02/28/2013 4:55PM

Aqueduct: Summer Applause looks to rebound in Top Flight


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The return of Summer Applause to the races didn’t go as planned when she finished last in the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic on Jan. 26 after the saddle slipped early in the race and jockey Miguel Mena lost the irons.

On Saturday, Summer Applause will have a new trainer and a new jockey when she makes her second start of the year in the Grade 2, $200,000 Top Flight Handicap for fillies and mares at Aqueduct.

Summer Applause, a 4-year-old daughter of Harlan’s Holiday, will make her first start for trainer Chad Brown and will be ridden by John Velazquez in the Top Flight.

The Top Flight, run at 1 1/16 miles, will go as race 7 on an 11-race card that also features the Grade  3 Gotham and Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap.

As a 3-year-old trained by Bret Calhoun, Summer Applause won the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds and finished second by a head to Believe You Can in the Fair Grounds Oaks. She then finished fourth to that same rival in the Kentucky Oaks. Summer Applause was sidelined for the remainder of her 3-year-old season due to a knee chip.

Following the unfortunate incident in the Houston Ladies Classic, Summer Applause was transferred by her owners – Gillian Campbell, Greenwood Lodge Farm, and R  Group Management – to Brown.

“I’ve had her about a month,” Brown said. “She looks good, I like what I see. She’s a classy horse, has a good r è sum é . She’s a very easy horse to train, to be honest. She moves very well. I saw this race on the calendar, presented it to the owners, and we decided to give it a go.”

Sunny Desert puts her six-race winning streak on the line in the Top Flight, her first attempt in a graded stakes. Trained by John Parisella, Sunny Desert has won from six furlongs to a mile and 70 yards and was geared down in the final stages of a one-length victory in an overnight stakes going a mile and 70 yards here Jan. 6. The horse she beat that day, Moon Philly, has come back to win two stakes at Laurel.

“I thought she was going to show more speed last time, but she was lazy out of the gate, and [Ramon] Dominguez said he couldn’t get over how she relaxed,” Parisella said. “I know it’s an acid test. What’s great about it is she couldn’t be doing any better going in.”

With Dominguez still sidelined, Joel Rosario has picked up the mount on Sunny Desert, who breaks from post 3.

Royal Lahaina won a second-level allowance by 6 1/2 lengths Feb. 15 in her first start for trainer Rudy Rodriguez. Rodriguez said he and his brother, Gustavo, encouraged owner Jim Riccio Sr. to run in this spot, but Riccio initially didn’t want to run her back that quickly. Riccio acquiesced, and Royal Lahaina will start from post 6 under Jose Ortiz.

“It may be a little quicker than we want [to run back], but she’s training very good; she’s eating good,” Rodriguez said.

Twice the Lady, trained by Tony Dutrow, put forth a breakthrough performance when she won the Affectionately by two lengths here Jan. 26.

“I always saw potential in her and never got it out of her; that was the first time,” owner Michael Dubb said.

Sisterly Love won her first three starts and was purchased privately by Gary Barber and turned over to Mark Casse. She finished third after chasing Joyful Victory around the track in the Houston Ladies Classic.

“She ran good,” Casse said. “This is a huge jump up in class for her, but I would have to think she would be competitive in there.”

Lady Gracenote, Natalie Victoria, and Withgreatpleasure complete the field.