The Pebbles (Grade 3)- $200.000 Purse
AQU- For Fillies Three Years Old
One Mile on the Inner Turf
November 11, 2023
This Saturday at AQU, ten three-year-old fillies will head to the starting for the 20th running of the Pebbles, a Grade 3 race that is held on the turf. It marks that second time that the race has been run at the Big A, as it had been at BEL up until last year. For all but three years, the race ran as an ungraded stake, so the purses have never been all that high, ranging between $100.000 and $200.000. We’ve seen two dead heats in the race’s history, so perhaps we are due for another. In 2022, Lady Hilltopper was the winning filly, doing so for Black N Gold Stable, and she was able to carry that success into this year, and was seen last week in the BC Fillies & Mares Turf. The trainer will be looking to defend his title in 2023 but meets up with nine others seeking to take the crown. Let’s meet the field!
#1- Red Wave (TwinTowersRacing, ridden by D Davis)- The Z Grayte One filly will be making her stake debut, and it comes after a wire-to-wire victory at SA in an optional claimer. That came at the end of September, so she’s well rested and this is a race well earned. Her past performances look even better when you disregard the one turf sprint in between the longer distance races. And her saddlecloth is the perfect color for the race.
#2- Tall Southern Lady (Oquinn Farm, ridden by J R Velazquez)- This filly is no stranger to running in the Empire State, as ten of her 16 races have been NY-bred races, with two other unrestricted races happening at these tracks. Most of those have been at AQU, too, with several in the money finishes and one stake win. Her most recent win was up at SAR in the $150.000 Liberty. This is her third graded attempt, but her two previous races were “win and you’re in” BC races, so this is an easier field on paper.
#3- Emily (Nakamura Stables, ridden by I Castillo)- She’s been doing a lot right, winning four of eight races, but has found herself bouncing around between trainers between that time. May have found a home with Nakamura, who added her for just $2.000 in April, and has led Emily to three wins in three races. She’s never had a test like this, though, and comes here off an optional claimer at FE last month. But this is the time to see what you may have, and maybe good form can mean something.
#4- Temperature (Riggins Racing, ridden by L Dettori)- Unlike Emily, Temperature was not a cheap purchase, as it took $375.000 for Riggins to acquire her in March. She’s won just one in seven starts, though it was a good win in the Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes in June. Hasn’t been bad since then, but when you spend that kind of money, you want better results than placing fourth in the RP Oaks, as she did in her last race. It does seem like she’ll like heading back to the grass.
#5- Hollywood Twister (Spankys Barn, ridden by L J Luzzi)- Won back-to-back races this year, highlighted by the Grade 2 Wonder Again at BEL in June. She has not been able to build on that, however, struggling in the Grade 1 DMR Oaks as well as here for the Sands Point (Grade 2) last month. Lesser competition, on paper, for the Wonder Where Stakes in between those two did not help much either. Hard to pick her based on form.
#6- Cowgirls (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by Mario Gutierrez)- Ran against Hollywood Twister in the Wonder Where Stakes, and was only one position better than her but at least that meant a fourth-place purse cut. She’s been good, though maybe not great, since moving to the grass with consistent finishes that earn her something for her trainer. We’re still looking for that turf win, but I don’t think it’s out of the cards especially if she runs as she did in the ONT Colleen Stakes.
#7- Favorite Sister (Black N Gold Stable, ridden by F Geroux)- Looking to give the trainer their second straight win the race. It’s not technically her first time going long, as she had one such race early in her career, and I do wish she had a more recent mile work than January 2023 to try and get a feel for her here. She’s looked good in her last two, including winning the $125.000 Glen Cove here last month, but this isn’t six furlongs. Finished that off well, so there is optimism in how she will handle it but a longer work to publicly see would have been nice.
#8- Mo Ki Mo (Smokey Stover, ridden by D E Centeno)- I was able to see her dam, Mo Ki Missy win many great races, and Mo Ki Mo is doing a pretty good job of following that lead. No, we don’t have Grade 1 wins to talk about yet, but she has won four of eight, and has hit the board in every race other than her debut. Has got her feet wet in stakes a couple times, but her wins are only in overnights. She’s in a very good spot here to change that fact and is one of the better choices.
#9- Pippin (Arindel, ridden by M Franco)- Appeared in the BC Juvenile Turf Sprint last year, and has been patiently handled as a three-year-old, making six starts thus far. Three of those have ended with a trip to the winner’s circle, including two ungraded stakes wins: the $100.000 Ginger Brew in January, and the $150.000 Joy, for NY-breds, in June. Ran respectably in the $750.000 Grade 3 Music Stakes after that, missing by a length while finishing fifth. Despite that, she was dropped into an optional claimer for her last race that she did win like she was supposed to. She’s back into this company where she belongs and should run a strong race. A strong work here on the 6th will erase any concerns about why she was dropped out of stakes company last month.
#10- Spliter (Sheffler Stables, ridden by J Alvarado)- In June, Sheffler picked this one up in a $20.000 claimer at PRX and has done well with her since that point. Spliter has made four starts since the claim, finishing in each of the top four spots one time. The victory was an optional claimer in July, but the more impressive race was the runner up performance at the $250.000 VA Oaks at CL in September. Closed well to run third in the Sands Point after that and should be able a contender in this field as well.