by NYRA Press Office
Seven promising 2-year-old fillies are set to square off in the 96th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack led by the regally bred Enliven for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Godolphin.
The 1 ⅛-mile Demoiselle will be joined by three other graded dirt events on a star-studded Saturday program headlined by the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets, the final Grade 1 of the year in New York. The card will also be bolstered by the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen and Grade 3, $250,000 Go For Wand Handicap, with racing being shown live on MSG+ from 3-4:30 p.m. ET as part of Aqueduct Live presented by Claiborne Farm.
Coming off an encouraging second-place finish in the Grade 3 Tempted on November 2 at Aqueduct, Enliven will look to take another step forward on Saturday when she makes her two-turn debut. The daughter of Ghostzapper out of It's Tricky, a multiple Grade 1 winner for McLaughlin and Godolphin, has improved like clockwork along the Beyer Speed Figure scale since finishing fourth in her debut on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course with a 65 Beyer.
The bay filly promptly broke her maiden at second asking with a 75 Beyer on September 30 at Belmont Park before most recently registering an imposing 86 Beyer for her runner-up effort in the Tempted, in which she finished five lengths behind Oxy Lady but seven lengths clear of third-place finisher Surge of Pride.
"She's doing well, so we hope she likes two turns; I think she will," said McLaughlin. "She just got her butt kicked in her last race, but that filly's not back in. She's doing very well and I don't think the distance will be an issue. She's out of It's Tricky and a half to [multiple graded-stakes winner] Enticed, so it'd be nice to win a stake. We already got blacktype last time. Now, we'd really like to win one."
Joe Bravo will be aboard Enliven from the inside post.
A little more than two months removed from orchestrating a historic upset in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup with Discreet Lover, trainer Uriah St. Lewis will again look to spring an upset in a graded stake on the NYRA circuit when he sends out Afleet Destiny for Trin-Brook Stables Inc. It took Afleet Destiny five tries to notch her first win, but she finally broke through the maiden ranks once stretched out to a mile on November 11 at Parx Racing.
"We were begging the racing office [at Parx] to card a two-turn race and when she finally got it, she won," said St. Lewis. "She even played a little bit of cat and mouse with the filly she beat. She ran by her, waited on her, then pulled away again. She ran faster than the boys that day going the same distance, so we thought she was good enough to take a shot with here. I think the two turns and the distance [of the Demoiselle] are perfect for her. She wants to go a mile and a half, and we feel like she could be any kind."
St. Lewis and Discreet Lover teamed up for one of the sport's feel-good moments of the year on September 29, when Discreet Lover rallied from the back of the pack to take the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup - the marquee race of the Belmont fall meet - at odds of 45-1. The improbable victory gave the veteran horseman, who oversees a modest stable in Pennsylvania, his first Grade 1 win and just his second graded stakes tally overall.
St. Lewis is never reluctant to take a swing in a big race. The Trinidadian horseman summed up his aggressive approach succinctly when discussing Afleet Destiny's chances in Saturday's Demoiselle: "I've never met a horse that knows what their odds on the tote board are."
Afleet Destiny will be ridden by Manny Franco, who piloted Discreet Lover to Grade 1 glory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and the pair will leave from post 6.
Trainer Ian Wilkes will saddle the improving Molto Bella for owners Six Column Stables and Randall Bloch. The chestnut daughter of Violence has ostensibly gotten better with experience and added distance after commencing her career with a dull seventh-place finish on June 29 at Churchill Downs going six furlongs. Just three starts later the $100,000 yearling purchase nearly won the one-mile Rags to Riches Stakes on October 28 at Churchill, missing by 1 ¾ lengths to Mother Mother.
Molto Bella will enlist the services of Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, and the duo will depart from outermost post 7.
Filly Joel, conditioned by perennial Aqueduct leading trainer Rudy Rodriguez, will provide the local contingent with another strong chance. The daughter of Dialed In logged an impressive maiden score in a 1 1/16-mile race at Belmont on October 25, when she won by 6 ¼ lengths in her first start beyond six furlongs. Owned and bred by Arindel, Filly Joel will be ridden by Jose Lezcano from post 3.
Rounding out the field are Positive Spirit, a recent maiden winner for trainer Rodolphe Brisset and owner Michael Ryan; Jennifer's Dream, who enters off a second-place finish in an optional claimer at Laurel Park for trainer John Servis; and Girl of Tosconova, most recently second to next-out stakes winner South of France in a starter allowance at Aqueduct.