OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Highly regarded Excellent Timing will make his first start since being acquired by his new ownership group and moved to the barn of trainer Chad Brown, competing as part of a nine-horse field of New York-bred sophomores in Sunday’s 42nd running of the seven-furlong $100,000 Damon Runyon at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Owned by Sol Kumin’s Madaket Stables in equal partnership with Marc and Joe Lore’s Wonder Stables and Michael Dubb, Excellent Timing will be making his 3-year-old debut. The Not This Time colt graduated at second asking with a frontrunning 7 ¼-length score in a 6 ½-furlong state-bred maiden special weight on December 10 at the Big A. The impressive effort by the former Charlton Baker trainee garnered an 81 Beyer Speed Figure.
Following the private purchase, Excellent Timing was transferred to Brown’s care at Payson Park Training Center in Florida, where he has worked steadily since January.
Kumin said the team considered bringing back Excellent Timing in a graded race, but instead decided to take a more gradual approach.
“We’re excited about him. I think he should run well,” Kumin said. “He went to Florida, filled out and breezed pretty well down there. His first couple works in particular, he worked really well. Chad was really excited and thought maybe he’d try him against graded stakes company. We had thought about a Derby prep type race, but Chad opted to keep him in a lighter spot. He figured there was no reason to throw him in the deep end. We can run against New York-breds and not rush into anything too quickly.”
Excellent Timing shipped to New York for his most recent work, a half-mile breeze on Sunday over the Belmont training track in 48.75 seconds – the fourth fastest of 96 recorded works at the distance.
“I thought that the horse was pretty impressive and ran a fast number,” Kumin said of the purchase. “We got a look at his figures and thought maybe there’s a chance he’d be buyable. We were able to buy him and move him over to Chad, so we’ll see how it goes. He should run a big race.”
Bred by Sequel Stallions New York and Lakland Farm, Excellent Timing is the first progeny out of the Pioneer of the Nile mare Explicable.
Jockey Manny Franco will pick up the mount, drawing post 5.
Three-time Damon Runyon winner Rudy Rodriguez will saddle Eagle Orb, as he attempts to become the race’s standalone winningest trainer.
Owned by E.V. Racing Stable, the son of 2013 Kentucky Derby-winner Orb returns to state-bred caliber after running a distant fifth in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Withers on February 6 and finishing second to Capo Kane in the one-mile Jerome on New Year’s Day. Eagle Orb’s most recent start against New York-breds was a winning one when displaying tactical speed in the six-furlong Notebook on November 14.
“I think the distance is what he’s looking for,” said Rodriguez, who previously saddled winners Good Luck Gus , Not That Brady  and Dream Bigger . “There’s a couple of new shooters in there that should be tough, but this is a good spot for him to show that he can compete against this group. Seven furlongs is right in his range. It seems like he’s doing very well. He’s done all the heavy lifting already. We just have to keep him happy and hope for the best.”
Bred in New York by Barry Ostrager, Eagle Orb is out of the Harlan’s Holiday mare Lady On Holiday.
Breaking from post 2, Eagle Orb will be piloted by Jorge Vargas, Jr.
After tasting defeat for the first time when a distant third in the one-mile Gander on February 14 at the Big A, JP Racing Stable’s Perfect Munnings will add blinkers as he looks to make amends for trainer Todd Pletcher.
The son of Munnings displayed surface versatility in his first two starts, including a debut win over next-out winner Dancing Buck over the Aqueduct turf in November which was followed by a victory over the Big A main track in the Rego Park on January 14.
Perfect Munnings was bred by Robert and Tammy Klimasewski.
Leading jockey Kendrick Carmouche attempts an eighth stakes win of the meet as he guides Perfect Munnings from post 3.
Two homebred entrants will bear the colors of Ron Lombardi’s Mr. Amore Stable for trainer Kelly Breen: It’s a Gamble [post 9, Nik Juarez] and It’s Gravy [post 6, Dylan Davis].
It’s a Gamble will make a surface change while facing state-bred company for the first time since a debut maiden victory in August over Saratgoa’s Mellon turf course against eventual stakes-winner Thin White Duke.
The son of English Channel defeated open company winners over the Aqueduct grass on December 4 before finishing off the board in a pair of turf stakes at Gulfstream Park.
It’s Gravy has never finished out of the money and has not been beaten more than two lengths in five lifetime starts. But it wasn’t until his last start when the son of Freud broke his maiden on January 16 over a muddy and sealed main track at Aqueduct. Prior to his maiden score, It’s Gravy placed twice against stakes company, finishing third in the Aspirant at Finger Lakes in October and second, beaten a neck, in the NYSSS Great White Way on December 6 at Aqueduct.
Completing the field are A Longlongtimeago [post 1, Eric Cancel], Echoes of Destiny [post 4, Pablo Morales], Reggae Music Man [post 7, Benjamin Hernandez], and The King Cheek [post 8, Trevor McCarthy].
The Damon Runyon is slated as Race 8 on Sunday’s nine-race card. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.
The Damon Runyon honors the late Broadway short story writer and journalist whose work inspired the award-winning musical Guys and Dolls. A thoroughbred racing enthusiast, Runyon owned a modest string of racehorses on the New York circuit during his life.
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