December 4, 2023

Fall Highweight tops trio of Thanksgiving stakes at Aqueduct

Recruiting Ready wins the Gulfstream Park Sprint
Recruiting Ready winning the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) (Coglianese Photos)

Although handicaps have become increasingly passé in American racing, it’s rather fitting there’ll be a bow to tradition on Thanksgiving Day at Aqueduct, where the featured $200,000 Fall Highweight H. (G3) is one of three stakes on the holiday card.

A field of nine was entered in the historic six-furlong dash for older horses, the most notable being Firenze Fire. The multiple graded stakes winner, who’s figuratively knocked heads with division leaders like Mitole and Imperial Hint all season, will tote 134 pounds if he runs, though he’s also been cross-entered for the $200,000 Fabulous Strike at Penn National on Wednesday night.

Though in the midst of a five-racing losing skid, Firenze Fire was beaten a nostril in the Vosburgh (G1) by Imperial Hint two back and last time finished fifth of eight in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).

Firenze Fire last May easily dispensed with Recruiting Ready in the $150,000 Runhappy at Belmont, and that rival looms as a leading player following a wire-to-wire score in the $120,000 Bet on Sunshine at Churchill Downs last time. A Grade 3 winner at Gulfstream in March, Recruiting Ready won his only previous try at the Big A, taking the $100,000 Gravesend last December, and will lug 132 pounds.

“He’s doing good and came back out of his works good, and I’m planning on vanning him up (from Louisville) on Tuesday,” trainer Stan Hough said.

Freshened since Saratoga is Strike Power, who’s a viable threat when at his best. Arguably his best run this season was a half-length loss to Catalina Cruiser in the True North (G2) back in June. Unraced since the True North is Stan the Man, who finished three lengths fifth one race after a neck loss in the one-mile Westchester (G3).

Dry weather is forecast throughout the week in New York, which should ensure that Thursday’s supporting features remain on the grass. The $150,000 Winter Memories for three-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on the inner course has attracted the experienced graded stakes veteran Real Glorious, but rivals like Atomic Blonde, Shelter Island, Tuned, and Sorrentina Lemon all have a tremendous amount of upside.

The $100,000 Central Park for two-year-olds, also at 1 1/16 miles on the inner course, attracted a competitive field that includes Grey (G3) winner Chapalu and $100,000 Awad runner-up Pixelate.