03/29/2012 1:12PM

Aqueduct: Opus A faces two hurdles in Plugged Nickle


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Opus A, a dominant winner of New York-bred stakes in her last two outings, heads the field Saturday in the $75,000 Plugged Nickle Stakes for fillies and mares at Aqueduct.

The Plugged Nickle is the featured event on the last card of the week at the Big A. The track will be dark Sunday in observance of Palm Sunday.

Opus A, a 5-year-old trained by Rick Violette, is in the best form of her life, and figures to be favored against five rivals in the one-mile race on the main track.

Those looking for a chink in her impressive armor will point to two undeniable facts: She loves Aqueduct’s winterized inner strip, and she has never won an open race.

Violette is confident Opus A can clear both hurdles on Saturday.

With the unseasonably mild winter in the New York area combined with the concern over a rash of breakdowns on the inner track, Aqueduct reopened the main track ahead of schedule.

Opus A is 4-1-1 in 7 starts over the inner track and 1 for 5 on other surfaces.

While he would have loved to see Opus A get another run over the inner track in a two-turn route, Violette is confident she will handle the transition to the one-turn mile.

“It’s life, and you deal with the cards you are dealt,” Violette said. “She’s doing great and she trains over that racetrack. If she runs her 'A' game, I think we’ll be awfully tough.”

All five of Opus A’s wins have come against New York-breds, including the Hildy’s Grey stakes most recently on Feb. 26.

“It’s time to get a little braver with her,” Violette said. “Her last race was spectacular. If we are lucky enough to get this done, then we will try to find a little graded stakes for her. There is no reason to think she wouldn’t be up to that, but we’ll take one step at a time.”

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott – who will try to make history on Saturday by winning the Dubai World Cup with a filly, Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic hero Royal Delta – will be represented in the Plugged Nickle by Empress of Gold, a winner of two of her last three races.

Great Gracie Dane, Catch a Thief, Indian Burn, and One Last Dance complete the field.