parx at aqueduct reasonably successful

By Dick Jerardi

PAQ (Parx At Aqueduct) did not result in any visits to the winner’s circle by four Parx-based horses in the two 3-year-old stakes, but three of the performances exceeded expectations and suggested there may be some pictures in the near future.

Jody’s Pride, second by a neck in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile fillies, was the 4-5 favorite in the $200,000 Busher. The 2023 Parx Horse of the year, unbeaten-in-four-starts daughter of Smarty Jones Aoife’s Magic, was 16-1 in her first stakes race against open company for trainer David Dotolo. Carmelina, sent off as the 8-1 fifth choice, won two open stakes and a Pennsylvania bred stakes in 2023 for trainer Butch Reid.

Carmelina, under 2023 Parx champion jockey Mychel Sanchez, went right to the front and stayed there until Jody’s Pride passed her in the stretch. She was a clear second, just 2 1/4 lengths behind the winner, while earning a career-best 76 Beyer figure.

The big question about Aiofe’s Magic was: could she improve on her pedestrian Beyer figures (57, 54, 64, 54) from her otherwise brilliant 2-year-old year. It looked as if the answer might be no when she seemed to flounder near the back early in the 1-mile race over a sloppy, sealed surface. Then, she kicked in and made a strong move on the turn that she sustained into the stretch, eventually finishing fourth, 5 1/2 lengths behind the winner. She got a career-best 71 Beyer figure, suggesting that she has more forward moves.

“I think she did very well considering she did not handle that slop at all,” Dotolo said of his Pa. Bred. “He (jockey Wilfred Vasquez) never had to push her at all (before). Out of the gate, she broke good, and she was just spinning, he said. I had to push her along, he said.”

Aoife’s Magic never stopped trying.

“She ran pretty well, considering everything,” Dotolo said. “I know she won two stakes in the slop, but her best number (as a 2-year-old) was on a fast race track (64).”

So, it will be interesting to see Aoife’s Magic on a fast track where she gets a better early position than she got in the Busher.

“We were proud of her,” Dotolo said. “We knew she wasn’t going to stay undefeated (forever).”

Carmelina, a daughter of the hot sire Maximus Mischief, demonstrated that her speed is going to make her dangerous in 2024.

“I thought the filly ran (great),” Reid said. “It didn’t look like the distance was a problem.”

The Grade III $300,000 Gotham was off 90 minutes after the Busher and there was Sanchez and 25-1 Maximus Meridius on the lead again for Reid. But he was hounded by Withers runner-up El Grande O in the run down the backstretch of the 1-mile race. Maximus Meridius got a bit tired in the stretch, eventually finishing fourth as the seventh choice, 4 3/4 lengths behind impressive winner Deterministic. Maximus Meridius is yet another talented son of Maximus Mischief.

“I think we haven’t gotten to the bottom yet, ” Reid said. “The jock said he waited on horses and then when they got to him, he wasn’t sure how to react, didn’t switch leads and then when it kind of opened up after the wire, he kept on galloping out so I don’t think the distance was really the question.”

Reid has a decision to make with the colt. Does he run him in the April 6 $750,000 GII Wood Memorial at 9 furlongs, giving him a one-two/speed-closer punch with Withers winner Uncle Heavy? Or does he run the same day in the $150,000 Bay Shore at 7 furlongs?

Deposition, a closing fourth in the Withers and the longest price in the 11-horse Gotham at 82-1 for owner/trainer Uriah St. Lewis and jockey Dexter Haddock checked in sixth, 14 lengths behind the winner. His Beyer figure regressed from the 80 in the Withers to a 69, but like so many St. Lewis’ horses ran better than bettors expected.

Again, not a winning day for the Parx horses, but all four of them outran their odds and three improved their critical speed figures which suggests promise as we get deeper into 2024.

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