03/20/2012 2:52PM

Aqueduct: Cash for Clunkers maturing for Violette

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Barbara D. Livingston
Coco Ecolo ran fourth in the Top Flight.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Cash for Clunkers, an impressive first-level allowance winner in her only start this year, breaks from the outside and will be favored against four rivals in Thursday’s one-mile feature at Aqueduct.

Cash for Clunkers was purchased as a 2-year-old for $200,000 in March of 2010, didn’t make it to the races until last September, when she ran third at Monmouth Park. She has won two of three subsequent starts at the Big A in blowout fashion, beating maidens by nearly 10 lengths at the fall meet, and earning a 92 Beyer Speed Figure while under a hand ride late from Alan Garcia in her 4-year-old debut.

“She has tested our patience on occasion, but she’s been worth the while,” said Rick Violette Jr., whose inner-track starters were in the money 67.6 percent of the time, the highest percentage among the top dozen trainers at the meet.

“She can be a little bit of a challenge gate-wise – sometimes she fights it and sometimes she’s more amenable – but last time she left there kind of composed, and let Alan do what he wanted with her,” he said. “It was by far her most professional race.”

Coco Ecolo, Eden Star, and Stephanie Jayne can regularly be found on or near the lead as well, so the stage may be set for a skirmish up front.

Coco Ecolo led for every step but the last against a similar group two starts back. She comes off a fourth-place finish in a muddy renewal of the Grade 2 Top Flight for Kelly Breen.

Stephanie Jayne won her first two local starts decisively for Kiaran McLaughlin, before catching a muddy track and weakening late at even money in this condition.

Lemon Tiger is at her best on grass, but the New York-bred mare came from far back to win on the inner dirt before a freshening. She edged Stephanie Jayne for third when she returned three weeks ago, and could wind up with a tactical edge as the lone true closer.

◗ Big Brownie, who withstood an inquiry to give Irad Ortiz Jr. his first win as a journeyman rider in the recent Holly Springs overnight stakes, is among a decent-sized group of New York-bred fillies and mares eyeing Saturday’s $75,000 Broadway Stakes. Bailzee, Devilish Spirit, Final Mesa, Lady Gracenote, Midnight Visit, Nicole’s Miss El, Saltamontes and Victoryat Last are also likely for the six-furlong race.