic was
her first start since the Kentucky Oaks.
Brown likes what he sees.
“She came over about a month and a half ago,” he said. “She came
in super shape. I breezed her about three times, and she went really
well. I think [the Top Flight]
is a good spot for her. We’re taking it one race at a time. She’s very
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez picks up the mount with the duo leaving from post position 4.
Desert, a $35,000 claim in January 2012 for
trainer John Parisella, enters the Top Flight off six straight
victories. Predominantly a sprinter, the 4-year-old daughter of
Desert left state-bred company in her most
recent start and won the Cat Cay overnight stakes at one mile, 70 yards
on the inner dirt course.
“It’s a thrill,” Parisella said of the winning streak. “As many
years as I’ve been a horse trainer, there are very few people who have
horses that win six in a row.”
For the Cat Cay, Parisella said, “I wanted to keep the streak
going, number one, and I was having a lot of fun and making money. Then I
realized it was time for her
to take a step up. What I learned was, I thought going long she would
show speed. In this particular case, she relaxed and closed. She’s a
closing sprinter, and I thought she’d be the speed horse going long.”
The runner-up in the Cat Cay, Moon Philly, subsequently traveled
south to Laurel Park and won two stakes races in a row by open lengths.
“I’m going to find out what she’s all about in the Top Flight,” Parisella said of
Desert, the co-second choice at 3-1 on the
morning line with Sisterly Love. “There are top competitors in there.
Chad Brown has a killer coming in.”
The Top Flight also will feature a rematch between Twice the
Lady and Withgreatpleasure, who hooked up in the lane for a tight battle
in the Affectionately.
David Nunn, the trainer of Withgreatpleasure, 8-1 on the morning line, is eager for another crack.
“She always gets in trouble, no matter what,” said Nunn, who has been based at
Monmouth Park in
but now trains his horses at nearby Overbrook Farm. “Last time [in the
Affectionately], she was in a four-horse field. Twice the Lady came in.
It said in the comments line twice the
Lady was shying from a shadow and drifted in, and they brushed and my
filly bumped into the rail and lost some momentum. We’d like to get
another shot at Twice the Lady.”
Nunn brought the 5-year-old mare down to
for the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap on February 16, and she
finished a close-up third at 22-1. Now she will return to two-turn
racing, which Nunn said she prefers.
Trainer Tony Dutrow claimed Twice the Lady for $62,500 in March
2012, and she has won three races for him since, including the
Affectionately. Saturday, she will leave
from the rail at 5-1 on the morning line.
“She had conditions left and had opportunity,” Dutrow said on
his reasoning for claiming the then 4-year-old. “We felt her value,
$62,500, was always going to be there.
Then she got a little better and was able to win a stakes race and
increase her residual value, being a daughter of [top broodmare sire]
Trainer Mark Casse will send out Sisterly Love, a 5-year-old daughter of
Bellamy Road, who won the first three starts of her career before finishing third in the Houston Ladies Classic.
Royal Lahaina, who has won back-to-back allowance races at
Aqueduct by a combined 12 ½ lengths; Lady Gracenote, a recent
open-lengths allowance winner at the track,
and the speedy Natalie Victoria, another recent allowance winner,
complete the field.