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Wednesday, November 23, 2011
A Fest to say goodbye to Grade 1 racing

By Bob Ehalt

Holidays are usually festive times, but at Aqueduct there will be a general sense of melancholy as another week of racing reaches an end.

By weekend’s end, at about the same time as the last remnants of Thanksgiving dinner are finished off, New York racing will begin its long march into winter. Saturday’s card will sadly feature the final showcase for championship-caliber racing in New York for a little more than four months, the farewell coming in the form of the final two Grade 1 stakes races of the year.

The $250, 000 Gazelle and $250,000 Cigar Mile will join a pair of nine-furlong Grade 2 stakes for 2-year-olds -- the Remsen for colts and the Demoiselle for fillies -- on Saturday’s Holiday Fest card that should give fans sufficient reasons to spend an afternoon at the racetrack instead of the adjacent casino.

While The Cigar Mile will not have Eclipse Award implications, it promises to be highly entertaining with a field that is expected to include 2010 winner Jersey Town, Haynesfield, who captured the 2010 Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Pennsylvania Derby winner To Honor And Serve, last seen finishing seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Other possible starters include Sangaree and Mike Repole’s duo of Calibrochoa and Caixa Eletronica.

The Gazelle, at a mile and an eighth for 3-year-old fillies, is topped by the unbeaten Awesome Feather, last year’s champion 2-year-old filly who captured her 2011 debut in an overnight stakes at Belmont Park.

While Hansen and Union Rags are currently the most noteworthy contenders for the Kentucky Derby, the Remsen has historically been a proving ground for a new wave of 2-year-old prospects. In Saturday’s edition of the Remsen, a race won by To Honor And Serve last year, the likely starters include Done Talking, El Padrino, O’Prado Again, Our Entourage, Souper Speedy, Speightcity, Stephanoatsee. Cyber Secret, Managed Account and Tiger Walk.

The field for the Demoiselle is expected to include Bourbonstreetgirl, Brown Eyed Nance, Captivating Lass, Disposable Pleasure, Dreaming of Cara, Indyniable, and Wildcat’s Smile.

Prior to Saturday, there are a couple of other stakes on the NYRA menu: the $100,000 Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap on Thursday and the $150,000 Grade 2 Go For Wand Handicap on Friday.

So, with Grade 1 racing going on hiatus until next April’s Wood Memorial, do yourself a favor and take a break from the mall or the Thanksgiving leftovers with a day at the races. Who knows? You might even leave with some cash that you can pump into a slot machine.

Dutrow’s still hot

As a follow up to the last post about Rick Dutrow Jr.’s hot streak, the infamous trainer keeps piling up the wins. He closed out last week by going a combined 5-for-5 on Saturday and Sunday at the Big A. That means while awaiting an appeal of a 10-year suspension, he has racked up 13 wins out of 25 starters.

Suffice it to say, we’ve yet to see the last of Mr. Dutrow.