June 23, 2024

Soldier Rising aims for elusive first graded win in third Red Smith attempt

Aqueduct Starting Gate
Aqueduct turf starting gate (Photo by Coglianese Photos)

Despite placing six times at Grade 1 level, including four times this season alone, Soldier Rising enters the $300,000 Red Smith (G2) at Aqueduct on Saturday in search of an elusive first graded stakes win.

While the five-year-old did not come particularly close to winning the Man o’ War (G1), Manhattan (G1), Sword Dancer (G1), or Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1), his second-place finishes in the quartet stamp him as the horse to beat in the 1 3/8-mile Red Smith, a race he has finished third and ninth in the past two years.

“He’s finished second in four Grade 1 races in New York this year, so it would be nice to finally win a race at some stage,” trainer Christophe Clement said. “I don’t think anyone has been more consistent this year than him in the New York turf division.”

Limited Liability has been knocking on the door himself in graded company this term, placing in the Louisville (G3) and Sycamore (G3) and missing third by a nose in the United Nations (G1). Elkhorn (G2) winner Verstappen enters off a brief freshening since early September, while Del Mar H. (G2) runner-up Nineeleventurbo most recently captured a 12-furlong allowance at Keeneland.

Others of note are Master Piece, a sub-par 10th of 11 in the Arlington Million (G1) when last seen in August; Marwad, second in the Mac Diarmida (G2) two back; and Lost Ark, who captured the off-the-turf Jockey Club Derby last month and aims to become only the second three-year-old to ever win the Red Smith, Monarch’s Maze in 1999 being the first.

Also on Saturday’s Big A card, trainer Chad Brown will look to add to his record five wins in the $200,000 Pebbles (G3) by sending out three entrants in the one mile grass test for three-year-old fillies.

The most prominent of the trio is Implicated, who figures to take a step forward off of a fourth-place finish in an Oct. 19 second-level allowance. It was the filly’s first start in nearly a year, and she had been last seen taking the Chelsea Flower S. to cap a 2-for-3 juvenile campaign.

Startup Mentality and Rhiannon, however, are relatively inexperienced. Both last-out maiden winners, they enter the Pebbles with one and two previous starts, respectively.

Sacred Wish and Silver Skillet, one-two in the Winter Memories S. in mid-September, are leading contenders, while Plentitude looks to join younger full brother Agate Road as a graded winner this fall at Aqueduct following the latter’s win in last month’s Pilgrim (G2).