Eye Witness draws off in the Animal Kingdom March 25 at Turfway Park (JennyPhoto/Past The Wire)
By Mary Eddy – NYRA Press Office
ELMONT, N.Y.— Westerberg, Mrs. John Magnier, Jonathan Poulin, Derrick Smith and Michael B. Tabor’s stakes-winning New York-bred Eye Witness returns to action in Saturday’s $150,000 Paradise Creek, a seven-furlong Widener turf sprint for sophomores, at Belmont Park.
Trained by Wesley Ward, Eye Witness was last seen winning the six-furlong Animal Kingdom on March 25 at Turfway Park over the all-weather surface. The son of City of Light stalked close to the pace in second through the first half-mile before pouncing to the lead at the top of the lane and drawing off to an easy five-length victory that garnered a field-best 88 Beyer Speed Figure.
The $650,000 purchase at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale debuted in September at Belmont at the Big A and finished a close third in a six-furlong state-bred turf maiden. He did not race again until New Year’s Day when graduating in a one-mile route over the Turfway synthetic, defeating next-out winners Event Detail and Quadra Island.
Ward said Eye Witness, bred by Anlyn Farms, shares many similarities with his sire City of Light, who needed time between his first two career starts in 2017 on the West Coast for trainer Michael McCarthy.
“He’s kind of a late developer. They paid quite a bit of money for him for a sire who took a while to get going himself,” said Ward. “This guy is a little bit the same. He was just kind of plodding along last summer not warranting a start. I put him in a New York-bred race last fall on the grass and he ran a credible race but not nearly what he showed recently. Then, I brought him to Turfway and once I got him on the all-weather he just really started having those eye-opening breezes.”
Eye Witness, a half-brother to stakes-winner More Mischief, is out of the Mr. Greeley mare Gracilia, who is a half-sister to graded-stakes winner and sire Sharp Humor.
Jose Ortiz picks up the mount from post 4.
Louis Lazzinnaro and Michael Dubb’s Inflation Nation [post 3, Dylan Davis] makes his fourth attempt at an elusive stakes score after posting respectable finishes in his last three starts against stakes company.
Trained by Christophe Clement, the Speightstown chestnut enters from a prominent runner-up effort to Belouni in the one-mile Woodhaven on April 22 at Aqueduct Racetrack where he battled with High Strike for the early lead and chased home the rallying Belouni to be bested 1 1/2 lengths.
Inflation Nation was a determined winner at second asking when sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga Race Course and followed with a fourth-place finish in the six-furlong Grade 3 Futurity at Belmont at the Big A where he was defeated a half-length in a blanket finish, missing show honors by a head to returning rival Vacation Dance. He closed out his juvenile campaign with a third-place finish to Vacation Dance in the November 5 Atlantic Beach over the same distance and course.
Robert LaPenta, e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Madaket Stables’ Charging [post 1, Manny Franco] makes his stakes debut off an eye-catching third-out graduation on April 26 at Keeneland for two-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Brad Cox.
The chestnut Candy Ride colt was sent to the front of the 11-horse field in the 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint and never looked back, lengthening his margin with ease down the stretch to land a six-length victory under Florent Geroux. The effort was awarded an 81 Beyer.
Charging, who boasts a perfect in-the-money record from three lifetime outings, was a $125,000 purchase at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and is out of the winning Smart Strike mare Electric, whose half-sister Supreme produced the multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Silver State.
Trainer Linda Rice will send out Winning Move Stable’s Grade 3 Bay Shore winner Joey Freshwater [post 8, Jose Lezcano] for his turf debut on short rest following a third-place finish in the Gold Fever on Friday at Belmont.
The dark bay son of Jimmy Creed tracked in fourth-of-5 in the six-furlong Gold Fever and made a mild bid under Kendrick Carmouche in the turn, but could not make up the needed ground and settled for third 6 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Drew’s Gold. Joey Freshwater’s lone start at seven furlongs came in the Bay Shore on April 8 where he pounced to a 1 1/4-length score over the Aqueduct main track.
Santa Rey Stable and trainer Tom Morley’s Son of a Birch made his third start a winning one when taking an off-the-turf maiden sprinting six furlongs on May 5 at Belmont.
The Temple City gelding returned from a 10-month layoff to earn the off-the-pace victory by a neck under Eric Cancel in his first outing over the main track. Morley said he opted to keep the dark bay colt in the race when it came off the turf to get his sophomore season going.
“He needed to get a run into him and he had shown enough proficiency over the dirt in the mornings to get his year started over it,” said Morley. “He has shown a lot of ability in the morning.”
Son of a Birch made his debut in July at Belmont and finished a distant fifth before returning at the end of the month to finish off the board again at Saratoga. Morley said Son of a Birch had a clear excuse for the poor performance and the extended layoff.
“He’s always been a horse with talent and it was probably trainer error last year asking a Temple City to run in June of his 2-year-old season,” Morley said. “He got a very small hairline fracture in his shin in that race at Saratoga, so we gelded him and turned him out for the winter.”
The well-named Son of a Birch, whose dam Urquia is named after the Basque word for birch, was purchased for $30,000 at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale. He will exit post 5 in rein to Cancel.
Sleeping Giant Stables, America’s Pastime Stables and KimDon Racing’s Vacation Dance will look to earn his first trip to the winner’s circle since the Atlantic Beach for trainer John Kimmel.
The New York-bred son of The Lieutenant earned graded black type when third in the aforementioned Futurity before scoring a stakes coup in the Atlantic Beach. His lone start this year was a distant off-the-board effort in a second-level state-bred optional claimer on April 27 at Aqueduct.
Bred by Harry Landry and James Hogan, Vacation Dance will emerge from post 7 with Kendrick Carmouche in the irons.
Completing the field are the stakes-placed Golden Nugget [post 2, Trevor McCarthy] and maiden winners Devils Only Friend [post 6, Junior Alvarado] and Hey Eugene [post 9, Jaime Torres].
The Paradise Creek is slated as Race 2 on Saturday’s 11-race card. First post is 12:30 p.m. Eastern.