04/27/2006 11:00PM

Aqueduct stakes preview for April 29


Race 3
1 Mile
The Withers (Grade 3)
Three year olds
Purse $150,000.

A field of only 4 will contest the Withers at Aqueduct on Saturday, but there are some horses with potential in the field, and the race may turn out to be a starting point for some late-blooming 3-year-olds.

Luxembourg paired up Beyer tops in his two starts of 2006, and the lightly raced colt may be ready for another big step forward. Trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., Luxembourg was visually impressive whipping entry-level optional claimers over a sealed sloppy track in his last start. He cruised to the lead while in hand in upper stretch, and was never asked for his best en route to the 4-length victory. Ridden on Saturday by Edgar Prado, Luxembourg should be close to the pace, and likely will be prominent when the field turns for home.

Bernardini is bred to be a star being a son of A.P. Indy out of Grade 1 winner Cara Rafaela, but he has only raced twice in his career, and is recovering from a cough after winning his maiden by open lengths at Gulfstream Park. He may be the speed of the race, and shows a bullet 5-furlong workout in preparation for this start.

Doc Cheney chased gate-to-wire winner Saint Augustus over a speed-favoring track two starts ago, then was thrown to the wolves by Nick Zito when entered in the Florida Derby. He may offer the best price of the three top contenders, and could work out a good outside stalking trip behind the speeds.

Rob'em Blind, a former maiden claimer that earned stakes-placed status in the Whirlaway over the inner track, completes the lineup. Ridden by Eibar Coa, Rob'em Blind will need to improve from a speed figure perspective in order to win this.

1. Luxembourg
2. Bernardini
3. Doc Cheney

Race 9
1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
The Beaugay Handicap (Grade 3)
Fillies and mares
Purse $100,000.

The Beaugay features the return of Angara, the Grade 1 Beverly D. winner of 2005. Angara will make her first start under the tutelage of Bill Mott, and she was placed in some tough races against males last season. She tailed off form during the latter half of the year, and finished a non-threatening seventh in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Making her first start since October, handicappers can make the case that this is a prep race for something longer down the road, and Angara may not be worth the expected short price.

Mott will also send out Pommes Frites, a daughter of Dynaformer that has won her last two starts in gate-to-wire fashion at Gulfstream. A headstrong sort, she has seemingly found the running style best suited to her, and looms the dominant speed in the Beaugay. The tight turns of the Aqueduct turf course may work to her advantage, and she will make the important third start of the form cycle with improving Beyer Speed Figures on display.

Brunilda also shows improving numbers, and she was a solid second in the Grade 3 Honey Fox in her last race. That race can be classified as a key race as the winner, Wend, returned to win the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland with a 98 Beyer while third finisher Honey Ryder came back to take the Grade 3 Orchid at Gulfstream with a career-best 104. Brunilda has good tactical speed, and should be making her move on the final bend.

Laurafina is an interesting longshot. She earned a 98 Beyer Speed Figure chasing the streaking My Lordship at Tampa Bay two starts back, then broke through the gate prior to the Grade 3 Hillsborough on March 18. She made up some late ground off a slow pace that day, and may bounce back to her best form if she is on good behavior.

Grade 2 winner Naissance Royale goes out for the dangerous Christophe Clement barn, and she prepped for this with a hard-earned victory in a 'n2x' allowance at Gulfstream. Her Beyers have declined since shipping here from France, but she should improve with a race under her belt.

1. Pommes Frites
2. Brunilda
3. Laurafina