02/11/2011 2:32PM

Aqueduct stakes looks like two-horse contest

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – With New York’s top winter sprinter, Calibrachoa, awaiting the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap here on March 5, Sunday’s $60,000 Always Run Lucky Stakes at Aqueduct offers five horses a chance at stakes success.

The six-furlong race appears to boil down to Independence War and Temecula Creek, who finished second and third, respectively, behind Calibrachoa in the Grade 3 Toboggan on Jan. 22. Where Independence War may have the advantage is that his record over the inner track is 2-1-1 from 4 starts whereas Temecula Creek is 0 for 4, on the inner with a trio of third-place finishes.

Where Temecula Creek may have an advantage is that he is getting a switch to leading rider Ramon Dominguez after Cornelio Velasquez twice altered course in the stretch in the Toboggan trying to anticipate what the erratic Fastus Cactus was going to do.

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez was considering Temecula Creek for the Grade 2 General George Handicap next weekend at Laurel Park, but thought this race might come up an easier spot.

“The horse is nice and sound and fresh, the race is good for him,” Rodriguez said. “This is where I want to run my horses, too.”

Temecula Creek, who defeated Independence War three straight times last spring, breaks from the rail.

Independence War moves from the rail to the outside post in the Always Run Lucky and, like Temecula Creek, should benefit from an expected honest pace in front of him. In the Toboggan, Independence War was making his first start for trainer Patricia Farro and her owner, Michael Ciaccio, who had claimed the 6-year-old gelding for $40,000 in his previous start.

In the Toboggan, Independence War split horses in deep stretch, coming up a half-length short to Calibrachoa while finishing one-length ahead of Temecula Creek.

“We were happy – he ran a game race,” said Mike Farro, assistant trainer to his wife, Patricia. “He’s as honest as they come. That’s why we claimed him – the horse just runs.”

Farro said that Independence War lost a little bit of training time because of track conditions at Parx Racing, but the horse has had eight races since last August.

Deputy Daney won the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes over Aqueduct’s inner track last January. He has since plummeted into the lower level claiming ranks and blew a three-length lead in the stretch of a 5 1/2-furlong race last month at Laurel. Deputy Daney and Charles Town shipper Kruger Park looks like the speed of the race. Calvello, claimed for $25,000 last out, completes the compact field.