by Brian Bohl
A rematch of the first-and-second place finishers in the Iroquois on Empire Showcase Day will highlight the 32nd running of the $100,000 Garland of Roses for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Newman Racing's Absatootly outkicked Quezon by a half-length in the Iroquois, for New York breds, on October 21 at Belmont Park, earning a personal-best 98 Beyer Speed Figure in a rallying from last in a five-horse field to notch her first win since the Primonetta on April 22 at Laurel Park.
Trained by Charlie Baker, Absatootly started her 4-year-old campaign by placing in three of her first four starts against stakes company before making her graded stakes debut with a fourth-place effort in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom on September 24 on Belmont's Big Sandy.
Following that effort, the Mineshaft filly gained class relief and capitalized with her first win in five starts.
"She's training well and coming into this pretty good, I think six furlongs is the better distance for her," Baker said. "She'll need some speed up front to be effective with the same style she won last time."
Joe Bravo, who was aboard for her last three starts, will have the return call from post 3.
"She has tactical speed, so I don't think the [post position] matters that much," Baker said.
Multiple stakes winner Quezon will look to end her 2017 campaign on a strong note. Owned by Marc Keller, Quezon enters the Garland of Roses having finished on the board in her last four races and on the board in nine of her last 10 starts overall dating to July 2016.
A 5-year-old Tiz Wonderful mare, Quezon earned a 97 Beyer in her last start, falling just short to Absatootly at 6 ½ furlongs. The Bobby Ribaudo trainee will have another chance against her rival going six furlongs, where Quezon has one win and one second-place finish in two starts at the distance.
Jockey Joseph Rocco, Jr. will be in the irons from the rail.
Mamatas Racing Stable's Kalabaka will look to gain class relief after finishing seventh in the Grade 3 Vagrancy on May 5 at Belmont. Following a seven-month freshening, Kalabaka, trained by Rick Violette, will be returning to the Big A for the first time since running fourth in the Correction on March 18, drawing post 2 with Martin Garcia aboard.
Picco Uno, who ran fifth in the October Iroquois, has won five of her last seven starts, including a 2 ½-length score in the Union Avenue on August 17 at Saratoga Race Course. Trained by Jason Servis, the 4-year-old is 2-2-1 in five starts at the Garland of Roses distance. Jockey Kendrick Carmouche will break from post 5.
Rounding out the field is Fusaichi Red, for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, out of post 6; Friend of Liberty, who ran fifth in the Gallant Bloom before winning an optional claimer on November 22 at Aqueduct, for trainer Michelle Nevin out of post 7; and Ms Locust Point, who defeated optional claimers in her first start in more than nine months on November 11 at Parx, drawing post 4 for trainer John Servis.