TOP FLIGHT HANDICAP | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 2 | 1 1/16 MILES
Stonestreet Stables LLC's homebred Teen Pauline moved up to take command soon after the gates opened on Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct, and never looked back en route to a 2 ½-length win.
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. earned his second graded win of the day, having earlier on the card piloted Strapping Groom to victory in the Tom Fool Handicap, when Teen Pauline finished 1 1/16 miles on the fast inner dirt in 1:45. That was after the dark bay daughter of Tapit set opening splits of :25 seconds and :49 ⅖ seconds while tracked by Flores Island just off her flank. Flash Forward and Royal Lahaina were drafting just behind Flores Island, with the former on the inside, up until drawing even to run in tandem entering the turn.
Teen Pauline was still on cruise control beneath Oritz and stayed that way throughout the lane while never threatened. The Todd Pletcher trainee paid $2.70 for the win as the near 2-5 favorite.
"She didn't break as sharp, but once she got the lead, her ears perked up, she took a strong hold of Irad, and I thought we were safe," assistant trainer Byron Hughes said.
"She broke a little slow today; she usually breaks in front," Ortiz agreed. "But she was keen and got the lead easy. I never sent her. I know she has speed and she was in front all the way easily. When I asked her, she took off."
Centring ran in last throughout the race but came running late to stick her nose in front of Flash Forward on the wire to take second.
"She closed with a lot of steam, but can't seem to crack that win in graded company," noted Tom Albertrani, who conditions Centring. "I don't know for how much longer she'll be training before we retire her. Again, a good effort."
"The speed kind of got loose out there," said the mare's rider, Rajiv Maragh. "She has a distinct style of running from off the pace and it didn't set up well for her. She still managed to run great for second."
Centring has now placed in six graded contests, including three Grade 1s from last season.
Flash Forward had 3 ¾ lengths to spare on Royal Lahaina on the wire, while Flores Island finished last. Summer Applause, the 8-5 morning-line favorite, was scratched right before the race by trainer Chad Brown. DRF's Dave Grening reported on Twitter that Brown said his filly "injured herself in stall at AQU, is a little off behind and they don't want to take a chance running her."
Teen Pauline improved her record to read 5-1-3 from 11 career starts and has banked $461,300 during her time on track. The four-year-old miss broke her maiden in her debut for trainer Steven Asmussen in July 2012 at Saratoga, and closed out her juvenile season with a third in the Spinaway one race later.
She didn't reappear until June of the next year and made her sophomore debut out of new trainer Pletcher's barn. Fourth in that optional claiming contest at Belmont, Teen Pauline filled the same spot in the Victory Ride next out before taking an allowance in her turf bow at Saratoga in mid-August. She would face turf rivals in her next pair of outings, running second in the Riskaverse and third in the Pebbles.
The Kentucky-bred returned to the main track at Aqueduct in late November, finishing third in the Comely, and finally broke through with a first stakes win in her 2014 opener on New Year's Day with a 4 ¾-length triumph in the Affectionately on the inner dirt. She followed up with a 10-length romp in the Ladies Handicap 24 days later, and is now three-for-three on Aqueduct's inner thanks to the Top Flight.
Teen Pauline is the first registered stakes winner out of the lightly raced Grade 3 victress Effectual. That Carson City mare counts as a half-sister fellow Grade 3 heroine Meter Maid, who is the dam of Grade 3 vixen Lemon Maid; undefeated juvenile stakes victor Barilko; and sire Haus of Dehere, who placed in a pair of Grade 3 contests during his time on track.
Teen Pauline's fourth dam is Grade 3 queen Dowery, and farther back in this female family one can find 1971 Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer Ack Ack.