Peter Brant's Fifty Five started her 2019 campaign in the same victorious fashion in which she ended 2018, surging in the stretch to overtake pacesetter Coffee Crush and outkicking Conquest Hardcandy to win the fifth running of the $100,000 Plenty of Grace by 1 3/4 lengths on Sunday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Fifty Five, making her first start since winning the Ticonderoga on October 20 at Belmont Park, stayed at the back of the five-horse field as Coffee Crush led the field through an opening quarter-mile in 23.44 seconds and the half in 47.55 on the inner turf labeled good.
Entering the final turn, jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. asked the 1-2 favorite from the outside, and the Get Stormy mare responded by handily moving past 7-1 Coffee Crush to take command. Ortiz, Jr. used right-handed encouragement in deep stretch to fend off any potential challenge from Conquest Hardcandy, completing one mile in a final time of 1:36.10 to give the Chad Brown trainee her third straight win overall.
“She had a good trip. Irad rode her beautiful,” said Brown, who won the Plenty of Grace for the fourth straight year. “She had been training super. My crew at Payson Park, assistant Luis Cabrera and his team, really did a great job over the winter. She looks great. It was a good first race back. She should move forward off of it.”
The New York-bred Fifty Five finished second to stablemate Uni in last year's Plenty of Grace edition. After running second in the Mount Vernon one start later on May 28, Brown dropped her down to allowance company for a win in July. She responded by improving in her return to stakes company, winning three straight after running third in the Yaddo on August 24 at Saratoga Race Course.
“Everything went perfect for her,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “She went easy and there was not too much traffic. Never had to stop, she had horse, so it was really easy. She always tries, she's honest and does everything right.”
In her 5-year-old bow, Fifty Five, bred by Empire Equines, won at Aqueduct for the second time in three starts. She returned $3 on a $2 win bet.
“For her next, we'll probably stay [with] New York-breds on Memorial Day [Mount Vernon, May 27]. We know she loves Belmont, so we'll probably go there next,” Brown said. “After that, everything is in play. She's certainly fast enough and good enough to win in open company, she's proven that before.”
Alfonso Cammarota's Conquest Hardcandy, a fellow New York bred, held off Coffee Crush by a half-length for second for trainer James Ryerson.
“She likes to be aggressively ridden but the pace was pretty quick,” said Conquest Hardcandy jockey Dylan Davis. “She put herself in a great spot and saved ground both turns. Got through a nice tip and got up to finish second. She ran a great race, looking forward to seeing what she can do later on.”
Thais, also owned by Brant and trained by Brown, ran fourth in her first start since a 13th-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf in November at Churchill Downs. The 5-year-old French-bred, who ran third in the Grade 1 Beverly D. in August at Arlington Park, made her first appearance at the Big A since running third in the 2017 Winter Memories.
Silent Sonet completed the order of finish. Main-track only entrants Crimson Frost and Frostie Anne were scratched.
Live racing returns at the Big A on Wednesday with a nine-race card. First post is 1:30 p.m.
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