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Submitted by Gasper Moschera on Friday, November 15, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Aqueduct: Red Smith favorite Hyper improving with age

The Grade 3, $250,000 Red Smith Handicap, which attracted a baker’s dozen of long-distance specialists entered for turf, headlines a stakes triple-header Saturday at Aqueduct.

The 1 3/8-mile Red Smith is the seventh of nine races, and the second leg of a $250,000 guaranteed late pick four. It is flanked by a pair of $100,000 overnight stakes for New York-breds – the Virgo Libra (race 5) for 2-year-olds on turf and the Move It Now (race 8) for older males on the main track.

The Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred Hyper, a late bloomer in the midst of his finest season at age 6, breaks from post 11 and carries top weight of 120 pounds, two more than Imagining and Nutello, and four more than the filly Tannery.

Hyper debuted in a $25,000 maiden-claiming race at Aqueduct’s 2010 fall meet, and has developed slowly but surely the past three years. He returned from a two-race stint in England to win a third-level allowance for Chad Brown in his first start this year, and notched his first stakes victory in the 1 5/8-mile John’s Call at Saratoga. He returned on opening day at Belmont’s fall meet to take the Grade 2 Bowling Green, and was then pointed to the Canadian International, since his connections already had two runners for the Breeders’ Cup Turf in Big Blue Kitten and Real Solution.

In the Canadian International, Hyper ran the fastest race of his career in defeat, earning a 101 Beyer Speed Figure after rallying to finish a close second to Joshua Tree, who was winning that Grade 1 race for the third time.

“Chad has had him for so long, and he’s always been a nice horse to train,” said assistant trainer Cherie DeVaux. “With his age, he has been getting better. What’s so enjoyable about watching him run is that he seems to get better every time. He always finds a way to find a little more, and as he’s gotten older he keeps finding ways to step up.”

Two races before the Canadian International, Tannery rallied from last over the yielding ground to win the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor for trainer Alan Goldberg. A soft-turf specialist, Tannery won the Sheepshead Bay on a boggy course at Belmont in May. In between, she tried the boys in the Sword Dancer, and finished a respectable fourth from post 12.

“She’s a really good filly who hasn’t done a whole lot wrong,” Goldberg said. “She’s fired every time. I think she could have been in the top three in the Sword Dancer with a little better trip.”

Imagining, a Phipps Stable homebred who has won a pair of $100,000 stakes for Shug McGaughey this year, projects to be on or near the early lead with Slip and Drive, a Mid-Atlantic shipper fresh off a front-running score in last week’s Japan Racing Association at Laurel Park.

“He’s coming off a very good race,” said assistant trainer Buzz Tenney of Imagining’s win in last month’s Bowl Game. “He kind of likes to run his own race. He’ll be up in the race early, if not on the lead, and I think he’ll be a factor.”

Howe Great, in the money in four straight graded stakes for Team Valor International, ships in for Rick Mettee.

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