03/15/2012 3:04PM

Aqueduct: Excelsior Stakes draws deep, compact field

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Redding Colliery will be the one to catch in the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Jim Hooper made the following observations as he perused the past performances of the six horses entered to run in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct.

“This might be the best race they’ve had all year in New York,” said Hooper, who trains Inherit the Gold, who seeks a repeat in Saturday’s Excelsior at 1 1/8 miles. “Which one of these horses would you throw out?”

From a handicapping perspective, Hooper is correct. A case can be made for any of the six horses in the race – from 2-1 morning-line favorite San Pablo to 15-1 longshot Norman Asbjornson.

Handicapping the race starts with determining if anyone can run early with Redding Colliery, who enters the Excelsior off a two-length victory in the Evening Attire here Jan. 28. Redding Colliery, a 6-year-old son of Mineshaft trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, came back off an 11-month layoff with a disappointing effort in an overnight stakes at Penn National.

In the Evening Attire, however, Redding Colliery was back to his graded stakes-winning form, going gate to wire over a speed-favoring surface to win by two lengths.

“You do need to see it to give you a little more confidence that you’re not a year older, a step slower,” said Art Magnuson, McLaughlin’s New York-based assistant. “We saw the same horse was still here.”

Redding Colliery is 2 for 2 over the inner track, both wins coming in front-running fashion and both coming when he broke from the rail. Redding Colliery has the rail again Saturday.

Birdrun, San Pablo, and Marilyn’s Guy all have shown speed in the past. Birdrun, making his first start since running second in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon last fall, is the track-record holder for 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park, a race in which he pressed the pace.

“He looks fantastic,” said Leana Willaford, assistant to trainer Bill Mott. “It’s a good place to start.”

In his first start off an 11-month layoff, the normally forwardly placed Marilyn’s Guy overcame a slow start and won a prolonged stretch drive with San Pablo to win the As Indicated by a nose at a mile.

“I was surprised and impressed with such a big effort off a layoff,” trainer Tony Dutrow said. “He’s come out of the race very well and he’s training very well for this. He’s coming back on relatively short rest and he’s adding an extra eighth of a mile. Those are some things that are on my mind.”

What’s on Hooper’s mind is whether there will be a contested pace to set things up for his late-running Inherit the Gold, who rolled to a 6 1/4-length win in this race last year. Inherit the Gold is coming off a half-length loss to the loose-on-the-lead Stormy’s Majesty in the Mr. G.J.G. Stakes on Feb. 12.

“I can’t see where I can’t get two of them knocking heads,” Hooper said. “He’s doing great.”

Norman Asbjornson is 15-1 on the line, but has run well in two starts over the inner track and is coming off a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 98 earned in an allowance win at Parx Racing on Jan. 28.

Broad Brush may yield Wood starter

Seven horses were entered for the $75,000 Broad Brush Stakes for 3-year-olds, though three are cross-entered in other spots. The 1 1/16-mile race could produce a starter for the $1 million Wood Memorial on April 7.

Street Life, a visually impressive maiden winner here Feb. 11, is expected to run here instead of the Private Terms at Laurel. He’ll face Swag Daddy, winner of two New York-bred stakes earlier this meet.

Festive Spirit, Copy My Swagger, and Hard Facts are expected to run.

Jackin My Style is entered back here Sunday. Romp City is cross-entered in Saturday’s Private Terms.

Excelsior Stakes, Post Time: 4:52 ET Saturday

Purse: $150,000; 1 1/8 miles

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

ML Odds

1

Redding Colliery

K. McLaughlin

A. Garcia

5-2

1

Birdrun

W. Mott

J. Alvarado

5-1

1

Inherit The Gold

J. Hooper

E. Castro

6-1

1

San Pablo

T. Pletcher

C. Velasquez

2-1

1

Marilyn's Guy

A. Dutrow

C. Lopez

3-1

1

Norman Asbjornson

C. Grove

J. Acosta

15-1