Gracer returns to New York

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Gracer wasn’t part of a contingent of horses trained by Tony Dutrow sent south to Florida from Fair Hill for the winter for one simple reason.

“I kept her up there because I didn’t think she was a good kind of horse,” Dutrow said Thursday afternoon, shortly after getting off a plane that brought him back home after a short trip to Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Not a good kind of horse? Considering the daughter of Exchange Rate has yet to finish off the board in five career starts, owns two stakes victories, placed in the Grade 2 Matron last fall at Belmont Park and broke her maiden impressively at Saratoga, perhaps Dutrow was judging the filly a bit tough. Dutrow’s assessment and the gray filly will get put to another test Saturday when Gracer faces four others in the $100,000 Dearly Precious at Aqueduct.

Maybe it’ll be a test, maybe not.

“Quite honestly, and I take nothing for granted, that field she’s in with Saturday that cannot be a step up,” Dutrow said. “And believe me, they’ve all got to run around there. I’ve been doing this my whole life so I take noting for granted, but it’s not a stellar field.”

Gracer’s been stellar in her two starts in 2014, winning Penn National’s Blue Mountain Juvenile and Laurel’s Marshua by open lengths. The best she’ll face in the 6-furlong Dearly Precious might be unbeaten New York-bred Bridget Moloney, who is 15-1 on the early line, and last-out maiden winner Sustainable.

Gracer’s got the chance to improve on her trainer’s assessment and then she might make a return to graded stakes company, where she’s been before and ran credibly.

“So she’s going to have to improve to be competitive in a graded stakes,” Dutrow said. “The only blemish on her paper right now was when she raced in a graded stakes. So, she’s got to get better. Not that she can’t. Maybe she will.

“She’s doing very good. Gracer has always done very well, she’s that type of filly, with a lot of energy and doing very good.”

Watch Gracer’s third-place finish in Grade 2 Matron.

Equibase entries for Saturday’s Dearly Precious.