OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Saturday's $100,000 Gravesend for 3-year-olds and up will feature a rematch between the top three finishers of the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap run on Thanksgiving Day at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Highlighting the field for the six-furlong dash on the inner track at the Big A is multiple Grade 1 winner and Fall Highweight runner-up Palace.
Set to enter stud duty next year, Palace has proved a shrewd claim for trainer Linda Rice and owner Antonino Miuccio since the pair haltered the son of City Zip for $20,000 in October 2012. Now 6-years-old, Palace has won 12 of 29 career starts for earnings north of $1.5 million, and has notched victories in the 2013 Fall Highweight, the 2014 Grade 2 True North, 2014 Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt and 2014 Grade 1 Forego.
Coming off his best year on the racetrack, Palace has failed to duplicate the form that saw him become a breakout star in 2014. The bay horse kicked off the year with a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Carter, then finished third in the John Morrissey before missing by three-quarters of a length in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Invitational. The Rice trainee got his first win of 2015 a start later in the Hudson Handicap for New York-breds on October 24 at Belmont Park, but then had to settle for third in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash on November 14 at Laurel Park.
In his most recent start, Palace sat off a quick early pace and rallied up the rail in the Fall Highweight, coming within a head of victory under regular rider Cornelio Velasquez. Palace will be piloted again by Velasquez on Saturday, and the duo will depart from post 3.
Drawn one stall inside of Palace is Fall Highweight winner Green Gratto, who gave his trainer, Gaston Grant, his first career victory with his gutsy effort in the six-furlong sprint stake. The 5-year-old son of Here's Zealous has changed hands numerous times in his career, but has rarely shown up with an off effort through 36 lifetime starts. Earlier in the year, the dark bay horse finished second in the Carter at 53-1, and since Grant took over his training in July, he has not finished worse than fourth.
Sent off at 24-1 in the Fall Highweight, Green Gratto blasted off early under Kendrick Carmouche, ripping off splits of 22.29 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 44.71 for the half, and still had enough left to hold off a classy field in the stretch.
Carmouche will ride Green Gratto, who has earned $575,514 in his career, again on Saturday.
Fabulous Kid will take another crack at Green Gratto and Palace for owner/trainer David Jacobson after finishing third to the pair in the Fall Highweight. Two starts ago, the 4-year-old son of Congrats got the better of Green Gratto in an optional claimer on November 18 at the Big A. He will be ridden by Manny Franco from post 5.
Jacobson will also send out Heaven's Runway, who finished third to his stablemate and Green Gratto in his latest outing. Two starts ago, the bay horse also finished third in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap on October 31 at Belmont. He will break from post 4 with Chris DeCarlo in the irons.
Rounding out the field are Jake N Elwood, an eight-time winner trained by Ramon Preciado, and Alex the Terror, who is on a two-race win streak for trainer John Toscano.
Earlier on the card, six 2-year-old New York-breds will square off in the $100,000 Damon Runyan, led by stretch-out sprinters Spooked Out and Sudden Surprise from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Repole Stable.
Spooked Out is coming off a disappointing fourth-place finish in the King's Swan as the even-money favorite, while Sudden Surprise took the six-furlong Notebook on November 21 at the Big A in his most recent outing.
Breaking from posts 3 and 6 in the one mile, 70-yard Damon Runyan, Spooked Out and Sudden Surprise will be ridden by Franco and Hall of Famer John Velazquez, respectively.
Trained by Jimmy Ryerson for Blue Sapphire Farm, Taoiseach will look to keep his string of improbable victories going on Saturday. The son of Dublin broke his maiden two starts ago, rallying up the fence to prevail by a nose at 13-1 in a 6 ½-furlong maiden claimer, and then took a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer by three-quarters of a length at odds of 49-1. He will retain the services of Dylan Davis from post 4.
Completing the sextet are Extinct Charm, who broke his maiden last out in an off-the-turf race on December 3 at Aqueduct; Gehrig, an impressive maiden winner for trainer Bruce Levine; and E J's Legacy, who will try turf for the first time for trainer Linda Rice.
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