Aqueduct Racetrack Notes
- G1 Belmont Stakes winner Sir Winston breezes for $100K Jazil
- G2 Remsen winner Shotski on target for a return to Aqueduct in G3 Withers
- Kimmel stakes contingent coming together for 2020 campaign
- War Stopper under consideration for G3 Withers
- Miceli plans productive Winter meet with Mrs. Orb
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets winner Sir Winston recorded his first official work of 2020 on Thursday morning with a five-furlong move in 1:02.86 over the Belmont training track.
Trained by Mark Casse for owner-breeder Tracy Farmer, the 4-year-old Awesome Again chestnut worked under exercise rider Amy Mullen and recorded splits of 26.00 and 38.60 while tracking a stablemate.
“He did it well,” said Jamie Begg, who oversees Casse’s New York division. “He had a good run and gallop out. It was a nice progressive work. It wasn’t crazy fast, but he did it the right way.”
Since reigning victorious in the ‘Test of the Champion’ last June, Sir Winston was a disappointing 12th in the Woodchopper over a yielding turf at Fair Grounds on December 28.
Begg said the yielding turf was a contributing factor in Sir Winston’s turf debut and is confident the colt could still handle the turf because of his ability on both dirt and all-weather surfaces. At age 2, he won the Display on the Tapeta track at Woodbine.
“I would cross that race out,” Begg said of the Woodchopper. “The more distance the better for him and that race was only a flat mile, so he was just starting to get going then. I think on a harder turf he may have handled it better. The way he closes he can run on the grass. He’s won on Polytrack and usually if you can take to dirt and synthetic, you can handle the grass.”
Sir Winston is out of the Afleet Alex broodmare La Gran Bailadora, who was a graded stakes winner over the all-weather surface.
Sir Winston is targeting the $100,000 Jazil on January 25 at Aqueduct as his seasonal bow with the Group 1, $12 million Dubai World Cup in mind.Begg said there is a possibility of Sir Winston competing in the graded stakes program for dirt marathoners.
“I think this race should give us a good idea,” Begg said.
Begg also said Debby Oxley’s recent maiden winner Love of My Heart will likely breeze Saturday morning in preparation for the $100,000 Ruthless on January 26 going seven furlongs for sophomore fillies.
G2 Remsen winner Shotski on target for a return to Aqueduct in G3 Withers
Trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer still has Grade 2 Remsen winner Shotski on track for the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers, which offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers, on February 1 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
O’Dwyer said that the son of Blame will likely breeze on Friday morning at his Laurel Park base.
“He’ll go a nice five eighths and we’ll see how he is after that, but the plan is to come up to New York,” O’Dwyer said.
Owned by Adam Wachtel, Gary Barber, Pantofel Stable and Mike Karty, Shotski gave O’Dwyer his first graded stakes win as a trainer in the Remsen. Coincidentally, O’Dwyer regularly worked with Shotski’s sire Blame while working under trainer Al Stall, Jr.
“Blame was the first good horse I was around so it’s nice that my first graded stakes winner is by him,” O’Dwyer said. “It’s just kind of the way it worked out. We go to the sales and just look for nice individuals. He looks very much likes his dad, I think he stamped him well. Working for a good guy like Al was special, and he’s very good to call if I need advice.”
Shotski was acquired for $25,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale.
“We’re just looking for the nice individual with potential,” O’Dwyer said. “Once you can take your time with a horse, it gives you chance to develop them and see their true potential. Any nice horse is going to show you some talent early. When we go to the sale, it has to be something you like, but hopefully they’re horses that are going to be around for a while.”
Another thrifty acquisition by O’Dwyer is Needs Supervision, who gave the young conditioner his first stakes victory when she won the Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds last year. The daughter of Paynter is entered at Laurel in Saturday’s $100,000 What A Summer, but could alter course if weather is a factor and race in the $100,000 Interborough on Monday at Aqueduct.
“We have her in at Laurel on Saturday and we’re happy with her. Hopefully the weather stays good. The race on Monday in New York is a possible back up,” O’Dwyer said.
Others under consideration for the Withers include Ajaaweed, Bourbon Bay, Monday Morning Qb, Portos and War Stopper..
Kimmel stakes contingent coming together for 2020 campaign
Trainer John Kimmel enjoyed an excellent 2019 campaign with a record of 22-16-24 from his 169 starters and banked purse earnings in excess of $1.6 million led by the sizable Mr. Buff, who won five stakes and totaled $455,750.
Mr. Buff, a Chester and Mary Broman homebred son of Friend Or Foe, captured stakes races at all three NYRA tracks last season taking the Jazil and Alex M. Robb at the Big A; the Evan Shipman at Saratoga; and the Saginaw and Empire Classic at Belmont.
Last out, regular pilot Junior Alvarado guided the 17.2 hands tall Mr. Buff to a comfortable 7 1/2-length score in the Alex M. Robb, a nine-furlong test for older New York-breds. Mr. Buff, who boasts a record of six wins and three seconds from 11 starts at Aqueduct, will next look to defend his title in the $100,000 Jazil, a 1 1/8-mile open event for 4-year-olds and up on January 25 at the Big A.
“He’s come out of the race in good shape. It was a pretty easy race for him, actually. He won comfortably and cruised to the wire,” said Kimmel over the phone from his Florida base at Palm Meadows Training Center. “He likes Aqueduct and has a pretty good record there.
“We worked him on the 11th and that went well. He’ll work again on Saturday and that should put him in line for the following Saturday,” continued Kimmel. “He won this race last year and it may be a little more contentious this year. The one thing that is concerning is that he won’t have his regular pilot because Junior has commitments at Gulfstream on Pegasus day.”
Nedlaw Stable’s Harris Bay was unlucky not to provide Kimmel with his first stakes winner of 2020 when second to Scilly Cay on January 12 in the Rego Park, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for New York-bred sophomores.
With Alvarado up, Harris Bay was away awkwardly before rallying from last of four to complete the exacta on a quick Big A main track.
“He was the best horse in the race. I don’t know why he acted up like that and then he got squeezed and pinched back,” said Kimmel. “It was unfortunate because I think he would have won if he broke with the field, but that’s horse racing. He came out of it in good order and maybe we’ll catch the Gander next.”
The $100,000 Gander, a one-mile test for New York-bred sophomores, is slated for February 16 at Aqueduct.
P. G. Johnson stakes winner Crystalle is enjoying some downtime following a four-race juvenile campaign that included a second in the Grade 2 Miss Grillo on September 29 at Belmont ahead of an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita Park.
“She’s had a nice easy two months off and has started back under tack on the farm in Ocala. She’ll ship into Palm Meadows in early February,” said Kimmel. “I haven’t picked out a schedule yet for her, but we’ll maybe try to get a race in Florida before heading to Keeneland on our way to Belmont.”
The Kentucky-bred daughter of Palace Malice, owned by Tobey Morton and Chuck Hovitz, is a strong contender for NYRA’s Turf Tiara series which includes the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks along with the Saratoga Oaks and Jockey Club Oaks.
“That’s the kind of thing we’re gearing for is the Turf Triple races at Belmont and Saratoga,” said Kimmel. “She should be bigger and stronger this year and the further they go, the better she’ll be. She’s an exciting horse to look forward to.”
Kimmel could have a ‘Triple’ contender of a different sort in Morton’s Canadian-bred Famished, who will launch his path to the $1 million Queen’s Plate, first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown set for June 27 at Woodbine Racetrack, in the Grade 3 Dania Beach on February 1 at Gulfstream Park.
The Uncle Mo bay, bred in Ontario by Michael C. Byrne, graduated at second asking on the Saratoga main track before finishing fourth in both the grassy Grade 3 Pilgrim at Belmont and the main track Grade 3 Nashua at Aqueduct.
“He’s doing really well. I’m looking to run him in the Dania Beach at a mile on the grass,” said Kimmel. “The Queen’s Plate is still the plan. I think he can run on anything. He’s won on dirt and works great on grass and I’m sure he’ll be fine on synthetic.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr, currently leading the Gulfstream championship meet in both wins (52) and purse earnings ($1,710,973), has breezed Famished at Palm Meadows, including a January 1 half-mile bullet breeze in 48.80 on the Palm Meadows turf.
“He had a bullet breeze and came back with a moderate one. He works on Saturday again and he looks great. He’s filling out and maturing,” said Kimmel. “Irad has been working him and he really liked him when he worked him.”
Later this summer, Kimmel hopes to debut New York-bred juvenile Miss Buff, a full-sister to Mr. Buff who makes a similar formidable presence.
“She’s at the farm right now. She’s big and I’m sure we won’t see her until the summer,” said Kimmel. “Mr. Buff didn’t start to show himself until he was three or four. He was an awkward 2-year-old, but he certainly grew into himself.”
War Stopper under consideration for G3 Withers
Salerno Stables’ War Stopper raced his way into consideration for the Grade 3 Withers with a four-length maiden score on January 11 that garnered a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. Trained by Rudy Rodriquez, the Declaration of War chestnut made his first two starts on the turf before switching to dirt on December 7 where he bobbled at the start en route to finishing fifth under Joel Rosario.
Last out, with blinkers on for new pilot Jorge Vargas, Jr., War Stopper broke sharp and made all the running in the one-mile tilt.
“It was very impressive. He always showed that he could be a good horse, so hopefully he can keep improving. We’ve always thought highly of him, but we never got a chance to really see him run,” said Rodriguez. “He tried a couple times on the grass and then Joel Rosario said to give him a try with blinkers. Last time, with the blinkers on, he broke very sharp and was in control of the situation from the gate.”
Rodriguez said War Stopper doesn’t necessarily have to be on the lead. Should they contest the nine-furlong Withers on February 1, he’ll again have Vargas, Jr. in the irons.
“I don’t think he needs the lead. We’ve schooled him to take dirt and trained him the right way,” said Rodriguez. “But, we don’t want to change anything now. If he breaks good, see where he takes you. Jorge knows the horse well now.”
Rodriguez will saddle recent claim Mr. Dougie Fresh in Friday’s seventh race at the Big A, a 6 1/2-furlong optional-claiming sprint. The 6-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Ghostzapper, previously trained by Jason Servis, was haltered for $62,500 for Repole Stable. He makes his first start for new connections in a field that includes multiple-graded stakes winner Call Paul and Joevia, the Long Branch winner who finished third last out in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.
“We took a chance on him and the horse has come back in good shape. Hopefully, he’ll keep running the way he ran for Jason,” said Rodriguez. “Mike (Repole) and I talked about it and we decided to cut him back. Jason tried him a couple times at a mile, but looking back he ran good races going seven-eighths and three-quarters and that’s why we claimed him – to try a little shorter. He’s acting like a nice horse and he’s got a nice body.”
Miceli plans productive Winter meet with Mrs. Orb
Mrs. Orb, a winner of four consecutive races for owners Ruggeri Stable, Richard Coburn, Script R Farm and conditioner Mike Miceli, has proven to be the reliable backbone of his small stable.
The now 5-year-old New York-bred picked up her first stakes win last out in the Bay Ridge on December 29. After breaking her maiden over the grass in her 11th career start on August 2 at Saratoga, Mrs. Orb followed with an 11th place finish in an allowance race on the turf. Since switching surfaces back to dirt, she wheeled off three consecutive allowance wins before capturing the Bay Ridge.
The daughter of Orb breezed four furlongs in 50.52 seconds Saturday at the Belmont Park training track in her first work since her victory in the Bay Ridge, and Miceli said he would opt to skip Sunday’s $100,000 Ladies Handicap and instead point her to the $100,000 Biogio’s Rose for New York-breds on Sunday, February 9.
“It took her awhile to break her maiden, but ever since then she really turned a corner,” said Miceli. “She’s filled out and put more muscle on and continued to improve. She returned from her last work in good order and we’re pointing for the Biogio’s Rose next with her.”
Miceli is coming off his most successful year as a trainer with 22 wins from 77 starters and over $802,000 in earnings. A former multiple graded stakes winning jockey who piloted Holding Pattern to victories in the 1974 Haskell and Travers, Miceli credits his owners and his small stable of horses for his success in 2019. That success his carried over to start the New Year, having saddled Gipsey Sorceress to a maiden claiming victory on January 11 to give him his first victory from three starts this year so far.
“We always keep a small number of horses, only around nine to 12, and thankfully they’ve all been competing,” said Miceli. “I have to thank our owners for always being on board with our game plan and where we want to run our horses. So far, things have been working out.”
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