OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- Seven of the 12 runners in the body of Saturday's $150,000 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct are coming out of graded stakes races. But it might be the one-two finishers of a recent listed race at the Meadowlands who are the ones to beat.
Rousing Victory beat Dave by a length in the John Henry Stakes last month at the Meadowlands. If either horse is able to duplicate his Meadowlands effort at Aqueduct on Saturday, he should be in the mix of a competitive renewal of the Grade 2 Red Smith, run at 1 3/8 miles.
Rousing Victory, trained by Phil Serpe, finished second in the Red Smith last year to Grade 1 winner King's Drama. He hadn't run that race back until the John Henry, when he overcame a slow pace and ran down Dave in the final furlong.
"It's as simple as this," Serpe said. "When Rousing Victory is doing well he's doing well. He's an in-and-out horse but he spends just as much time out as he does in. He's either doing great or he's not doing great, and when he's not doing great he just runs those lackluster races. He seems to be doing good now. We'll see what happens."
Serpe noted that distance is a big key for Rousing Victory. In his lone win of 2005, Rousing Victory won the 1 5/8-mile John's Call at Saratoga. Cornelio Velasquez rides Rousing Victory from post 3.
Dave, trained by Barclay Tagg, accredited himself well in his first start at a marathon distance in the John Henry. After running near the back of the pack, Dave struck the front outside the eighth pole but just couldn't hold off Rousing Victory.
"We've always thought he'd like a long distance and we had to find another outlet for him," trainer Barclay Tagg said. "He came out of it good, and I think he's put on weight since the race."
Grand Couturier will take some action based on his company lines. In his last race in France, he finished fourth behind one-two finishers Rail Link and Red Rocks. Rail Link won the Arc de Triomphe and Red Rocks won the Breeders' Cup Turf. In two starts in North America, Grand Couturier finished third in the Sword Dancer and fourth in the Sky Classic. Mike Smith rides from post 10 for trainer Robert Ribaudo.
Embossed, winner of the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Turf, ships in for trainer Niall O'Callaghan and may attempt to steal this on the front end in a race seriously void of speed.