Updated on 09/18/2011 2:34AM

Afrashad tough but faces early heat


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - For as well as he has run this year, Afrashad is still in search of his first stakes victory, something the 4-year-old Smoke Glacken colt may get Thursday when he faces seven rivals in the $100,000 Fall Highweight Handicap, the traditional Thanksgiving Day feature at Aqueduct.

The Fall Highweight, which lost its graded status in 2004, kicks off HolidayFest at Aqueduct, a four-day span in which six stakes will be run over the main track. First post for Thursday's card is 11:25 a.m. with last post on the nine-race card slated for 3:10 p.m.

In five starts this year, Afrashad has three allowance wins and two graded-stakes defeats. He acted up a bit at Saratoga when he finished fourth in the Grade 2 Vanderbilt. Last out, in the Grade 3 Sport Page, Afrashad found seven furlongs a tad too far while facing strong early pressure. He was beaten 5 3/4 lengths by Silver Wagon, who won, and was beaten a neck on the wire for second by Sir Greeley, one of his major foes Thursday.

Cutting back to six furlongs should benefit Afrashad more than it will Sir Greeley, who has done his best work at seven furlongs or a mile. Afrashad, who drew post 3 and will carry 132 pounds, may have to deal with pace pressure from Kazoo and/or Lucky Gamble.

"The cutback to six is going to help; even if you get a torrid pace he's going to be a lot tougher than he was going seven," said Rick Mettee, who oversees the New York division of Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing stable.

Sir Greeley, who will carry high weight of 134 pounds, stumbled badly at the break of the Sport Page, yet still finished well to be second. The Sport Page was his first start since finishing sixth in the Metropolitan Handicap in May. Sir Greeley, who finished fourth in this race last year, is only 1 for 5 at six furlongs. He can be a bit headstrong in the gate, which is why trainer Jimmy Jerkens wasn't thrilled about his rail draw.

"Sometimes he stands in there too long and he starts leaning back and then he doesn't break too good," trainer Jimmy Jerkens said.

Richard Dutrow Jr. sends out the uncoupled entry of Mr. Whitestone and Kazoo. Kazoo's rein broke when he dueled early with Afrashad while finishing fourth in the Sport Page.

"If Mr. Whitestone runs his race it should set up perfect for him," Dutrow said. "We're going to put Kazoo on the lead. I can't see Kazoo and Afrashad running a big race because they're going to kill each other."