OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Maram LLC’s Kentucky homebred Dandy Handyman will make his stakes debut in Saturday’s $120,000 Awad at 1 1/16-miles over the inner turf for juveniles, at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
The Awad is part of a stacked card that includes the Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso, a one-turn mile for 3-year-olds and upward offering the top-four finishers a free nomination and starting fee in the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile slated for December 3 at the Big A. Also featured Saturday are the Grade 3, $200,000 Bold Ruler at six furlongs for 3-year-olds and up and the $120,000 Pumpkin Pie at seven furlongs on the main track for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.
Dandy Handyman will look to provide trainer Keri Brion with just her third stakes win on the flat. Brion, an accomplished hurdles trainer, conditions the reigning Champion Steeplechaser in The Mean Queen, who won a pair of Grade 1s on the NYRA jumps circuit last year.
Brion sent out Sa’ad to win the Flat at Great Meadows in May and Agitare to capture the John Forbes Memorial in October at Far Hills – flat races contested from a standing start. A win by Dandy Handyman on Saturday would mark a first stakes win on the flat for Brion from the starting gate.
“I think I have a bit of an edge running horses in those races up and down and around hills the way I train,” Brion said. “Those races were great to win, don’t get me wrong, but I’d like to get my name out there as a flat trainer as well.”
Brion, who won a turf sprint last month at this meet with Heymakit’sjack, previously worked as an assistant for Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard, who enjoyed tremendous success in both disciplines. During her tenure with Sheppard, Brion said she was able to work with 2008 Champion Grass Mare Forever Together and 2009 Champion Female Sprinter Informed Decision, as well as Cloudy’s Knight, who was named Canada’s Champion Grass Horse in 2007.
“I was there during those good horses and have that knowledge which helps. Everyone knows I can train a jumper, but now it’s about showing I can train flat horses as well,” said Brion. “I always wanted to do both, but you need the horses. I’ve been lucky enough this year to get some nice stock with this 2-year-old being one of them.”
Dandy Handyman posted an impressive 22-1 debut upset on September 7 traveling one mile over firm Colonial Downs turf. The Outwork dark bay, with Kevin Gomez up, rallied into modest fractions from eighth-of-10 and 11 lengths off-the-pace to best the Chad Brown-trained favorite Take Me to Jimmy by a head in a final time of 1:38.13.
“He broke very well and Kevin gave him a great ride,” Brion said. “I told Kevin not to hustle him early and just let him find his stride. He’s so big. I just said to make sure to get him out and get him running late and he’ll come running.
“Did I think he’d win first out – I did not,” added Brion, with a laugh. “He was a little bit immature and I thought he’d need the run, but he just has a lot of natural ability. He showed a massive turn of foot down the lane and he’s matured a lot since that run. I think you’ll see a more mature horse in every way on Saturday. He’ll appreciate any added distance.”
Brion has entered Dandy Handyman in multiple spots since without racing, including scratching from an off-the-turf edition of the Laurel Futurity on October 1.
“We think very highly of him,” Brion said. “If I had been able to get another run into him, we might have taken a shot at the Breeders’ Cup, but this is a very good spot for him. If he’s as good as I think he is, I think he’ll be right there.”
Dandy Handyman worked a bullet five-eighths in 1:00 flat on Tuesday over the Fair Hill synthetic in company with recent maiden special weight winner Kitten Around.
“That was probably the best he’s worked yet,” Brion said. “He was under his exercise rider with a jockey on another 2-year-old, who had just broke his maiden at Presque Isle. He was all over that horse, so he’s really coming to hand now.”
Dandy Handyman is out of the Ten Centuries mare American Lights, who is a half-sibling to the Brown-trained Maram, who captured the 2008 Grade 3 Miss Grillo at Belmont Park ahead of a win in that year’s listed Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita Park.
Brion credited Karen Woods [Maram LLC.] and the Wycoff family [Three Diamonds Farm] as owners to provide her burgeoning barn with flat stock. While currently overseeing a full stable of 45 horses at Fair Hill, she said she expects that number to reach as high as 75 in the New Year with a 60-40 split of jumps-to-flat horses.
“We’re having a nice go of things and it’s starting to be noticed. I’ve had a couple calls from flat owners, so it’s really exciting,” Brion said.
Trevor McCarthy will pilot Dandy Handyman from post 3.
New York-bred Let’s Go Big Blue [post 6, Eric Cancel], trained by George Weaver for Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcell’s August Dawn Farm, closed from last of 10 to win on debut traveling 1 1/16 miles against fellow state-breds in August over the Saratoga turf.
The Cairo Prince grey, bred in the Empire State by Fred W. Hertrich III and John D. Fielding, followed with a closing third in the one-mile Nownownow at Monmouth Park. With Eric Cancel up, Let’s Go Big Blue exited the inside post in the Nownownow and saved ground in seventh-of-9, advancing with purpose through the final turn, but was forced to angle out for the stretch run to finish three lengths back of the victorious Webslinger.
Out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Giant Win, the $220,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale purchase is a half-sibling to Grade 1-winning millionaire Pinehurst.
Gatsas Stables, R.A. Hill Stable and Steven Schoenfeld’s Freedom Trail [post 4, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] enters from a rallying head score on September 25 in a Belmont at the Big A turf route.
Trained by John Terranova, the $150,000 OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase saved ground from 9 1/2 lengths off-the-pace in the 1 1/16-mile test before swinging seven-wide for the stretch run to secure the narrow win.
The Collected bay is out of the War Front mare Freedom, who is a half-sibling to multiple Grade 1-winners Hoppertunity and Executiveprivilege.
Harrell Venture’s Virginia-bred Sendero [post 2, Flavien Prat], a $300,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, enters from a stylish maiden victory in the restricted Jamestown on September 7 at Colonial.
Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, the City of Light bay was second in his July debut at the same distance and course before drawing off to a 2 1/4-length win at second asking.
Rounding out the field are maiden winners El de Chimi [post 7, Javier Castellano] and Conman [post 1, Dylan Davis], who finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in the Nownownow; as well as maiden winner Noble Huntsman [post 5, Manny Franco], who ran fourth last out in the Grade 2 Pilgrim for trainer Mitchell Friedman.
The Awad is slated as Race 4 on Saturday’s 10-race card. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.
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By Keith McCalmont – NYRA Press Office
Main photo by Dom Napolitano
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