Celestial City rockets to a victory in the G2 Hill Prince Oct. 22, 2022 (NYRA/Coglianese)
By Ryan Martin – NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Stuart Janney, III’s Kentucky homebred Celestial City will commence his 4-year-old season in Saturday’s $100,000 Danger’s Hour for 4-year-olds and upward going one mile over the inner turf, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Danger’s Hour kicks off turf stakes action on the NYRA circuit for the calendar year and will see graded stakes winner Celestial City return to the Big A for the first time since capturing the Grade 2 Hill Prince on October 22 during the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, a two-time Danger’s Hour winner, Celestial City was eight lengths back in ninth passing the grandstand before advancing up the inside to third in upper stretch and moving two paths wide and in pursuit. He took command just outside the sixteenth pole and crossed the wire a 2 1/4 length-winner.
The Uncle Mo bay, who boasts a perfect 2-for-2 record on the Big A turf, was last seen finishing tenth in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby on December 3 at Del Mar. After spending the winter with Niall Brennan in Ocala, Florida, he was reunited with McGaughey at Payson Park Training Center in South Florida where he has breezed consistently throughout the month of March.
McGaughey said he chose the Danger’s Hour as a comeback spot for Celestial City given his affinity for the course.
“That was in my thinking. He had run very well over that course last fall,” McGaughey said. “He had some time off at Niall Brennan’s for a little while and was at Payson for a good while. He’s been working well over the turf there.”
Celestial City brags field-best earnings of $348,420 and a record of 10-3-2-2, which also includes graded stakes placings at Saratoga Race Course in last year’s Grade 2 Hall of Fame [third] and Grade 3 Saranac [second].
Celestial City is out of the Malibu Moon mare Lunar Evening, who is a half-sister to the McGaughey-trained Grade 1-winner Hymn Book.
Trevor McCarthy will pick up the mount from post 5.
Also bragging a 2-for-2 Big A record and arriving at the Danger’s Hour off a respite is Big Everest [post 3, Manny Franco], who has not raced since capturing the Artie Schiller on November 13 over the local going.
The 5-year-old gelded son of The Gurkha will attempt to give trainer Christophe Clement and owner Reeves Thoroughbred Racing their second straight collaborative Danger’s Hour victory after winning last year with popular New York-bred City Man.
Big Everest, who is owned in partnership with Steven Rocco and William Branch, was a gate-to-wire winner of the last out Artie Schiller, which was contested over a yielding inner turf course. Never relinquishing his advantage, Big Everest was never urged under jockey Joel Rosario in the stretch drive as he staved off a late confrontation from Shadow Sphinx to win by a half-length. The victory registered a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure.
Trainer Paulo Lobo will send up two contenders for Larry Best’s OXO Equine in Koolhaus [post 6, Walter Rodriguez] and Eleven Central [post 4, Kendrick Carmouche].
Koolhaus, a 5-year-old Nyquist chestnut, will make his turf debut and has not raced since finishing sixth in a Turfway Park allowance optional claimer in January going one mile over the all-weather surface. He was triumphant in his debut for Lobo two starts back when capturing a 6 1/2-furlong non-winners of three allowance event in December at Turfway.
Koolhaus is out of the Pulpit mare Holy Place – a half-sister to 2017 Champion Turf Mare Lady Eli as well as graded stakes winner Bizzy Caroline.
Eleven Central will see turf for the first time since finishing seventh in May 2022 against winners at Churchill Downs. The three-time winning son of Into Mischief, out of Canada’s 2007 Horse of the Year Sealy Hill, enters off a seventh-place effort against allowance optional claiming company on November 13 at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Joe Sharp will send up Three Diamonds Farm’s Anaconda [post 1, Dylan Davis], who completed the exacta at 17-1 odds in the Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship on November 25. The 6-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile was unplaced in both of his starts this year when ninth in Santa Anita’s Grade 3 Thunder Road in February and fourth in the Big Daddy on March 11 at Turfway Park.
Completing the field is So High [post 2, Luis Rodriguez Castro] for owner-trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul, who will race with cheek pieces off while spinning back on eight day’s rest following a fourth-place finish in a local April 7 allowance event. Bourbon Calling is entered for main track only.
The Danger’s Hour honors the late Paul Mellon’s Virginia homebred, who captured six graded stakes races, including the Grade 1 Manhattan in 1986, through a 25-9-2-4 career. The son of 1979 Belmont Stakes winner Coastal was trained by Hall of Famer Mack Miller.
The Danger’s Hour is carded as Race 3 on Saturday’s nine-race program. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.