12/13/2012 4:04PM

Aqueduct: Saginaw targets 10th win of year in Gravesend Handicap


It’s hard to believe they haven’t crossed paths, but former stablemates Saginaw and Hillswick, two of the most prolific winners on the New York circuit over the past two years, tangle for the first time in Saturday’s 54th running of the $75,000 Gravesend Handicap, with defending titlist Frazil standing in their way.

The Gravesend is the eighth of nine races and the third leg of a $250,000-guaranteed late pick four that gets under way with race 6 at 2:50 p.m. Eastern.

Saginaw has won 9 of his 12 starts this year. He has been nearly flawless since fitted with blinkers back in late March by former trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., winning nine races – eight of those wins since claimed by David Jacobson – along with a runner-up finish in the Hudson Stakes. The only misfire came in the Met Mile, when he finished last of six.

“He runs well at a certain level, and we’re hoping he can take it to the next level in this race,” Jacobson said. “Seven furlongs or a mile might be a better distance for him, but he’s doing well, and we’re looking to him coming back against New York-breds at the end of the month” in the Alex M. Robb at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 26.

Hillswick, who has alternated between the barns of Jacobson and Rudy Rodriguez over the past two years, was reclaimed by “R-Rod” from a win at Saratoga. The 6-year-old gelding comes off a career-best effort to wire a third-level allowance at Laurel Park with a 105 Beyer Speed Figure.

“He can rate a little bit, but he’s probably going to be on the lead,” said Rodriguez, who was edged by a 19-18 count by Jacobson for the fall title and saddled two winners when the inner track opened Wednesday.

Frazil, meanwhile, won eight races on the New York Racing Association circuit last year, capped by a gritty score in the Gravesend for owner-trainer Linda Rice. He returned from a layoff toward the end of the fall meet with a runner-up finish in a starter handicap sprint.

“He’s had a few minor issues, including a quarter crack,” said Rice, who has saddled the gelding through 13 wins from 27 starts. “He’s been so good to me over the years I turned him out for four or five months. I would have liked to get a few more races into him, but there are limited opportunities. Hopefully, he’ll run well.”

Royal Currier, a multiple stakes winner who has won 12 of 28 starts – 11 of those victories for former trainer Patricia Farro – makes his first start for Rice.

Broad Rule and Isn’t He Perfect complete the field.