04/19/2011 2:57PM

Aqueduct: Hockley, Saint Eligiius back from long breaks


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Thursday’s second-level optional $50,000 claiming feature at Aqueduct shapes up as a potential key race whether the one-mile race is run around two turns on grass or out of the chute on the main track.

Among the seven entered for turf, four would be making their first start of the year, most notably Hockley and Saint Eligius.

Hockley was purchased as a 2-year-old by Darley Stable for $560,000, and showed promise finishing in the money in two Saratoga maiden races against Dublin, who won the Hopeful later that summer, and Rule, a dual graded stakes winner of nearly $900,000.

After running seventh in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, Hockley went to Southern California and raced six times on turf for trainer Eoin Harty. After a maiden win at Santa Anita and an allowance win at Hollywood Park, he wound up sixth in Del Mar’s Oceanside Stakes won by Twirling Candy, who has since won three graded stakes.

Sidelined nine months, Hockley, now with trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, makes his return off some solid workouts at Palm Meadows, the latest a bullet half-mile.

“He trains like a good one so we’re hopeful,” said assistant trainer Art Magnuson, who got married Saturday. “We are kind of hoping at some point to try dirt again with him, so he could stay in if the race comes off the grass.”

Saint Eligius, formerly with McLaughlin, also kept tough company as a 3-year-old, winning two of his first three grass starts before finishing seventh in the Grade 2 American Turf.

Cornelio Velasquez, who entered the final week with a 20-16 lead on Ramon Dominguez, is named to ride Saint Eligius, who returns from a 356-day layoff first time out for Tony Dutrow.

Dominguez is back aboard Dominant Jeannes for the first time since the gelding’s maiden win on the inner track New Year’s Day. The 4-year-old Dominant Jeannes has raced only once since then for Tom Albertrani– a third behind the consistent Marilyn’s Guy on March 2 – and would be making his turf debut.

El Churruca, a shipper from Parx Racing, is the lone entrant to have won on non-firm turf – that win coming on a yielding Atlantic City course off a layoff in April 2009. His turf earnings for Ramon Preciado are in excess of $300,000 – more than the rest combined.

Charles Russell, Crew, and W.W.’s Lady’s Man also entered for turf.

Avenging Spirit, Hermosillo and Saginaw entered for dirt only.