Beach Haven Thoroughbreds' three-time stakes winner Sassy Agnes will stretch out to a one-turn mile for the first time in Saturday's co-featured $100,000 East View for New York-bred fillies, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Linda Rice, the Central Banker chestnut boasts a record of three wins and two seconds from six starts including scores in the Lady Finger and Shesastonecoldfox at Finger Lakes as well as the Key Cents at Aqueduct.
Last time out, in the $150,000 New York Stallion Series Stakes Fifth Avenue division, a six-furlong sprint for juvenile fillies, Sassy Agnes, with Junior Alvarado up for the first time, dueled early with eventual winner Forgotten Hero and stayed on strong for second.
“It was a different trip than we anticipated. Junior decided at the middle of the turn to let that one go [Forgotten Hero] and then come back around. It looked like she was closing on her at the end, but she finished second,” said Rice.
Rice will now wheel the talented filly back on two-weeks rest while testing her stamina beyond six furlongs for the first time. The veteran conditioner said that Sassy Agnes doesn't necessarily need the lead.
“I think there's a good chance she'll be on the lead going a mile, but she showed the other day that she can settle off of it and come back again,” said Rice.
Alvarado retains the mount from post 6.
Happy Face Racing Stable's Forever Changed will look to make it three wins in a row when she steps into stakes company for the first time.
Trained by Charlie Baker, the Flashback gray, bred in New York by Seth Gregory and Robert Barney, finished a troubled second on her September 20 debut at Belmont Park in a six-furlong maiden special weight won by Sadie Lady while keeping East View rival Awesome Alana, a next-out winner, in third.
Freshened for her return at Aqueduct on November 8, Forever Changed graduated by 3 3/4 lengths in an off-the-turf maiden sprint and doubled up a month later on December 7 when stretched to a mile while earning a career-best 71 Beyer Speed Figure.
“She's an improving sort. To me, it seems she wants to go long. Her last race showed that,” said Baker. “She's coming into the race well and I really like her. I think she's moving forward with every start.”
While Forever Changed has demonstrated the ability to both sprint and stretch out, Baker is keen to continue testing the filly's stamina.
“She has tactical speed, but when she trains it seems the further she goes the better she goes,” said Baker, who won the East View in 2015 with Absatootly. “Last race, her first time going long, she was very game. She got trapped and she got out. She was bumped pretty hard and still dug in and drew off late. I think when she gets a good trip, she'll show she's great going long.”
Dylan Davis, taking over from Alvarado, will guide Forever Changed from post 2.
Espresso Shot, trained by Jorge Abreu for NY Final Furlong Racing Stable and Maspeth Stable, posted a lofty 75 Beyer when second last out in the Key Cents after a troubled trip. After breaking outward in the six-furlong Key Cents, Espresso Shot rallied from 8 1/2 lengths off the pace to complete the exacta behind Sassy Agnes.
The talented bay graduated in an off-the-turf maiden at Belmont when travelling 1 1/16 miles over a fast track and followed that effort with a significant step up in class when tying the Grade 2 Jessamine on the Keeneland green.
“Since day one she's been training like a good horse and doing everything the right way. I took a shot there [in the Jessamine] and I don't think she liked the turf as much as I thought she would. With the Keeneland turf, they either like it or they don't. But she seems to handle the dirt very well,” said Abreu.
Abreu had considered sprinting Espresso Shot in last weekend's Fifth Avenue division of the New York Stallion Series Stakes but decided instead to hold out for a little more ground. The filly appears to be in good order after posting a bullet breeze of 59.82 seconds, best of 34 workers at the distance, on Sunday morning over Belmont's dirt training track.
“She's been training very well. We skipped the race last Saturday because I think three-quarters is too short for her. I think she wants to go a mile or a mile and a sixteenth,” said Abreu. “She had a really nice breeze today and a nice gallop out. She's doing really well.”
Eric Cancel has the call on Espresso Shot from post 7.
The lightly raced Take Me to Hardoon, trained by Jeremiah Englehart for Gold Square, will make just the fourth start of her career in the East View. The dark bay daughter of Violence graduated on debut when a length the better of Sassy Agnes and returned to finish last of seven after a troubled trip when ambitiously entered in the Grade 1 Frizette.
Take Me to Hardoon was freshened following the Frizette and came back to finished third in the Key Cents behind her East View rivals Sassy Agnes and Espresso Shot. David Cohen retains the mount from post 10.
Elegant Zip, Lem Me Have It, Shelley Ann, Little Song, Three Birds, Maiden Beauty and Awesome Alana complete the field.
First post time on Saturday's 9-race card, featuring the East View as Race 6 and the Alex M. Robb as 8, is 12:20 p.m.
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