By Richard Rosenblatt
Aqueduct’s fall meet concludes this weekend, but the winter meets starts right up later next week. The Big A features four graded stakes on Saturday, topped by the $750,000 Cigar Mile (G1). The other Grade 1 on Saturday is at Los Alamitos, where Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has three of the six 2-year-old fillies entered in the $300,000 Starlet Stakes.
At Gulfstream, Saturday’s card is packed with nine Claiming Crown races.
Live broadcasts of racing are limited on Saturday, with TVG televising races around North America.
Here’s a look at Saturday’s top races:
$250,000 Go For Wand Handicap (G3), 1 mile, 3 and up fillies and mares
Lady Rocket is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in a field of seven, with New York-bred Sharp Starr at 7-2 looking to win this race for the second year in a row. Lady Rocket, trained by Brad Cox, will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. leaving from post 2; Jose Ortiz has the call on Sharp Starr, trained by Horacio DePaz, leaving from post 7.
$250,000 Remsen Stakes (G2), 1 1/8 miles, 2-year-olds
The Kentucky Derby (G1) prep season continues with the 106th edition of the Remsen, worth 10-4-2-1 qualifying points for the Run for the Roses. Todd Pletcher’s Mo Donegal is the 8-5 favorite off a maiden win at 1 1/16 miles in his second start on Oct. 21 at Belmont.
The son of Uncle Mo breaks from post 1 in the eight-horse field under Irad Ortiz, Jr. Chad Brown’s Zandon, a winner at 6 furlongs in his only career start, is the 5-2 second choice.
The Remsen winner has gone on to win the Derby the following year a handful of times, but the most recent was Thunder Gulch in 1994.
$250,000 Demoiselle Stakes (G2), 1 1/8 miles, 2-year-old fillies
Todd Pletcher has the favorite in this one, too, with 2-1 top choice Nest, winner of her career debut and third in the Tempted Stakes at Belmont on Nov. 5.
Tap the Faith from the barn of Christophe Clement is the second choice at 3-1 off a last-to-first win in the first race of her career on Nov. 7.
The race is a prep for the Kentucky Oaks (G1), offering 10-4-2-1 qualifying points to the first four finishers.
Pletcher also sends out 10-1 shot Miss Interpret as he looks for a seventh win in this race.
$750,000 Cigar Mile (G1), 1 mile, 3-year-olds and up
Ginobili makes his first start in New York as the 4-year-old gelding takes on seven rivals, including a pair of 3-year-olds from Todd Pletcher’s barn, 5-2 favorite Americanrevolution and Following Sea (5-1), who was third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).
Trained by Richard Baltas, Ginobili ran a distant second to Life is Good in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Del Mar on Nov. 6. He has a career record of 14-3-2-1, but his last two races at Del Mar gives Baltas, who co-owns the horse, confidence heading into the race.
“He ran two good races at Del Mar, and I wanted to give him a little time between then and the Breeders’ Cup,” Baltas said. “We were already in the Breeders’ Cup through ‘Win and You’re In’. He ran well against maybe the best horse in the country.”
Ginobili leaves from post 6 under Drayden Van Dyke.
Code of Honor (5-1) also is entered for trainer Shug McGaughey in what is likely the final race of a career that included wins in the 2019 Travers (G1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), along with recent Fayette Stakes (G2) winner Independence Hall (7-2). Code of Honor was second in the Fayette.
$250,000 Starlight Stakes (G1), 1 1/16 miles, 2-year-olds fillies
Bob Baffert, as usual, is loaded for this one, seeking a fourth win in a row and eighth overall.
Grace Adler most recently finished fifth in the Chandelier Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita on Oct. 1.
Flavien Prat will be aboard leaving from post 2.
Eda already has five career starts, with three wins and second. After running fifth in the Del Mar Debutante, she came back with victories in the Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita and the Desi Arnaz Stakes at Del Mar. Juan Hernandez has the call leaving from post 6.
The Starlet offer Oaks qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the first four finishers. However, any horse trained by a person suspended from Churchill Oaks does not earn points (Baffert has been suspended for two years by Churchill after Medina Spirit tested positive for a prohibited race day medication after winning the Derby).
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.