04/17/2012 2:48PM

Aqueduct: Ward, Pletcher clash in first 2-year-old race


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Hope springs eternal in Thursday’s third race, a $60,000 maiden dash that is New York’s first baby race of the season.

A field of seven – two colts, one gelding, and four fillies – entered the 4 1/2-furlong sprint.

Among them are Shanghai Bobby and Ju Ju Eyeballs, trained respectively by Todd Pletcher and Wesley Ward. This could be a sneak preview of more such clashes to come, when Belmont’s revamped spring program gets under way and offers $70,000 pots along with a $100,000 bonus to any maiden winner that wins a graded stakes on the circuit in 2012.

“Hopefully, I’ll be in every one,” quipped Wesley Ward, who is among the hottest trainers in North America after sending out five winners at Woodbine and four more at Keeneland, including Gypsy Robin in the Grade 2 Beaumont and runaway 2-year-old winners Barisoff and Skylander.

Those with a nose for money will note Shanghai Bobby sold for $105,000 at Keeneland as a yearling, whereas four of his opponents, Ju Ju Eyeballs, Majestic Wind, The Party’s Here and Zip City Miss, sold for $17,500.

That’s $17,500 combined.

In the wake of recent workouts at Palm Meadows and Keeneland, Ju Ju Eyeballs looks faster than her purchase price of $1,700 suggests. “I bought her as a weanling, in a snowstorm when it was about 37 below,” Ward recalled. “She’s very talented. The only problem is she’s still in Kentucky and getting on the van [later Tuesday afternoon]. You never know how that’ll affect them.”

Do You Smell Smoke, based at Penn National for trainer Erin McClellan, will have an experience edge. He dueled for the lead at Pimlico last Friday and finished a clear second. The colt is by Smoke Glacken, the 1996 Hopeful winner and champion sprinter the following year.

The Party’s Here, breaking from the rail, and Cabs Are Here, breaking outside, are coupled for owner-trainer Matthew Peebles.

In first-level allowance action:

◗ The improved Truth Will Tell, who has recorded consecutive Beyer Figure tops since removing blinkers for owner-trainer Brad Baker, heads the one-mile opener. Victory for V L Ts comes off a sharp score first time off a reclaim by Linda Rice.

◗ Hyper, who swept three starter allowance races at Gulfstream Park for Chad Brown, looms the shortest price of the day in race 7, scheduled for 1 1/1/6 miles on turf.