01/10/2008 12:00AM

Moisture would boost Aliysa in Affectionately


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Handicappers who like two-turn dirt routes for females get a pair of $75,000-added stakes at Aqueduct this weekend: Saturday's Affectionately Handicap for fillies and mares and Sunday's Busanda for 3-year-olds.

The Affectionately field runs the gamut from Homerette and Victory Pool, multiple stakes winners who were necks apart when second and third in this race last year and nearing retirement as the breeding shed beckons; to Stage Luck, a $1.6 million filly making just her fourth start; to Dinner Break and Runway Rosie, who boast sharp recent form but haven't run on fast conventional dirt since last March; to Aliysa, whose formative races took place in Brazil and Dubai.

Stage Luck will attract considerable support after winning twice in blinkers as much the best, but her big-figure maiden win was accomplished at Delaware Park, and bettors have seen repeated instances where horses fail to reproduce gaudy Delaware figures on other surfaces. She fell off by several lengths in her last start, a victory in a first-level allowance out of the Aqueduct chute more than two months ago.

Aliysa was way down on Todd Pletcher's filly depth chart after dueling and tiring in her first two U.S. starts last summer, but moved up a notch with improved performances on turf and dirt to close out 2007. She paired Beyer Speed Figures (84) that are competitive in the Affectionately field when she ran a good third on grass to Royal Alchemist (a listed stakes winner who has earned more than $280,000 for Godolphin Racing), followed by a third-level allowance win in the slop at Philadelphia Park.

A rainy forecast for Friday may leave some moisture in the inner track. That would be good news for Aliysa, who relishes off going and appears to be thriving since stretching out from sprints.


There doesn't appear to be a standout among the probable Busanda starters, but Paint Me Red bears watching as she ships in from Calder with a trainer change to Gary Contessa.

Two-year-old fillies don't often win their sprint debuts after trailing through the opening half-mile, but Paint Me Red accomplished that feat, and what is equally remarkable is that she overtook five rivals in the last furlong.

Paint Me Red's figures have dipped slightly in two subsequent starts, but she was in exceptionally tough spots against a couple of undefeated fillies. She finished second to High Resolve, a bullet who has never been headed in four wins by a combined 23 lengths and is now eyeing the upcoming Sunshine Millions for the connections of Lost in the Fog and Smokey Stover. She ran third to Indy's Alexandra, who has won all three of her starts by a combined 19 lengths as she heads into Saturday's Grade 2 Old Hat Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Tiffany Lass

The sextet of Saturday stakes at the Fair Grounds is capped by two $100,000 mile races for 3-year-olds: the Tiffany Lass for fillies, and the Lecomte, which was won by Hard Spun in his first start of 2007.

On the strength of an eye-catching debut win over the track in fast time, Tizaqueena may go favored in the Tiffany Lass, but it's always a tenuous proposition taking a short price on second-time starters moving from maiden to stakes company.

Timely Reflection hasn't run as fast as Tizaqueena yet, but she has been freshened since turning in a very nice development line in her first four races. What's particularly encouraging about her continuing improvement in the La Senorita, though she lost at even money, was that she a) ran on an unfamiliar course, and b) was under the hammer from the opening bell after having grown accustomed to stalking tactics in her first three races.


The competitive Lecomte field includes the Louisiana-bred Star Guitar and the New York-bred Z Fortune. Let's not forget, however, that Hard Spun was coming off a win against Pennsylvania-breds in the Nursery with a Beyer of 82, and hinted at what was to come by winning off by six lengths while moving forward to a 95.

The mark everyone's shooting for is He's Eze, who received a 97 for winning the Jack Price Juvenile, but he was 30-1 that day and will be making his first start away from Calder.

Blackberry Road is an obvious late threat in his first start since earning a figure of 85 for a fast-closing second in the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs, but the value play could be Macho Again, who got virtually the same figure (86) finishing second by a neck to Monba in a first-level allowance on the same card.

That was the second straight 86 for Macho Again, a favorable pattern. It's also worth noting that Monba improved to 2 for 2 that day, and returned to finish strongly for fourth in the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park, beaten just over two lengths.