By Bob Ehalt
Now that the graded stakes have faded into a sunset that is arriving quicker every day, the winter fare for New York racing is now in place.
Reflective of that, Saturday’s featured race at Aqueduct is the $100,000 Garland of Roses, a six-furlong sprint stakes for fillies and mares.
The race attracted only five starters but there’s some quality among the quintet.
The even-money favorite is the Grade 2-winning filly Vertical Oak.
Winner of the Grade 2 Prioress in 2017, Vertical Oak has won three of seven starts in 2018 while never finishing worse than third. In her last start, she won the Dream Supreme Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Vertical Oak also won the Open Mind at Churchill Downs and Skipat at Pimlico earlier in the year.
The main threat promises to be the lightly raced Dream Pauline, the 5-2 second choice who was steadied while finishing third behind Vertical Oak in the Dream Supreme. The 3-year-old filly has only raced three times and was a perfect 2-for-2 before making her stakes debut in the Churchill Downs contest.
“She’s doing very well,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “She had a rough trip at Churchill, but since then she appears to be rounding back into form. She’s a very talented filly so we’re excited about her prospects.”
Also on hand is Sower (3-1), who has won four of seven starts for trainer Linda Rice in 2018 and is coming off a win in the Pumpkin Pie Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 28.
“She’s continued to train well coming out of the Pumpkin Pie and we’re excited about running her at this distance in which she’s had success,” Rice said. “She ran well at seven furlongs last out, and we’re hoping she can work out another good trip in here.”
The rest of the field includes Yorkieppo Princess (5-1) and Tigalalu (12-1).
The Garland of Roses lined up as the fifth race on Aqueduct’s nine-race card with post time scheduled for 2:17 p.m.