Verve's Tale looks to be top gun in Sunday's Top Flight Invitational
by Brian Bohl/Najja Thompson
Raucous makes year's first start in Mizdirection
Charles Fipke's Verve's Tale returns to New York looking to capitalize on a class drop as part of a field of six older fillies and mares in Sunday's 78th running of the $200,000 Top Flight Invitational at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Carded as Race 8, the Top Flight, contested at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, will be the second of two stakes on the day's card, with the first running of the $100,000 Mizdirection for 3-year-old fillies in Race 7.
Verve's Tale is coming off four consecutive starts against graded stakes company, starting with a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Beldame on September 17 at Belmont Park. The 5-year-old Tale of Ekati mare was just a head behind Eskenformoney in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm Handicap on October 18 on Big Sandy, and third in the Grade 3 Go for Wand on December 2 in her last appearance at the Big A to close her 2017 campaign.
In her first start of the year, Verve's Tale rallied from last in an eight-horse field to get third in the Grade 3 Royal Delta at one mile on February 19 at Gulfstream Park. The Barclay Tagg trainee will now stretch out to the Top Flight distance for the first time since the Beldam and for the first time in a listed race since winning the Summer Colony by a nose over Blue Prize on August 20 at Saratoga Race Course.
Irad Ortiz, Jr., who rode her in the Summer Colony and in the Royal Delta, will have the return call from the outside post.
Graded stakes winner Blue Prize will also look to thrive by gaining class relief. The Argentinian-bred won the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap on November 23 at Churchill Downs. After a three-month break, the 5-year-old, trained by Ignacio Correas IV, ran seventh in the Grade 2 Azeri on March 17 at Oaklawn Park.
Blue Prize, who had two wins and two runner-up finishes in starting her career at Hipodromo Argentino De Palermo in her native country, started her U.S. career with four straight second-place efforts, including the Grade 3 Locust Grove on September 16. In her first Aqueduct start, Blue Prize drew post 5 with jockey Jose Ortiz.
Trainer Linda Rice will saddle a pair of formidable contenders in Just Got Out and Crimson Frost, who has finished first or second in four of her last five starts.
Crimson Frost, a 4-year-old daughter of Stormy Atlantic, ran sixth in her stakes debut in the Thirty Eight Go Go on January 8 at Laurel Park, won against optional claimers on February 18 at Aqueduct at one mile and will run try 1 1/8 miles for the first time. Jockey Dylan Davis will ride from the rail.
"She's training well coming into the race, so I'm very excited about running her," Rice said. "I'm not positive how well she'll handle the distance, but she's run pretty well going [long]. We'll see about the competition and how it shakes out."
Just Got Out, who is also owned by Rice, ran sixth in the Xtra Heat on March 31 at Aqueduct but won the Ladies Handicap at the Top Flight distance on January 21. The experienced 7-year-old is 10-6-9 in 42 career starts, earning $377,308. Manny Franco will be in the irons from post 3.
"She likes that distance, so we think it'll be a much better spot for her," Rice said.
Frost Wise has never finished out of the money in three career stakes starts, winning the Bay Ridge on January 18, running second in the Biogio's Rose and third in the Heavenly Prize on March 10 at Aqueduct. All three stakes were at least one mile, with the Bay Ridge victory at 1 1/8 miles. Trained by Michael Dilger, Frost Wise, 3-4-3 in 12 starts, will break from post 4 with Kendrick Carmouche aboard.
Miss Inclusive, trained by John Servis, has finished on the board in her last four starts. She will have the services of Paco Lopez from post 2.
Robert S. Evans' Raucous will be making her first start of the year in the Mizdirection at six furlongs on the outer turf. The Speightstown daughter broke her maiden in her third career start at Parx last October before winning the Chelsey Flower at Aqueduct in November before finishing third last out in the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante at Del Mar on November 25.
Making her last three starts at a mile, the Christophe Clement trainee will cut back in distance for the first time since a second-place finish in a maiden race on the dirt going five and half furlongs last August at Del Mar. Raucous will break from post 8 with Kendrick Carmouche in the irons.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle March X Press for Golconda Stables. A New York-bred progeny of Shanghai Bobby, she won her debut last summer at Saratoga Race Course before capturing the Bolton Landing. She ran a respectable fourth in her first graded stakes start in the Grade 1 Natalma at Woodbine.
March X Press will leave from post 10 with Jose Ortiz aboard.
Mentaility and Nootka Sound, both trained by Wesley Ward, are cross-entered in Saturday's $100,000 Bridgetown for 3-year-olds going six furlongs on the turf and the Mizdirection.
A daughter of Freud, Mentality will be making her first start of the year since running third in an allowance race on October 18 at Belmont. Nootka Sound, sired by Lonhro, will be making her second start of the year after winning her 2018 debut in an optional-claiming race on January 28 at Gulfstream.
Rounding out the field is Gibby, for trainer Scott Lake; Golden Days, for trainer Brad Cox; Out of The Flames, for trainer Simon Callaghan; She's All Skeet, trained by Joe Shap; Elevated Vision, saddled by Phil Schoenthal; Jehozacat, for trainer Arnaud Delacour; and the Jeremiah Englehart-trained Wegetsdamunnys.