by Najja Thompson
A full field of 11 sophomore fillies will compete in the 46th running of the $100,000 Busanda contested at 1 1/8 miles on Sunday at Aqueduct Racetrack in the hopes of acquiring qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks in May at Churchill Downs.
The Busanda, offering 10-4-2-1 qualifying points to the first four finishers towards the Kentucky Oaks, is the second of the "Lilies for the Fillies" qualifying series at the Big A, following the Grade 2 Demoiselle on December 1. The $250,000 Busher Invitational on March 9 and the Grade 2, $300,000 Gazelle on Wood Memorial Day April 6 also will award points to the top-four finishers.
Owner-trainer Uriah St. Lewis will send out Afleet Destiny in the Busanda, following a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Demoiselle at 26-1. A daughter of Hard Spun, Afleet Destiny made her first five career starts at Parx, breaking her maiden in that fifth start going a mile.
Stretching out to nine furlongs in the Demoiselle, Afleet Destiny picked up place honors, 2 ¼ lengths ahead of Busanda rival Filly Joel in third. No stranger to pulling off major upsets, highlighted by Discreet Lover's 45-1 win in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup last year, St. Lewis said Afleet Destiny can also defy the prognosticators and challenge on the Kentucky Oaks trail.
"She's doing great," St. Lewis said. "She handled the track well in the Demoiselle, and we know she can get the distance. After that race, we let her have a few weeks off to grow into her own, and she's come back and breezed strong. She looks very fit."
Alfeet Destiny, who breezed four furlongs in 49 seconds flat on January 25 at Parx, will depart from post 3 with jockey Anthony Salgado aboard.
Trainer Eddie Coletti, Jr., in search of his first Busanda score, will saddle Arlene's Sun Star Stable's Getting Warmer.
Sired by graded stakes winner Algorithms, Getting Warmer impressively won her debut by 2 ¼ lengths on October 14 at Parx and followed up with another 2 ¼ length allowance victory on November 6 at Parx.
Last time out, Getting Warmer finished fifth after encountering trouble at the break in the Gin Talking on December 29 at Laurel. Making her first start at two turns, Coletti, Jr. said his trainee is up for the challenge.
"Her last time out at Laurel, I don't think she really handled the track that day," Coletti, Jr said. "Once she got clear and her feet under her she rallied to finish fifth, so I thought it was a good effort. She's a nice horse that trains well. Her sire was able to go the distance, so we think she'll handle it."
Getting Warmer will leave from post 2 with Mychal Sanchez.
Conditioner Todd Pletcher, a four-time Busanda winner, entered Always Shopping for Repole Stable. Sired by Awesome Again and bred by her owner out of multiple graded stakes placed mare Stopshoppingmaria, Always Shopping has yet to break her maiden in three starts, but finished second by three-quarters of length in her last race on December 14 at the Big A.
Drawing the rail, Always Shopping will be ridden by meet leading rider Manny Franco.
Dun Romain Farm's homebred Discreet Sister will ship in from Laurel Park for trainer Cathal Lynch. Sired by Discreet Cat, the improving chestnut broke her maiden in her second career start over a muddy track on October 28 at Parx.
Following a ninth-place finish in the Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies in November at Penn National, Discreet Sister rebounded to win an allowance race on December 16 at Laurel in her most recent start.
With Jorge Vargas, Jr. aboard, Discreet Sister will leave from post 5.
Rounding out the field is Floss Dancer from post 4 for Flying P Stable and trainer Michael Tannuzzo; Elegant Zip out of post 6 for trainer David Donk who co-owns with Sean Carney, Michael McMahon and Copper Beech Stables; Lady Banba for trainer Robert Reid, Jr. and owners Cash is King LLC and LC Racing LLC from post 7; Destiny Over Fate in post 8 for trainer Lacey Gaudet and Loooch Racing Stables; Filly Joel from post 9 for trainer Rudy Rodriguez and owner Arindel; No Mo Lady in post 10 for trainer Michael Trombetta who co-owns with Larry Johnson and R.D.M. Racing Stable; and Miss Marilyn for trainer Danny Gargan and owner Martin Cherry from the outside post.
The Busanda is slated as Race 8 on Sunday's nine-race card. First post time is 12:50 p.m.