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Breeders' Cup 2017

Don't Overlook Aro at Saratoga

Saratoga Race Course 2012 logo
Photo: NYRA

Michael Aro might not be a name a lot of race fans recognize, but the 55-year-old trainer has been a pretty good sleeper over the years at Saratoga. In the late 1990s, he shipped in to the Spa four years in a row, winning each time with a tough claimer named Champagne for Lisa.

 

In 1990, he won the third race on Alabama Day with Keynote Speaker at 25-1.

 

Aro is the son of a jockey who rode on the Maryland small-track circuit before he got too big, and he cut his teeth as a horseman under the top New England trainer J.J Kelly in the 1980s at Rockingham Park. He keeps a stable of about 14, including steeplechasers, at Parx Racing, and has his sights set on Saratoga again this year.

 

On Thursday, he plans to run a steeplechaser and then show up for a bigger challenge August 3 with Winning Image for the Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss, a six-furlong sprint stakes for 3-year-olds and up.

 

“The only thing I’ve done at Saratoga so far is make a few bucks,” Aro said Friday morning. “Keynote Speaker, Champagne for Lisa, she was a nice claiming mare. I’ve had a few winners.”

 

Winning Image, owned by Martin Scafidi, has won two stakes races this year, both at Parx, and finished third in her most recent start, the $150,000 Sweet and Sassy Stakes on June 23 at Delaware Park.

 

As usual that day, Winning Image was on the lead, but gave way to third in the stretch.

 

“That jockey tried to fix running water,” joked Aro, referring to regular rider Jose Caraballo, who retains the mount for the Honorable Miss. “I think she’ll be on top of her game this time. She worked awful fast the other day (four furlongs in 47.39 seconds on July 25). She’s very competitive; she gives 110 percent all the time.”

 

Winning Image has only been off the board in one of her past seven starts, a seventh-place finish behind Nicole H in the Correction on February 4 on the inner dirt at Aqueduct.

 

“This past winter she came up with a lung infection and that was her only bad race,” Aro said. 

 

Four of Winning Image’s seven wins have come at Suffolk Downs and the other three were in stakes races at Parx.

 

Aro believes the 5-year-old Southern Image mare is ready to win at her third track. “She gets up two or three, relaxes, and that’s it,” he said.

 

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