(Trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle Thankful in the G3 Comely Stakes on Friday / Photo by Gene McLean)
From the NYRA Media Team:
Miss Marissa will carry a three-race winning streak – including a her first stakes score last out in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan – into the expected last start of her sophomore campaign when she headlines the G3, $100,000 Comely for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct Racetrack on Friday.
The 71st running of the Comely is one of three stakes on a special Friday-after-Thanksgiving card, joining the $100,000 Gio Ponti for 3-year-olds on the turf and the $100,000 Forever Together for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up also competing on the grass.
Miss Marissa, owned by Alfonso Cammarota, won just once in her first nine starts, culminating when trainer James Ryerson moved the He’s Had Enough filly to back to turf, where she ran fifth on June 14 at Belmont.
After the off-the-board effort, Miss Marissa showed improved form returning to the main track. Ryerson credited the stretch out in distances, which paid immediate dividends when she notched a three-length victory going a mile and 70 yards on July 11 at Monmouth and a 2 1/2-length score against optional claimers going 1 1/8 miles on August 13 at Saratoga Race Course.
Off a 91 Beyer Speed Figure for her Saratoga race, Miss Marissa faced deeper waters in her first graded stakes appearance of the year in the prestigious Black-Eyed Susan. Competing at the Comely distance, she tracked in second position through three-quarters of a mile before taking command before the stretch and edging Bonny South by a neck to win the historic race at Pimlico Race Course on Preakness Day. Her win landed her a career-best 92 Beyer.
“We’re very pleased with how she’s training,” Ryerson said. “We gave her a little blowout before this and she’s done well since the Black-Eyed Susan and we’re looking forward to it.
“Early on, we thought she’d stretch out,” he continued. “She really likes the two-turn pace scenario. I think it’s just getting that stretch out and the two turns, her efforts have been much better.”
Miss Marissa has made two previous stakes starts at the Big A, finishing 10th in the Grade 2 Demoiselle last December to close her juvenile year. She earned black type with a third-place finish in the seven-furlong Ruthless in January in her 3-year-old bow.
“The added distance will help; she handled Aqueduct that day, so hopefully that won’t be a problem,” Ryerson said. “I think the mile and an eighth and two turns is where we found a home of late, so it’s a good fit.”
Dylan Davis will ride from the inside post.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out Bass Stables’ Thankful for her stakes debut after back-to-back wins at Saratoga and Belmont, respectively. The daughter of 2015 Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah broke her maiden at third asking in August 20 at the Spa before earning an 89 Beyer for topping allowance company going a one-turn mile on September 27 over Belmont’s Big Sandy.
Thankful, a $625,000 purchase at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton New York Select Sale, drew post 5 with Kendrick Carmouche aboard for her Aqueduct debut.
Gale will also be making her stakes debut off consecutive wins. The Tonalist filly made her first two starts on turf, running third in her debut on July 30 at Laurel before an impressive 6 ½-length victory over the same surface on October 22. Rain moved her last start off the Laurel turf to the main track, and she responded to the dirt with a 13 ½-length win against a seven-horse field that garnered an 86 Beyer.
Trainer Jonathan Thomas said that effort warranted another opportunity on the main track.
“Visually, her last race was impressive and it came back a strong number,” Thomas said. “Any time you’re beating horses off the turf in a state-bred allowance race, it’s tough to know what to make of it. She acts like a quality filly, but this will be a big step up.”
Owned by Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta, Gale was a $450,000 purchase at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Florida Select Sale. She will have the services of jockey Jose Ortiz from post 8 on Friday.
“She seems very honest,” Thomas said. “We feel like she’s probably better on the dirt from what we’ve seen from her, but she seems to be very genuine no matter what we put under her feet.”
Allen Stables’ Mrs. Danvers finished fifth in her only previous stakes appearance in the Grade 1 Test on August 8 at Saratoga. After a runner-up effort and a victory against allowance company going one mile in each of her last two races, she will stretch out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.
“She’s kind of a frustrating filly so far. She’s got more ability than she’s given me,” McGaughey said. “We’ll run her a mile and an eighth and if she breaks good she’ll be laying right there and see what happens from there. Blacktype would be really nice for her.”
The daughter of Tapit is 2-3-1 in seven career starts. Jose Lezcano will have the call from post 6.
Rounding out the field is Project Whiskey, sixth in the Black-Eyed Susan who ran second in the Monmouth Oaks in August, for trainer Butch Reid [post 10, Christopher DeCarlo]; Makingcents, winner of the Fleet Indian against New York-breds in September at Belmont, for conditioner Jeremiah Englehart [post 7, Jorge Vargas Jr.]; Ice Princess, the runner-up in the Fleet Indian and winner of the Maddie May in February at Aqueduct, for trainer Danny Gargan [post 3, Junior Alvarado]; Pure Rhythm, for trainer Michael Stidham [post 9, Nik Juarez]; and a pair of entrants making their respective stakes debuts in Toned Up [post 2, Romero Maragh] and My Sweet Wife [post 4, Eric Cancel].
The Comely is slated as Race 8 on Aqueduct’s 10-race program, which offers a first post of 11:50 a.m. Eastern. America’s Day at the Races will present daily television coverage of the Aqueduct fall meet with coverage to air on FOX Sports and MSG Networks.