Gold Standard (Stonestreet Stables and LNJ Foxwoods) handled a step up in class with a last-out runner-up effort in her stakes debut and will look for her first win against such caliber as part of an eight-horse field of sophomore fillies in Friday's Grade 3, $200,000 Comely Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The 70th running of the Comely, contested at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, is one of three stakes on Friday's card as part of the Thanksgiving Festival, with the 10-race card also offering the $150,000 Gio Ponti for 3-year-olds and the $150,000 Forever Together for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up on the turf.
||Stand for the Flag
|Uriah St. Lewis
||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Gold Standard shipped to New York on Sunday, a day after trainer Brad Cox saw the Medaglia d'Oro filly work four furlongs in 49.20 seconds on the Churchill Downs main track. It was her fifth breeze at Churchill since running second to Lady Apple by a half-length in her last start in the Grade 3 Remington Park Oaks on September 29.
"She breezed fantastic at Churchill yesterday and is getting on a plane this morning," Cox said. "She's had time off between her last start and this one, and it's her last chance to run against 3-year-old fillies and we're looking forward to it. She's given us a good effort every time and we look forward to the same next Friday."
Gold Standard earned a personal-best 88 Beyer Speed Figure for her stakes debut and is 3-2-1 in six starts. The Kentucky bred, who was purchased for $1.2 million at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-Year-old Sale, ran second and third, respectively, in her first two career starts on the grass. After switching to dirt, she won her next three races, starting with a maiden-breaking romp at 1 1/16 miles in an off-the-turf contest on June 8 at Churchill before posting a nine-length score at one mile on July 21 at Ellis Park and a 2 ½-length win at the same track on September 2.
After earning blacktype in the Remington Park Oaks at 1 1/16 miles, Gold Standard will stretch out to the Comely distance for the first time.
"She has a lot of class and we feel that she's a graded stakes filly; she proved that last time," Cox said. "We think she has a big future and will improve with age as well. She's not a real big filly but she always worked well and showed talent on the dirt. I don't regret starting her on the turf. I think it put a good foundation in her, but she definitely prefers dirt."
Hall of Famer and two-time Comely winner Javier Castellano will pick up the mount, with the duo set to depart from post 2.
"He's never been on her, but she's easy to ride. With a good trip, she can do well," Cox said.
Mathis Stable's Bellera will look to rebound for the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm effort on November 2 at Aqueduct in which she was squeezed by Jeltrin and jockey Jose Lezcano was unseated. Both rider and horse were uninjured, and Bellera will look to recapture the form she showed in starting her career 2-2-0 in four starts, starting with a maiden-breaking win at second asking on July 6 at Monmouth Park and a five-length score next out on August 21 on a sloppy Saratoga Race Course main track.
The Todd Pletcher trainee, bred in Florida by Hardacre Farm, will have Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons from post 3.
"Thankfully, she came out of it unscathed," Pletcher said on the Turnback the Alarm. "You hate to waste an effort like that, but she seems to have bounced out of that in good shape. She's been training well since then."
Arrifana, undefeated through her first four starts, will step up to stakes company after besting an allowance field by a half length at 1 1/16 miles on November 1 at Laurel. A 10-length debut winner on August 1 at Laurel, the Curlin filly followed with a two-length victory in a seven-furlong sprint at Saratoga on August 31 and won her last two starts at Laurel. Conditioned by Kelly Rubley, Arrifana will again team with jockey Julian Pimentel, breaking from post 4.
Calumet Farm's Oxy Lady will make her seventh consecutive stakes start for trainer Jack Sisterson. The 2018 Grade 3 Tempted-winner will be returning to the Big A for the first time since running second in the Busher on March 9. Following a sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 Raven Run on October 19 at Keeneland, the Oxbow filly will break from the outside post with jockey Declan Cannon on the call.
Rounding out the field is Classic Fit, who ran third in the Remington Park Oaks and was second to Dunbar Road in the Grade 2 Mother Goose on June 29 at Belmont, for conditioner Michael Stidham [post 7, Irad Ortiz, Jr.]; Stand for the Flag, who enters her stakes bow off back-to-back wins for trainer Jason Servis [post 1, Jose Lezcano]; Afleet Destiny, a five-length winner against optional claimers on November 11 at Parx for trainer Uriah St. Lewis [post 6, Anthony Salgado]; and Lightscameraaction, a winner against optional claimers last out on October 18 at Keeneland, for trainer Chris Block [post 5, Joe Bravo].
The Comely, first contested in 1945, is named in honor of the filly who, as a 2-year-old, defeated older male horses in capturing the first running of the Fall Highweight in 1914. Among its most famous winners was Hall of Famer Ruffian in 1975.