Updated on 09/15/2011 1:38PM

Irving's Baby easing back in


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Eleven weeks after being eased against some of the best fillies and mares in the country, * will return to the races Saturday against decidedly softer competition in the $100,000, Grade 3 Ladies Handicap at Aqueduct.

Before being eased in the Grade 1 Beldame against Exogenous, Flute, and Spain, Irving's Baby was enjoying a solid 4-year-old season, with five stakes wins and a respectable third-place finish in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga. Her performance in the Beldame could be attributed to fatigue from a grueling campaign.

"She was really, really drained," said John Hassett, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher.

Irving's Baby flourished last winter, winning three consecutive ungraded stakes at Laurel Park by a combined 21 lengths. It was then that she confirmed her affinity for a distance of ground and racing on the front end. The Ladies is run at 10 furlongs.

"We finally figured her out," Hassett said. "You can't get loose on the lead going a mile and a sixteenth on the inner track."

Irving's Baby's biggest victory to date came in the Grade 3 Delaware Handicap in July, when she led every jump to win the $600,000 race at 18-1. That race was her second start off a layoff after she finished third in the Obeah Handicap, the prep for the Delaware 'Cap.

Hassett raised a bit of a red flag Wednesday morning when asked how Irving's Baby might fare on Saturday, her first start off a 77-day layoff.

"She's coming around," Hassett said. "I wish I had another week, but she just might get there. I would not be surprised if she won that race, but I would forgive her if she didn't."

Griffinite confirmed for Malibu

Griffinite, winner of the Grade 3 Lafayette Stakes in April, will ship to California on Saturday to run in next Wednesday's Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita, trainer Richard Lundy said.

Griffinite, a son of Unbridled's Song, finished first in a third-level allowance race over Aqueduct's inner track on Dec. 2. He was disqualified and placed fourth, however, for causing interference leaving the starting gate.

"He did everything that he needed to do for me other than collect a [winning] check," Lundy said. "He may not have been standing as square as he should have at the start. He was on a dead rail and the bias was very strong. He may not have had a brilliant performance, but it was workmanlike. He showed a good kick, he showed determination to win. He's come back and worked very well."

On Sunday, Griffinite worked six furlongs in 1:15.65 over a fast Aqueduct inner track. Griffinite was expected to work again on Friday.

The Dec. 2 allowance race was Griffinite's first start since June, when he finished fourth in the Leonard Richards Stakes at Delaware Park. He missed the summer and most of the fall with a variety of ailments ranging from problem feet to skin disease. Lundy believes he has Griffinite fit and ready for a big effort in the seven-furlong Malibu.

"I'm not going to ship him all the way out there unless I think we can win," Lundy said.

Among those expected to run in the Malibu are Early Flyer, Yonaguska, Scorpion, Discreet Hero, I Love Silver, Mo Mon, San Nicholas, and Until Sundown.

Arromanches scratches

The streaking Arromanches will have to wait another day to try for his ninth consecutive victory, as he was scratched from a $50,000 claiming race on Wednesday. Trainer Scott Lake and owner Richard Englander went with Esteemed Friend, the 2-5 favorite, who lost the race by a head to Dolfmeister.

Lake said Englander wanted to run Esteemed Friend on Wednesday if the track came up fast - which it did - and added that Englander wants to run Arromanches for higher than $50,000, the price for which he claimed him. There could be a race for Arromanches this weekend.

Meanwhile, Dolfmeister ($17.60) helped Christmas come early for one handicapper who cashed the lone winning pick six ticket, worth $132,951. The ticket was placed through Birmingham Racecourse, which serves as the hub for the Caribbean casinos and several small tracks in Alabama. Dolfmeister was the longest-priced winner in the pick six sequence. There was a $36,045 carryover going into Wednesday's card.

Say Florida Sandy getting a breather

Say Florida Sandy, third in last weekend's Gravesend, will be given a three-month freshening at a New Jersey farm and will return to the races next year as an 8-year-old, according to his owner, John Rotella.

Rotella said Say Florida Sandy hasn't had an appreciable break since receiving six months off because of injury in 1999. Since his return, Say Florida Sandy has run in 39 races.

For the year, Say Florida Sandy, led all New York-breds in earnings with $615,420 and became the all-time leading New York-bred in money won when he finished second in the Hudson Handicap in October.

Say Florida Sandy won six of 16 starts this year, including the Grade 3 Bold Ruler, Grade 2 True North, and Grade 3 Philadelphia Park Breeders' Cup.

o With Aqueduct dark Sunday through Tuesday for the Christmas holiday, there is a change in the entry schedule for next week. Entries for Wednesday's card will be taken on Friday while entries for Thursday will be taken on Saturday.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson

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