04/02/2012 3:03PM

Aqueduct: Joan's Choice back from a break

Tom Keyser
Black N Beauty will have Rajiv Maragh aboard on Wednesday.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Joan’s Choice, who came within a nose of posting his fourth consecutive victory last time out, returns from a freshening of nearly eight weeks in Wednesday’s featured eighth race at Aqueduct.

Joan’s Choice will shoulder 123 pounds in the $55,000 starter handicap, conceding anywhere from three to eight pounds to Black N Beauty, Roman Invasion, Saginaw, True Heaven, and Writingonthewall in the one-mile race.

Joan’s Choice couldn’t beat maiden claimers in repeated tries at Aqueduct two years ago, but after picking up his first two wins at Suffolk Downs, he returned to New York and was transferred to trainer Rick Violette Jr. last summer. He tired late in two turf races at Saratoga, but then improved when he was switched back to dirt in the fall, beginning with a 13-1 score on the main track at Aqueduct.

Following two more wins on the inner track, Joan’s Choice arguably ran his best race in defeat on Feb. 10, when he was nosed out by Seniors Pride after a stretch-long battle. Joan’s Choice earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 101 for the effort, a number that was solidified when Seniors Pride returned to win an overnight stakes.

Saginaw also hit triple digits last time out, and indeed hardly appeared to break a sweat in wiring $30,000 claimers for Richard Dutrow Jr., who had claimed the New York-bred gelding out of his seasonal debut, and promptly lost him to David Jacobson.

Saginaw, who has never been worse than second in six prior starts on Aqueduct’s main track, will likely vie for favoritism with Joan’s Choice.

The pace projects to be strong. Black N Beauty was second to Joan’s Choice when claimed last fall by Chris Englehart, and has moved up since then as well. He comes off three bang-up races under Alan Garcia, but picks up Rajiv Maragh, as Garcia stays aboard Joan’s Choice.

Writingonthewall and Roman Invasion were early-pace winners with identical 91 Beyer Figures when they last ran in February.

In addition to Maragh, the local jockey colony is bolstered Wednesday by the returns of Javier Castellano, Jose Lezcano and John Velazquez.

Castellano, fresh off a record-setting meet at Gulfstream Park, returns on Natalie Victoria, the 8-5 morning-line choice in race 3.

Lezcano’s first mount back is Uncle Calvin, the 3-1 second choice in race 4.

Velazquez is named only on Pure Grit, the 5-2 favorite in race 5.