Updated on 09/18/2011 1:40AM

Magna Graduate tries softer


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Magna Graduate ended his 3-year-old campaign last year with three consecutive graded stakes victories that made him a potential force in the handicap division in 2006.

Things hardly worked out that way. An injury suffered while finishing fourth - he was later placed third - in the Dubai World Cup sidelined Magna Graduate for most of his 4-year-old season. A less-than-stirring comeback race in last month's Ack Ack Stakes at Churchill Downs prompted his connections to seek some class relief, which they have found in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Queens County Handicap at Aqueduct.

Magna Graduate will likely be favored against five rivals in the 1o3/16-mile Queens County, which also attracted in-form New York-bred Naughty New Yorker, Papi Chullo, Awesome Twist, Smart Growth, and Angliana.

Magna Graduate suffered a hind ankle injury in the spring while preparing for the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. Trainer Todd Pletcher gave him ample time off and figured the Ack Ack was a good spot to bring him back in. Magna Graduate finished 10th of 12.

"Todd thought he was going to run a really big race," said assistant trainer Seth Benzel. "He broke from an outside post and never really got into it. Just from the way he's training I think you got to draw a line through it. He looks good, he's training forwardly but that was my impression leading up to his last race as well."

John Velazquez will ride Magna Graduate, the 118-pound highweight.

Naughty New Yorker comes off a front-running score in the off-the-turf Red Smith Handicap at 1o1/4 miles. He set pedestrian fractions and had plenty left when challenged at the three-furlong marker.

"When they're going slow he's got speed,'' trainer Pat Kelly said. "He's acting good and doing good; off what he did the other day, [distance] doesn't seem to be a problem.''

Papi Chullo came out of a fourth-place finish in the Ack Ack to win a second-level allowance race at 1o1/8 miles over Aqueduct's main track on Nov. 26. Owner Greg Norman has decided to wheel him back on short rest in the Queens County.

"I love the pace scenario, and I love the distance for this race," said Norman, who has Mike Smith to ride.

Awesome Twist, the Brooklyn runner-up who finished sixth in the Ack Ack, will attempt to stretch out to 1 3/16 miles for John Kimmel. Smart Growth won the 1 1/8-mile Stymie Handicap at Delaware Park. Angliana finished second to Naughty New Yorker in the Red Smith.