OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Laobanonaprayer, owned and trained by Daniel Velazquez, headlines Sunday’s $250,000 NYSSS Fifth Avenue, a seven-furlong sprint for eligible New York-sired juvenile fillies at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Fifth Avenue is one of three stakes on Closing Day of the Big A fall meet, which also features the $250,000 NYSSS Great White Way at seven furlongs for eligible New York-sired juveniles and the $100,000 Garland of Roses at six furlongs for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.
Laobanonaprayer, a Laoban bay bred in the Empire State by Christina Deronda, was purchased for $15,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale. She made her first two starts at Delaware Park, finishing third on debut in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint in September and a good second to Celestial Cheetah when stretched out to one mile on October 5.
Velazquez added blinkers and the services of rider Kendrick Carmouche for Laobanonaprayer’s stakes debut in the one-mile Maid of the Mist for state-breds on Empire Showcase Day at Belmont Park and the filly responded with a 5 1/2-length romp that garnered a field-best 68 Beyer Speed Figure.
“She put me in a perfect spot and she was travelling easy,” said Carmouche. “She finished up really well. I think the cutback in distance will be even better for her. He told me she’s been training really well. We’ll just break and sit and watch it develop.”
The victory marked the first stakes score for Velazquez, who then doubled his stakes totals in the very next race when Brooklyn Strong – who is entered in Saturday’s Grade 2 Remsen at the Big A – captured the Sleepy Hollow.
Carmouche leads all riders at the Big A fall meet with 16 wins and purse earnings of $968,619 heading into Thursday’s card, boasting a 62 percent in-the-money record in tandem with Velazquez [27-4-7-6].
Laobanonaprayer, who Velazquez said is training without blinkers but will race with them on Sunday, has posted a pair of bullet works out of the Maid of the Mist score, including a five-eighths effort in 1:00.60 on Saturday on the Delaware Park dirt.
Carmouche will guide Laobanonaprayer from post 11 and he said he hopes to double up in stakes company for his good friend Velazquez.
“He’s my little brother and I’m always rooting for him,” said Carmouche. “I won the stakes for him the other day and we’ll try again on Sunday. You have to be in it to win it.”
Trainer Wayne Potts will saddle a pair of contenders for their dirt debuts in Dennis L. Deeb, Mary Lentini and Eric Miller’s Athena Dancer and Domenic Dilalla’s Ms Wicked.
Athena Dancer, a dark bay daughter of War Dancer out of the multiple stakes-winning Catienus mare Talking Treasure, earned a 62 Beyer when breaking her maiden at second asking on November 20 on the Big A turf.
Potts has trained Athena Dancer, a $21,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, extensively over the Monmouth Park dirt and said the filly should handle the surface switch.
“I think Athena will be able to dirt and turf. She’s a quiet, laid-back filly and does whatever you need her to do,” said Potts. “I was working her for several dirt efforts at Monmouth and I was never able to get a chance to run her on the dirt. She trains really good on the dirt. I was never able to breeze her on the grass but I thought she would grass and she did. She’s doing very well.”
Bred in Ontario by Janeane Everatt, James Everatt and Arika Everatt-Meeuse, Ms Wicked made her first four starts at Woodbine Racetrack for trainer Cole Bennett, culminating in a last-to-first charge to win an open 1 1/16-mile maiden-claiming tilt on the Tapeta on November 8.
The dark bay daughter of War Dancer is stakes-placed having completed the trifecta in the 6 1/2-furlong Muskoka, a sales stakes Tapeta sprint for juvenile fillies foaled in Canada.
She joined the Potts barn 10 days ago and worked a half-mile in company Sunday on the Belmont dirt training track in 51.24 seconds.
“I worked her behind a horse and she took the dirt very well,” said Potts. “She went an easy half-mile and the gallop out was very good. The whole question will be can she take all that dirt in her face, because she’ll be coming from way back.”
Potts said a possible wet track wouldn’t hinder the chances of either filly.
“If we get a wet surface, I don’t think it will bother either one of those fillies,” said Potts. “They’ll both have to step it up a little bit, but they’re both worth giving a shot in this race.”
Dylan Davis has the call on Ms Wicked from post 6, while Jose Ortiz will guide Athena Dancer from post 9.
Cobra Farm and R R Partners’ Gray Destiny, by Mission Impazible and out of the More Than Ready mare Happy Retreat, earned a 62 Beyer in her winning debut when 4 3/4-lengths the better of next-out winner Cara’s Dreamer in a 1 1/16-mile off-the-turf state-bred maiden special weight on October 30 at Belmont.
Trained by Christophe Clement, who leads all trainers at the Big A fall meet with 14 wins heading into Thursday’s card, Gray Destiny was purchased for $50,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Preferred New York-bred Yearling Sale.
Bred in the Empire State by Twin Creeks Farm, Gray Destiny has breezed twice since her maiden win including an easy half-mile in 50.54 on November 28 on Big Sandy.
Jose Lezcano retains the mount from the inside post.
Jeremiah Englehart will saddle Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Pazzion and Fortune Farm’s Flower’s Fortune.
By Mission Impazible and out of the Big Brown mare Brown Eyes Blue, Pazzion rallied to a maiden victory last out on October 26 in an open six-furlong sprint on a sloppy main track at Finger Lakes.
Flower’s Fortune, by Effinex, completed the exacta in Pazzion’s maiden win and followed with another runner-up effort on November 22 at the Big A in a one-turn mile for state-breds.
Andrew Shivnarine Worrie retains the mount on Pazzion from post 5, while Jorge A. Vargas, Jr. will guide Flower’s Fortune from post 12.
DutchessViews Farm’s New York homebred Shanes Pretty Lady graduated by 3 3/4-lengths at first asking in a six-furlong state-bred sprint on September 20 at Belmont for former conditioner Gary Gullo.
Last out, in her first start for trainer Todd Pletcher, the dark bay daughter of Bellamy Road trailed throughout in the six-furlong Key Cents for New York-breds on November 15 at the Big A.
Joel Rosario picks up the mount from post 3.
Rounding out the field are maidens Vive La Liberty [post 7, Luis Cardenas], Tangerine Dream [post 2, Charlie Marquez], Jill’s a Hot Mess [post 4, John Velazquez], U Should B Dancing [post 10, Junior Alvarado] and Pop the Bubbly [post 8, Manny Franco].
The NYSSS Fifth Avenue is slated as Race 6 on Sunday’s 9-race card. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.
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