11/10/2011 12:48PM

Aqueduct: Emerald Beech, Mekong Melody get class relief for Long Island

Tom Keyser
Emerald Beech, with Alex Solis riding, has won four of her last five starts, including the Grade 3 Glens Falls at Saratoga.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Dropping from Grade 1 stakes, Emerald Beech and defending titlist Mekong Melody head a field of eight fillies and mares in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct.

The 55th running of the Long Island is the last graded turf race in New York this year. It is carded as race 8, and the third leg of a $250,000 guaranteed late pick four that begins with race 6 at 2:48 p.m. Eastern.

Alex Solis rode Mekong Melody to a win in last year’s Long Island, but hooked up with Emerald Beech this past summer, and he stays on the Augustin Stable homebred, who carries top weight of 119 pounds.

Emerald Beech entered her 5-year-old campaign with 1 win from 10 starts, but came into her own through the spring and summer to win four straight for trainer Jonathan Sheppard, beginning with a first-level allowance at Presque Isle Downs. She then came to New York for wins on firm, good, and soft turf, capped by a score in the Grade 3 Glens Falls at Saratoga on Labor Day.

Emerald Beech, whose streak was snapped with a fourth in the Flower Bowl, breaks from post 6 in the three-turn Long Island. “The Flower Bowl wasn’t her best showing,” said Sheppard “She was stuck down on the inside and couldn’t really get running until the stretch. She certainly wasn’t disgraced – it was a Grade 1. And, I think the 1 1/2 miles is the most suitable distance for her.”

Mekong Melody, an Irish-bred mare who won six of her first eight starts in the United States, has been blanked this season, but all six of her starts in 2011 have come in Grade 1 or Grade 2 stakes for Roger Attfield, who captured last week’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf with Perfect Shirl.

Mekong Melody was ninth in the E. P. Taylor behind stablemate Miss Keller most recently, but last fall rebounded from an off-the-board finish in that race to take the Long Island – her third win from as many starts at 12 furlongs. She carries 117 pounds with Rajiv Maragh.

Unbridled Essence, the only other graded stakes winner in the lineup, is winless in seven starts since a 41-1 upset in last year’s Grade 3 Matchmaker.

Akris Queen, Hasay, Hit It Rich, Little Often Anni, and Musical Rain complete the field.