04/04/2013 1:27PM

Aqueduct: Gazelle features intriguing matchup of Walkwithapurpose, Princess of Sylmar


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Combined, they have won nine consecutive races by more than 61 lengths.

Saturday, the Maryland-based Walkwithapurpose invades New York to take on local talent Princess of Sylmar in an intriguing renewal of the Grade 2, $250,000 Gazelle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct.

The Gazelle, which lost its Grade 1 status, was moved from the fall to the spring and now serves as a stepping-stone to the Kentucky Oaks, which will be run at Churchill Downs on May 3. The Gazelle, run at 1 1/8 miles over Aqueduct’s main track, offers 170 qualifying points for the Oaks on a 100-40-20-10 basis to the top four finishers.

After finishing third in her debut at Timonium last September, Walkwithapurpose has reeled off five consecutive victories. She overcame a stumbling start to win the Wide Country on Feb. 2 and then galloped to a 9 1/2-length victory in the Caesars Wish on March 2. All five of her wins have come at Laurel.

“We don’t know how much we have. We haven’t seen the bottom of her,” said Ignacio “Nacho” Correas IV, who trains Walkwithapurpose for Sagamore Farm. “No doubt we are facing a different quality horse. The big question will be how she’ll do if she’s tested. I think she’s very good. How good? We’ll find out Saturday.”

Jeremy Rose, aboard for all five of her victories, will ride Walkwithapurpose from the rail.

Princess of Sylmar, a Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Majestic Warrior, lost her debut sprinting at Penn National last October before winning a two-turn maiden race there by 19 lengths. She has jogged to three wins – all at a mile and 70 yards – over the inner track, including near-mirror-image performances in the Busanda and Busher Stakes.

“This is the first real test for her. She’s been very impressive in all of her races, and we’re impressed by what we see from her in the mornings as well,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “Step up in competition, step out in distance, and first time on the Aqueduct main track – so she’s got some boxes she needs to check off.”

Pletcher certainly feels like the 1 1/8 miles of the Gazelle – and Kentucky Oaks – are well within Princess of Sylmar’s ability.

“What’s been impressive in her races is what she’s done from the eighth pole to the finish line – she’s been full of run from that point,” Pletcher said. “We’re hoping to see more of that.”

Princess of Sylmar will break from post 6 under Javier Castellano.

Trainer Bill Mott will send out the uncoupled entry of Close Hatches and Watrugonnadorosie, both of whom wintered in south Florida.

Close Hatches rallied from well back to win a seven-furlong maiden race before going gate to wire in a first-level allowance race at 1 1/16 miles.

“She’s done nothing wrong,” Mott said.

Watrugonnadorosie finished third behind Emollient in a first-level allowance race Feb. 16 at Gulfstream Park in her first start around two turns.

“She ran a solid race last time, we were thinking two turns should be okay for her,” Mott said. “We’ll take our shot and see how she does.”

Let Me Entertain U, winner of the Beru Stakes after finishing third to Princess of Sylmar in the Busher, and Red Hot Tweet, a maiden winner two back for Graham Motion, complete the field.