Updated on 09/17/2011 1:51PM

Three changes aid Message Red's cause


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - A cutback in distance, a return to the inner track, and a five-pound weight shift could help turn the tables on Queen's Triomphe when those two New York-bred mares meet again in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Affectionately Handicap at Aqueduct.

On Nov. 30, Queen's Triomphe upset Message Red at odds of 64-1 in the Montauk, run at nine furlongs over Aqueduct's main track. Queen's Triomphe got the jump on Message Red, who was conceding seven pounds to Queen's Triomphe.

The two were scheduled to meet again in the 1 1/4-mile Ladies Handicap, but Message Red missed the race because of illness and Queen's Triomphe finished second.

In the Affectionately, Message Red returns to the inner track, where she is 3 for 6, including a win at the Affectionately distance of 1 1/16 miles. Message Red, who will be reunited with rider Javier Castellano, is the starting highweight at 116 pounds, a two-pound concession to Queen's Triomphe.

"All those things will be in our favor this time," said Shaffick Mohammed, assistant to trainer Jimmy Jerkens. "She's been training well. She bounced back from that virus really well. She's a game little horse. She's very genuine."

Turning back to 1 1/16 miles shouldn't be a hindrance to Queen's Triomphe, who is 4 for 5 at the distance. But, trainer Tom Bush is concerned about this being Queen's Triomphe's fourth start in nine weeks.

"Hopefully, we haven't over-trained her," Bush said. "She's had plenty of races, especially for this time of year. It's a Grade 3, and she may not run that many more times anyway."

Golden Damsel finished fourth in the Montauk, but ran off with Chuck Lopez that day and was beaten only two heads by Message Red for second. She came back to win an open company second-level allowance on Dec. 11 in front-running fashion.

"I ran her back in 11 days because the race was there and I didn't wan t to run in the Affectionately off [the Montauk]," said trainer Gary Contessa, who will also saddle longshot Dancen in the Sun.

Maryland invader Cruise Along could be the one to beat. Though six of her seven career wins have come on turf, she is coming off a 4 1/2-length victory in the Geisha Handicap on dirt at Laurel Park. Cruise Along, a closer, will be coupled in the wagering with River Cruise, a filly who figures to contest for the early lead. Larry Murray trains both for Sondra Bender.

Green Jeans makes her stakes debut off an April layoff for trainer Billy Turner. Consort Music and Austin's Mom complete the field.