11/29/2011 4:59PM

Aqueduct: If you dig deep, there are reasons to like Irish Lion


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The complexion of Thursday’s first-level allowance feature scheduled for a mile over Aqueduct’s inner dirt track could be impacted by whether or not Wednesday’s first-level turf allowance feature was moved to the dirt due to rain.

Five of the nine horses carded for Thursday’s $53,000 allowance race were entered as main-track only starters for Wednesday’s eighth race, which would be run at a mile over the inner should the race come off the turf.

Irish Lion is only entered to run Thursday and looks a bit intriguing if one goes back deep enough in his form. He has not run on dirt since the Grade 3 Ohio Derby on June 4. In that race, he raced three-to-four wide and was in front at the top of the stretch before settling for third, beaten three lengths by Caleb’s Posse, who finished the year with a pair of Grade 1 victories, including the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Since the Ohio Derby, Irish Lion has raced twice on synthetics and twice on turf with no success. He fell down past the wire following a sixth-place finish in the Maryland Million Turf on Oct. 1, and was subsequently transferred to trainer Bill Badgett. Since coming to New York, Irish Lion shows four works on dirt, including a bullet half-mile in 48.25 seconds over Belmont’s main track last Friday.

“He’s trained well on the dirt,” Badgett said. “I think he should run good on Thursday. I think he might be better going a little shorter too.”

Though Irish Lion comes into this race off a two-month layoff, he did record one of his three career victories off a 54-day freshening. That race, like this one, came going from turf to dirt. Carlos Montalvo rides from the rail.

Lubango and Post Ranch are two of the five horses that were main-track only entrants for Wednesday that are also in this spot. Lubango has two wins and a second since Chris Englehart claimed the 4-year-old gelding from Dale Romans for $16,000 at Presque Isle Downs in August. In his only dirt race around two turns, Lubango was defeated five lengths by Worldly on Derby Day at Churchill Downs.

Post Ranch has yet to try two turns, but his trainer Seth Benzel believes he will relish it. Post Ranch won a maiden race in the mud at Belmont on Oct. 14, but finished fifth in the mud at Churchill on Breeders’ Cup Friday. Benzel said the Churchill track was “greasy” and that his horse “came back like he didn’t even try.”

Earlier on Thursday’s card, the promising New York-bred 2-year-old filly Agave Kiss makes her second start following an impressive debut win at Belmont on New York Showcase Day. Agave Kiss, trained by Rudy Rodriguez, won by 6 1/4 lengths, running six furlongs in 1:09.79 and earning a Beyer speed Figure of 90. On paper, she appears to tower over her six rivals.