A field of nine 3-year-olds is entered for the Grade 2, $250,000 Hill Prince Stakes on the turf at Aqueduct, with one more entered should the race be moved to the main track. Six of the nine entered for turf won their most recent race and the other three finished second or third in their last start, leading to the immediate conclusion this is a well-matched group.
Trainer Chad Brown has a trio of entrants in the Hill Prince consisting of Equitize, Faraday, and I’m Very Busy. Although all three won their most recent races, the first two are running in a stakes race for the first time and the latter hasn’t run in a stakes in 2023 but did finish second in the Grade 2 Pilgrim Stakes in the fall of 2022. There are a few other horses proven at the level in the field and that group is led by Grade 3 New Kent County Virginia Derby winner Integration, who has been away from the races for two months since that victory. Freedom Trail won the Awad Stakes in October 2022 on this turf course and, although winless in six races since, enters the Hill Prince off a neck defeat in his most recent race. Classic Catch has been entered in turf races twice in a row but both were moved to the dirt due to inclement weather. His most recent effort was when second in the Jockey Club Derby Invitational last month so he appears to have the class to compete at this level. Quality Chic and Toofareastiswest both won their most recent races and are racing in a stakes for the first time. Laurel Valley has won once in eight tries and also moves up in class to an open stakes for the first time. Crupi is the horse entered for the dirt only, having won the Discovery Stakes 15 days ago on the Aqueduct main track at the distance.
Freedom Trail showed talent in his very first race 14 months ago in September 2022 when winning around two turns on turf at first asking. His second career start was in the Awad Stakes on this Aqueduct turf course and he did not disappoint, rallying from sixth of seven to win. Moving to dirt for the 2022 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes the next month, Freedom Trail finished eighth of nine and that proved his best races were to be on the grass. Rested 3 1/2 months, Freedom Trail reappeared in a stakes race in Florida in March but only managed fourth. That was the first of four races in which he was uncompetitive, all stakes. However, a brief layoff from mid-July until Sept. 21 appears to have made a big difference. This is because in his most recent race on Sept. 21, Freedom Trail showed top form when rallying from sixth in the early stages to miss by a neck at the finish line. That effort earned him a career-best 112 Equibase Speed Figure which is also the best in the field. Considering the colt is now making his second start following two months off, even better is expected, and that should make Freedom Trail the one to beat in this year’s Hill Prince Stakes.
Integration is undefeated in two races and appears to have a bright future on the grass. Similar to Freedom Trail, Integration won a two-turn turf race in his debut, then in his second career start stepped up in class, winning a graded stakes. That was the Virginia Derby, and Integration improved from a 91 figure in his debut to 107 in that race. Rested a couple of months since then, but having proved capable of winning fresh as he did in his debut, Integration also has every right to improve his effort and figure and is a very strong win contender in this field.
Classic Catch has raced entirely on dirt in his nine starts, but not for lack of trying to run on the grass because his last two races were scheduled for the turf but run on the main track. Those were his two best efforts. The first of the pair was on Aug. 9 when, at the longer distance of 1 1/4 miles, Classic Catch stalked the pacesetter in second from the start and gamely fought down to the finish line to prevail by a neck. That effort earned a career-best 101 figure. Two months later on Oct. 7, Classic Catch just missed by three-quarters of a length in the Jockey Club Derby Invitational, finishing three lengths clear of the third horse while earning a 99 figure. With a pedigree which suggests he will run as well or better on grass, Classic Catch would need just the slightest improvement to run as well as the top two contenders, so he rounds out a trio which appears to have the edge in this race.
The rest of the field (with best Equibase Speed Figure): (Equitize (85), Faraday (101), I’m Very Busy (101), Laurel Valley (90), Quality Chic (99), and Toofareastiswest (89). Crupi, who is entered for the main track only, earned a 101 figure in his best effort.
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