01/22/2013 4:38PM

Aqueduct: Tug of War has Irad Ortiz ready to score

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Tom Keyser
Tug of War has won previously without the lead and may revert to off-the-pace tactics as he steps in with open company in Thursday's Aqueduct feature.

After combining to win 30 of 54 races run at Aqueduct last week, what will the Ortiz brothers do for an encore? That question will be answered in part Thursday, when apprentice Jose Ortiz rides the entire card and older brother Irad rides the first eight races, capped by a return call on Tug of War, the 8-5 morning-line choice in a first-level allowance that serves as the feature.

Tug of War, scratched by trainer Mike Hushion from Sunday’s Turnofthecentury overnight stakes to await this easier spot, was a punctual 4-5 favorite against second-level New York-bred allowance routers first out at the winter meet. He made all the pace and was geared down through the late stages by Irad Ortiz Jr., who was sidelined earlier this month because of a sprained ankle, but returned to win 17 races last week, highlighted by a five-bagger on Monday’s holiday program.

Tug of War has won previously without the lead and may revert to off-the-pace tactics as he steps in with open company, as Mordi’s Miracle, Rein King, and Shankopotamus all have speed.

Mordi’s Miracle disappointed in his first four starts for Todd Pletcher, but switched from turf to dirt during the final week of racing at the fall meet to wire a one-mile maiden special weight with a huge Beyer Speed Figure of 96. In preparation for his 4-year-old debut, the Zayat Sable homebred has turned in three workouts, including five furlongs in a bullet 1:01.20.

Jose Ortiz, who held a 41-38 meet lead on his brother after winning 13 races last week, replaces Irad on Rein King, a speedy gelding who set a fast pace to midstretch under these conditions last time out for trainer John Terranova.

Shankopotamus, who relishes off going, will be making his first start beyond seven furlongs for Linda Rice.

Burned Bridges steps up in class for Randi Persaud, after winning his first two starts on the inner track – a maiden special and a starter-optional claimer – at the turn of the year.

This Hard Land, who rallied from last to finish second in a photo first out at the meet, completes the field of six older runners. A deep closer with eight in-the-money finishes from nine starts on the inner track, the Rodrigo Ubillo-trained This Hard Land may get a favorable pace setup for his late run.