03/27/2013 3:14PM

Aqueduct: Zaphyra among five invaders in Friday optional claimer

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Zaphyra (left) will make her 2013 debut and her first start for trainer-owner Bruce Levine in Friday's featured optional claimer.

Shippers abound in Friday’s featured eighth race, as five of the eight fillies and mares in the one-mile optional claimer last ran out of town.

Among the new faces are Zaphyra and Roman Invader, who concluded their productive 2012 campaigns with sharp efforts for former trainer Michael Reavis at Hawthorne Park last December. They make their seasonal debuts as the only entrants in for the $62,500 claiming price.

Zaphyra is not really a “new face.” She made 10 of her first 11 starts on the New York circuit, including wins on Aqueduct’s inner dirt track and at Belmont in 2010 prior to a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap. This will be her first local outing since a fourth at the Big A’s 2011 spring meet and her first start for owner-trainer Bruce Levine, who purchased her over the winter.

“I didn’t buy her on the blind,” Levine said of the 7-year-old mare, who traded decisions with Roman Invader last fall and closed out the year by notching her sixth career victory Dec. 7.

Zaphyra has posted four workouts since returning to New York. “She’s doing really well,” Levine said. “I would’ve run her on the inner, but the race didn’t go.”
Levine also entered Hard Life, who has finished in the money in all nine of her starts at Friday’s one-mile distance. She was a distant third in her first start of the year.

“I’m kind of on the fence about running her,” Levine said.

Roman Invader makes her local debut for new trainer Jason Servis, who went 11 for 45 on the inner track.

The 8-5 morning-line favorite is Royal Lahaina, who won her two starts on the inner track by a combined 12 1/2 lengths. She earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 90 in her first start for the currently suspended Rudy Rodriguez on Feb. 15.

Gustavo Rodriguez, who had posted a 5-5-3 record from 16 starters deputizing for his brother through Sunday, saddles Royal Lahaina, who was scratched from the Grade 2 Top Flight on March 2.

Bella’s Fantasy, Coco Ecolo, Force de La Nature, and Ode to Sami complete the field.

◗ Five New York-bred fillies and mares entered Saturday’s $75,000 Broadway Stakes at six furlongs.

From the rail out, the field is: Sunny Desert, Nicole’s Miss, Lady On the Run, Here’s Zealicious and Clear Pasaj.