12/04/2009 12:00AM

Plenty of horses for courses at Aqueduct


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Handicappers who rely on the horse-for-course angle will have several options in Saturday's $65,000 Garland of Roses Stakes at Aqueduct. Awesome Ashley, Distorted Passion, and By the Light - three of the nine entrants in the six-furlong stakes - are all two-time stakes winners over the inner oval.

While By the Light is returning from a six-month layoff in the Garland of Roses, Awesome Ashley and Distorted Passion have each had starts with this race in mind.

Awesome Ashley and Distorted Passion - both trained by Todd Pletcher - ran in the In Her Glory Stakes over the main track on Nov. 11. Tar Heel Mom, the odds-on favorite, went gate to wire, while Awesome Ashley, who steadied early, made a mild rally from last to get second. Distorted Passion, making her first start since April, raced close up early and faded to fourth in the stretch.

"We liked Awesome Ashley's last race, it probably sets her up well for this," said Jonathan Thomas, Pletcher's Belmont Park-based assistant. "Distorted Passion should improve off her last race; she's trained on really well since. We were thinking that she probably needed the race going into it."

There appears to be plenty of pace in the Garland of Roses, which figures to aid both Awesome Ashley and Distorted Passion.

"It might benefit Awesome Ashley more because she's a one-run filly," Thomas said. "Then again, Distorted Passion is able to stalk."

There is a 50 percent chance of showers in the forecast for Saturday. Distorted Passion, who breaks from post 3 under John Velazquez, is bred for an off track, but has yet to race over one. Awesome Ashley, who breaks from post 6 under Anna Napravnik, is 0 for 3 on wet footing.

By the Light, a nine-time stakes winner, has a win and a second over wet tracks. She also is 2 for 3 over the inner track with her lone loss coming by a neck to Distorted Passion here last December. By the Light has not run since finishing last of four in the What a Summer Stakes at Belmont in June. She was given 60 days off following that race and has been working steadily for the Richard Dutrow Jr. barn since October. With Dutrow under suspension, Juan Rodriguez will saddle the filly.

Saarlight makes her first start since a sixth-place finish in the Jostle Stakes at Philadelphia in June. Hold that Prospect is 11 for 24, but steps up in class here. Completing the field are Lady Alexander, Casanova Killer, Honest to Besty, and All of Her Twist.