Emerald Beech Well Spotted in Long Island

A solid field of eight fillies and mares is poised to go 1 ½ miles in Saturday’s 55th running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Long Island Handicap, the final graded turf stakes of the year at Aqueduct Racetrack.


Favored at 8-5 is Emerald Beech, who carries top weight of 119 pounds, including jockey Alex Solis, as she looks to resume her winning ways in the Long Island. Trained by Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard, the 5-year-old daughter of Maria’s Mon had her four-race winning streak snapped when she finished fourth, beaten five lengths, by Stacelita in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational on October 1 at Belmont Park.


“The Flower Bowl wasn’t her best showing,” said Sheppard of the Augustin Stable color-bearer, who prior to that won the Grade 3 Glens Falls at Saratoga Race Course. “She was stuck down on the inside and couldn’t really get running until the stretch. She certainly wasn’t disgraced – it was a Grade 1. And, I think the 1 ½ miles is the most suitable distance for her.”


Alex Solis, who has ridden Emerald Beech in her last four starts, is aboard from post position 6.


Back to defend her 2010 Long Island title is the Roger Attfield-trained Mekong Melody, still in search of her first win of 2011. The 6-year-old Cape Cross mare finished fourth in both the Grade 1 Diana and the Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga, but was never a factor in two subsequent starts at Woodbine, including a 12th-place finish in the Grade 2 Canadian and a ninth in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor on October 16.


Rajiv Maragh has the call on Mekong Melody, the 5-2 second choice from post position 7.


Hit It Rich, most recently a 3 ¾-length winner of an off-the-turf allowance at Keeneland, returns to graded stakes company for the first time since a sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 Sands Point in 2010. Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey for Stuart Janney, III, the Smart Strike filly is 2-0-1 from four starts this year, including an optional claiming victory at Saratoga in July.


“I think she’s a filly with a future,” said Buzzy Tenney, McGaughey’s assistant. “She’s coming off an excellent race at Keeneland, and I don’t think the distance will be any problem for her.”


Javier Castellano will ride Hit It Rich, the third choice on the morning line at 4-1, from post position 5.


Musical Rain, who arrived from Europe more than a year ago, scored her first American victory in 10 starts on October 7 with a last-to-first run in an optional claimer at Belmont Park. The 4-year-old Val Royal filly, a narrow second in her 2011 debut, will be making her fourth graded stakes appearance in the United States, with her best finish a third Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3 The Very One in February.


“She finally ran at Belmont Park the way we had been hoping she’d run,” said Dale Romans, who trains Musical Rain for Three Chimneys Racing. “She’s finally figuring out American racing. It took her a while to get acclimated, we gave her a little break over the summer, and it’s starting to pay off.”


With Ramon Dominguez aboard, Musical Rain will leave from post position 3 at 6-1 on the morning line.


Completing the field for the Long Island are, from the rail out, Unbridled Essence, most recently fourth in the Lady Baltimore at Laurel; Little Often Anni, making her stakes debut; Hasay, sixth in the Dowager at Keeneland last time out, and Akris Queen, recent maiden winner at Suffolk Downs.


The field for the Grade 3, $150,000 Long Island Handicap:








Unbridled Essence (FL)

J Lezcano


G D Sacco



Little Often Anni (PA)

M J Luzzi


L J Cocelli, Jr.



Musical Rain (IRE)

R A Dominguez


D L Romans



Hasay (GB)

P Morales


H G Motion



Hit It Rich (KY)

J Castellano


C R McGaughey III



Emerald Beech (PA)

A O Solis


J E Sheppard



Mekong Melody (IRE)

R Maragh


R L Attfield



Akris Queen (KY)

J A Davis


J P Terranova, II





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