Empire Classic and Empire Distaff highlight annual Empire Showcase Day

October 27, 2021

ELMONT, N.Y. – A total of 100 New York-breds are entered for a special 10-race card on Saturday at Belmont Park to celebrate the best of New York for the annual Empire Showcase Day, featuring six stakes races worth $1.35 million, topped by the $300,000 Empire Classic and $250,000 Empire Distaff.

Due to significant rainfall from a coastal storm that impacted Long Island Tuesday and Wednesday, a pair of $200,000 state-bred turf races originally scheduled for Saturday – the Ticonderoga for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up, and the Mohawk for 3-year-olds and up – have been rescheduled for Friday, November 5 and Saturday, November 6, respectively.

“Empire New York Showcase Day highlights the very best New York-breds in competition, displaying the talented thoroughbreds our state’s breeders contribute to all divisions across New York racing,” said Najja Thompson, Executive Director of New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. “The day is a credit to not only our breeders, but horsemen, owners, and NYRA who have invested in the New York bred program with tremendous results. The lucrative purses and incentives eligible to New York breds makes our state-bred program exceptional. Empire Showcase Day caps our three annual stakes-laden all New York-bred cards on the NYRA circuit which have proven to be an attractive wagering product to bettors as well.”

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez, who has won 11 individual meet titles on the NYRA circuit, will be represented across four stakes by five horses Saturday, including Sundaeswithsandy [Sleepy Hollow], Bronx Bomber [Hudson], Trinni Luck [Empire Distaff], Danny California [Empire Classic] and Tiergan [Empire Classic].

“It’s a very important day for us. We’re here year round in New York and to be able to compete in these kinds of races is extra special,” Rodriguez said. “These type of horses don’t come around often and this year we’re lucky to have a couple horses that we claimed that are doing well right now.”

To win the nine-furlong Empire Classic, which is slated as Race 9, Michael Dubb and Karen Murphy’s Danny California [post 6, Many Franco] will have to topple a talented field led by two-time race winner Mr. Buff and the upwardly mobile Americanrevolution.

Bred by West Point Thoroughbreds and 3C Thoroughbreds, the 6-year-old Afleet Alex chestnut was claimed for $40,000 in April and has posted a record of 1-1-2 in five starts for his new connections led by an optional-claiming score against open company on August 7 at Saratoga Race Course.

“He loves Saratoga so we gave him three races there this summer and he showed up every time,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve freshened him up and pointed him to this day and so far, so good.”

Tiergan [post 8, Irad Ortiz, Jr.], owned by Rodriguez in partnership with Michael Imperio and Andrew Gurdon, sports a ledger of 21-5-7-1. The 5-year-old Afleet Alex gelding, bred by Hibiscus Stables, captured the nine-furlong Ashley T. Cole over a muddy and sealed main track last out on September 24 at Belmont.

Chester and Mary Broman’s homebred Mr. Buff [post 3, Junior Alvarado] has won the last two editions of the Empire Classic. The 7-year-old Friend Or Foe chestnut launched his current campaign with a pair of open-company stakes scores at Aqueduct Racetrack, taking the Jazil in January and the Stymie in February.

Trainer John Kimmel said he is hoping the strapping millionaire will return to winning from after a pair of off-the-board efforts.

“He’s been training well into the Empire Classic,” Kimmel said. “It’ll be a tough race, but he’s been working really well.”

CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm’s Americanrevolution [post 5, Luis Saez], bred by Fred W. Hertrich, III and John D. Fielding, boasts a record of 5-3-0-1 with purse earnings of $367,035. The Constitution sophomore won the New York Derby in July at Finger Lakes and the Albany in August at the Spa. 

Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, the $275,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Preferred New York-bred Yearling Sale purchase enters from a good third in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby on September 25 at Parx.

“He’s coming off a big third against some more seasoned horses in the Pennsylvania Derby,” Pletcher said. “He’s come a long way in a short period of time so the Empire Classic makes sense for him.”

Rounding out the field are Captain Bombastic [post 1, Jose Lezcano], Three Jokers [post 2, Jose Ortiz], Wild Banker [post 4, Dylan Davis], and Sea Foam [post 7, Kendrick Carmouche].

Ryan Racing’s homebred Trinni Luck [post 10, Franco] steps into stakes company for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile Empire Distaff in Race 8.

The 4-year-old Trinniberg bay enters on a three-race win streak, including a gate-to-wire 5 1/2-length romp last out traveling 1 1/16-miles against open company, garnering a career-best 87 Beyer Speed Figure.

“She beat some nice horses in that race and she was comfortable doing it. She’s improving every time we run her,” Rodriguez said. “The race is coming up deep which is expected because it’s $250,000 and a stakes.”

A talented field is led by Gary Barber’s multiple graded-stakes placed Make Mischief [post 4, Ortiz, Jr.] for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse.

Make Mischief worked five-eighths in 1:00.91 Friday over Big Sandy in preparation for the 1 1/16-mile Empire Distaff.

“She worked really well. She loves it here. I like the way she gets across the main track,” Casse assistant Shane Tripp said.

The Into Mischief bay graduated at first asking in June 2020 Belmont and followed with runner-up efforts in the Grade 3 Schuylerville and Grade 2 Adirondack, both at Saratoga.

Through nine sophomore starts, Make Mischief has posted a record of 3-1-2, including a win in the Maddie May in February at the Big A and a close third in the Grade 1 Acorn in June at Belmont. She finished second by a neck last out in the nine-furlong Fleet Indian on August 27 at the Spa.

A talented Empire Distaff field includes Ice Princess [post 1, Luis Saez], Sharp Starr [post 2, Jose Ortiz], Dancing Kiki [post 3, Jose Lezcano], Vienna Code [post 5, Jalon Samuel], Mrs. Orb [post 6, Dylan Davis], Bank Sting [post 7, Joel Rosario], Maiden Beauty [post 8, Kendrick Carmouche], and Byhubbyhellomoney [post 9, Eric Cancel].

The stakes action kicks off in Race 3 with the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow for juveniles going a one-turn mile as Iris Smith Stable’s Shipsational [post 4, Saez] will attempt consecutive stakes victories for trainer Eddie Barker.

Bred by Mr. and Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone, the son of Midshipman will stretch out in distance following a two-length conquest of the Bertram F. Bongard on September 26 at Belmont Park. 

Pletcher, a two-time winner of the Sleepy Hollow, will saddle Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Overstep [Ortiz, Jr., post 2] – a 6 ¾-length debut winner September 25 over Big Sandy. 

Bred in New York by Chester and Mary Broman, who were named New York Breeder of the Year in six of the past ten years, Overstep was geared down at the wire of his last out maiden coup going six furlongs. The son of Into Mischief was acquired for $360,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. 

Completing the field are Sundaeswithsandy [post 1, Manny Franco], Who Hoo Thats Me [post 3, Dylan Davis], Excursionniste [post 5, Jose Lezcano], and Sterling Hill [post 6, Eric Cancel].

John Fanelli, Cash is King, LC Racing, Paul Braverman and Team Hanley’s Ny Traffic [post 8, Ortiz, Jr.], a 4-year-old Cross Traffic gray bred by Brian Culnan, returns to sprinting in the 6 1/2-furlong $150,000 Hudson for 3-year-olds and up in Race 5.

Trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr., Ny Traffic enjoyed a productive sophomore season through a record of 7-1-3-1, including a game runner-up effort to Authentic in the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth.

Ny Traffic opened his current campaign with a dominant 6 3/4-length score in a seven-furlong state-bred optional claiming sprint, garnering a career-best 103 Beyer. He returned with a good second to Informative in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile ahead of off-the-board efforts traveling nine furlongs in the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup in July and the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic on August 27.

A loaded Hudson field includes Judge N Jury [post 1, Saez], Chestertown [post 2, Lezcano], Foolish Ghost [post 3, Samuel], Amundson [post 4, Jose Ortiz], Jemography [post 5, Davis], Bronx Bomber [post 6, Jorge Vargas, Jr.], Our Last Buck [post 7, Franco], and Kaz’s Beach [post 9, William Otero].

NY Final Furlong Racing Stable, Maspeth Stables and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ Espresso Shot [post 6, Jose Ortiz] will make her final career start in the 6 1/2-furlong $150,000 Iroquois for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up in Race 6.

Trained by Jorge Abreu and bred by Twin Creeks Farm, the multiple stakes winning 5-year-old Mission Impazible mare boasts a record of 23-5-3-3 with purse earnings of $498,625. A two-length winner of the Biogio’s Rose in March at the Big A, Espresso Shot will look to improve upon last year’s fifth-place finish in this event.

Opposition will be provided by Miss Jimmy [post 1, Davis], The Important One [post 2, Lezcano], Hannah Dances [post 3, Luis Perez], Letmetakethiscall [post 4, Carmouche], and Fight On Lucy [post 5, Benjamin Hernandez].

In the $250,000 Maid of the Mist, a one-mile test for juvenile fillies carded as Race 7, Gold Square’s homebred Sue Ellen Mishkin [post 6, Saez] will attempt to make amends from a distant seventh after a troubled trip in the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga for trainer Jorge Abreu. 

The daughter of Mohaymen dazzled in her August 13 debut at Saratoga, tracking a close second and drawing away to a 7 ¼-length triumph.

Abreu will also send out NY Final Furlong Racing Stable and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ Venti Valentine [post 1, Ortiz, Jr.], who will attempt to parlay her come-from-behind debut maiden victory into stakes success. The daughter of Firing Line bested 11 other New York-bred juvenile fillies going six furlongs on September 26 at Belmont Park, overcoming a wide post and trip down the backstretch to find her best gear in the stretch to win by a nose.

Bred by NY Final Furlong Racing Stable and Maspeth Stable, Venti Valentine is a half-sister to Espresso Shot. 

Stonestreet Stables’ Velvet Sister [post 7, Jose Ortiz] will vie to recapture her winning form from a first-out maiden victory in June at Belmont Park for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. The Bernardini bay, bred by Godolphin and Michelle Nevin, was a 9 ¾-length winner against open company going 5 ½ furlongs over Big Sandy en route to stakes placings against her New York-bred counterparts in the Seeking the Ante on August 17 at Saratoga and the Joseph A. Gimma on September 24 at Belmont Park. 

Completing the field are Starship Laoban [post 2, Abner Adorno], Vallelujah [post 3, Jacqueline Davis], Classic Lynne [post 4, Dylan Davis], Sandy’s Garden [post 5, Manny Franco], Captainsdaughter [post 8, Kendrick Carmouche], Dufresne [post 9, Jose Lezcano], and Luz [post 10, Samuel]. 

First post on Saturday’s 10-race card is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.

America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the fall meet at Belmont Park on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.

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