11/06/2009 1:00AM

Grand Couturier solid in Smith

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Barbara D. Livingston
Grand Couturier, winner of the Bowling Green, had a tough trip in the Joe Hirsch.

A graded stakes tripleheader highlights Saturday's live racing at Aqueduct, with the Nashua and Tempted for 2-year-olds on the main track, and the Red Smith on turf.

The Grade 2, $150,000 Red Smith Handicap, scheduled for 1 3/8 miles around three turns, is the last graded stakes of the season in New York for grass runners.

The one to beat is Grand Couturier, a multiple Grade 1 winner who was 5-1 in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf following a win in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic by more than 10 lengths.

"Once we decided not to go to California again this year, this was the game plan," said trainer Bobby Ribaudo. "It's a logical spot for him, and there aren't too many other places for him to go."

After finishing 11th in last year's BC Turf, Grand Couturier began his 6-year-old campaign with a trio of fifth-place finishes, including a traffic-filled stretch run in the Sword Dancer, a race he had won the two previous years.

After the Sword Dancer, Ribaudo dropped Grand Couturier into the Grade 2 Bowling Green opening weekend at Belmont's fall meet, and he responded with his best performance of the season, rallying from last to win going away and recording a Beyer Speed Figure of 105.

"The Bowling Green confirmed he's still a racehorse," said Ribaudo.

In defense of his title in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, run through a driving rainstorm over a waterlogged turf course, Grand Couturier steadied and altered course in the stretch to finish fourth, and was placed third via disqualification.

"He actually came out of that race pretty good," said Ribaudo. "Things have gone well with him from a soundness point of view this year, although we haven't had the best of luck with the weather."

Among those set to oppose Grand Couturier are Expansion, who will be making his stakes debut for Kiaran McLaughlin, and Jambalaya, who was sidelined more than two years after winning the 2007 running of the Arlington Million, and returned to win an allowance at Woodbine seven weeks ago for trainer Catherine Day Phillips.

The Grade 2, $150,000 Nashua for males and the Grade 3, $100,000 Tempted for fillies will be run out of the chute at one mile.

Several fillies in the Tempted step up off impressive wins, notably Cuff Me, a New York-bred who has won both her starts in blowout fashion for Tony Dutrow, and Ailalea, a four-length maiden winner last out for Todd Pletcher.

Nonnia Mia looms the one to catch after setting the pace and winding up third in the Grade 1 Frizette.

Worstcasescenario, who won the Grade 2 Adirondack as much the best, has trained well over Aqueduct's main track since being eased at odds-on in the Matron.

"Her feet were an issue," trainer Rick Violette said. "She came out of that race with her feet stinging, but we put some glue-on shoes on her and she's doing great."

In the Nashua, Violette entered Systemic Risk, whose first two starts were fourth-place finishers on turf, including the Vision overnight stakes.

"His asset is distance, so we'll take a look at the field and make a game-time decision," he said.

Likely to vie for favoritism in the Nashua are Thank U Philippe, second to Jackson Bend in the $400,000 In Reality at Calder, and Toboggan Slide, who is 3 for 3 after taking the Maryland Million Nursery.