Las Vegas, NV - Aqueduct in Queens, New York will be the scene of the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes this Saturday, April 25. A purse of $200,000 will be on the line for horses four years old and upward as they go 1 1/4 miles on Aqueduct's dirt track.
Eight older horses will take to the track in the Excelsior Stakes - race 8 on Aqueduct's Saturday schedule. Post time is 4:57 PM. Here is a peek into the past performances of all eight combatants for this Grade 3 stakes.
Wicked Strong - returned to action after six months away and finished a close fourth in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap March 7 after recording a DNF after clipping heels and falling in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park in September. Before that was a second to V.E. Day in the Travers Stakes August 23 and good win over Tonalist in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy July 26. He had consecutive fourth place finishes before that in Triple Crown races - in the Belmont Stakes and in the Kentucky Derby and he also had an eye-opening win - in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct April 5. Wicked Strong has 12 career starts with three wins, two seconds and a third place finish and had been in every start last year before the disappointment of the Gold Cup. Rajiv Maragh has been tabbed to ride from post 7 as Wicked attempts to snap a three race losing streak dating back to July.
Turco Bravo - improving Chilean bred Gary Contessa trained gelding has 11 wins, 13 seconds and four third place finishes in 39 career starts and has a win, two seconds and two third place finishes in seven US starts. He makes his graded stakes debut Saturday off a nice win in the minor Stymie Stakes here March 22 after a third in the minor Evening Attire Stakes on this track in February and consecutive seconds - the minor Jazil Stakes January 19 and the minor Native Dancer January 3. Turco Bravo has been very competitive in every start this year and is expected to be again Saturday when he departs from the outside gate 8 with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Cousin Stephen - finished third in the 2014 Grade 3 Sam F Davis Stakes for trainer Chad Brown and followed that with a sixth in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in March of last year. He enters having recorded two wins and two seconds in his last four starts overall- a second behind Turco Bravo last time out in the minor Stymie Stakes on this track followed consecutive Allowance Optional Claiming scores at Parx and a second in a similar race in November. Cousin Stephen has four wins, two seconds and a third place finish in 12 career starts and enters this week in arguably the best form of his career. Kendrick Carmouche has the mount from post 5.
North Slope - finished second in the 2013 Hall of Fame Stakes and has been up and down since. Last time out was a third behind Turco Bravo and Cousin Stephen in the minor Stymie Stakes here March 22 which followed a win in the minor Evening Attire Stakes on this track February 22 and a disappointing ninth in the Grade 3 WL McKnight Handicap in December. He has won three of his last five starts overall - in OK form ahead of this weekend and looks for his first graded stakes score from gate 4 with Junior Alvarado guiding him.
Red Rifle - speedy Todd Pletcher trained gelding has five wins, four seconds and a third place finish in 15 career starts and enters off his worst performance in some time - a fifth in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap March 28. Before that was a third in the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap February 21 and a terrific win in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup in November. He also had an OK second in the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland October 16 after a win in the minor Yankee Affair Stakes at Belmont Park September 6 and seconds in consecutive Allowance Optional Claiming races. He won the minor Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston in March, 2014 as well. Red Rifle has placed in six of his last seven starts overall but will be out to avenge an uncharacteristic effort last time out - from gate 6 with Irad Ortiz in the reins.
Stormin Monarcho - multiple stakes winner won a couple of Allowance Optional Claiming races at Delaware Park at this time last year for trainer David Jacobson and has four wins in 10 starts since including the minor DTHA Governors Day Stakes at Delaware Park in September, the Richard W. Small Stakes in November, the Swatara Stakes in November and a Starter Stakes on this track last time out March 21. He failed to place in his previous two starts before the Starter Stakes score however. Stormin Monarcho looks for his first graded stakes win in his fourth try Saturday when he leaves from post 3 with Cornelio Velasquez aboard.
Micromanage - has 27 career starts for trainer Todd Pletcher with seven wins, four seconds and five third place finishes - just one graded stakes score in 13 tries came in the Grade 3 Skip Away Stakes at Gulfstream in March, 2014. He also had a second in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational last year, a win in the minor Birdstone Stakes and a third in the Grade 3 Greenwood Cup. Micromanage had some ugly results scattered in there as well. He enters off consecutive fourth place finishes - the minor Stymie Stakes March 22 and the minor Evening Attire Stakes in February after consecutive victories - the minor Jazil Stakes in January and the minor Queens County Stakes in December - all results on this track. Micromanage is certainly experienced but has been inconsistent in his long career. Javier Castellano will be in the saddle from the rail hoping to cure that trend.
Effinex - had a win in the minor Empire Classic Handicap at Belmont Park October 18 for trainer James Jerkins after a third in an Allowance Optional Claiming September 28 and a second in the minor Albany Stakes in August. He has placed in just one of his last three starts entering Saturday's race - a win last time out in an Allowance Optional Claiming on this track followed consecutive fourths - the minor Alex M. Robb Stakes in December and the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup in November. Effinex has 14 career starts with four wins, a second and two third place finishes and has won two of his last four races heading into the weekend. Angel Arroyo has been tabbed to ride ass Effinex looks for his first graded stakes win.
Race 8 on Aqueduct's Saturday card with a Post Time of 4:57 PM.
||I. Ortiz, Jr.
||Turco Bravo (CHI)