First Work of 2024 at Saratoga Goes to Dew

April 21, 2024

Nutella Fella Points to G1 Woody Stephens

Becky’s Joker Back in Training

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NYRA Press Office

OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Lee Pokoik’s Dew, a 2-year-old Frosted colt trained by Gary Contessa, posted the first breeze of the year recorded over the Oklahoma dirt training track at Saratoga Race Course when he fired off a three-eighths work in 39.99 seconds Sunday.

The Oklahoma Training Track opened Thursday as preparations continue for the 2024 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. Highlighted by the 156th edition of the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday, June 8, the Festival will include 24 stakes races with purses totaling $10.25 million, the highest purse levels and number of stakes offered since the launch of the multi-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival in 2014.

“It was a nice easy quarter-mile and he galloped out strongly to make the tab. The track looked good and the horse moved well over it,” Contessa said. “We had this 2-year-old in the March sale at Ocala and he didn’t quite bring what we wanted, so we decided to bring him to Saratoga and race him at NYRA. It was a good work and the track is in great shape.”

Dew is out of the unraced Will Take Charge mare Charge It Please, who is a half-sister to 2022 Grade 2 Vosburgh-winner Following Sea.

“He’s very quick,” Contessa said. “He’s a gorgeous mover. He’s very Tapit-like – Frosted is by Tapit – and this colt is a light grey and looks like your prototypical Tapit horse. Today was just about getting a little air in his lungs.”

Also among the 10 horses currently stabled with Contessa at Saratoga is Bell Gable Stable’s Grade 1 Hopeful-winner Nutella Fella.

The Runhappy colt graduated in July at Delaware Park before posting a 54-1 upset over next-out Grade 1 Champagne victor Timberlake.

Nutella Fella sustained a hind ankle injury training up to the Champagne and underwent surgery. He worked his way back to fitness at Oak Ridge Training Center in Ocala, Florida.

“He hasn’t looked back. He worked five-eighths in 1:01 in Ocala before I brought him up last week,” Contessa said. “He’ll probably have his first work the middle of next week. I’ll wait until the weather is good and the track is to my liking.”

Nutella Fella will look to return with a statement score in the Grade 1, $500,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores on June 8 at Saratoga.

“His first race of the year should be the Woody Stephens on Belmont Day,” Contessa said. “He’s a good horse and it’s the perfect distance for him – same distance as the Hopeful and he’s already worked five-eighths. He’s going to be really ready for that race in June. I know it’s a tough ask to come back in the Woody Stephens, but that distance is what he’s best at.”

Bred in Kentucky by Ashview Farm, Nutella Fella is out of the Candy Ride mare Krissy’s Candy, who is a half-sister to the graded stakes-placed duo Danny Boy and Meal Penalty.

Becky’s Joker kicks off her career with a win in the Schuylerville (G3) July 13 at Saratoga (NYRA/Coglianese)

Pokoik’s Becky’s Joker, who won the Spa’s Grade 3 Schuylerville on debut in July at odds of 21-1, will soon join the Contessa contingent upstate.

The Practical Joke bay followed her debut score with a distant seventh one month later in the Grade 3 Adirondack at Saratoga.

Contessa said Becky’s Joker needed time off after her Adirondack effort to ease temperamental issues. She has since wintered at Eclipse Training Center in Ocala.

“Mentally, she just fell apart on me after that race,” Contessa said. “We gave her the winter off and that’s what you’ve got to do with these young horses when they’re not progressing mentally the way you want them to and Lee is the type of owner who will let you do the right thing.”

Contessa said the $130,000 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale purchase is coming along nicely and will ship to Saratoga next week.

“I worked her five-eighths last Friday in 1:02 at Eclipse,” Contessa said. “My game plan is to work her there this Friday and then ship her on the weekend.”

Contessa said he hasn’t picked out a return spot just yet for Becky’s Joker, but noted the sizable filly would have no issue stretching out to the nine-furlong distance of the Grade 1, $500,000 DK Horse Acorn on June 7 at Saratoga.

“I want to see how she’s progressing and how she’s doing,” Contessa said. “Obviously, during the Belmont Stakes weekend there is a mile and an eighth race for her and I don’t think distance is going to be a problem for her because she’s 17.2 [hands]. She’s the biggest filly you’ll ever want to see, but she’ll have to tell me when she wants to come back. She’s eligible for allowances and all the 3-year-old stakes races – there’s so many opportunities for her, so we’ll play it one step at a time.”

Nice score King! @jonathanstettin Well played with the 4 singled on one ticket. 2 times! Big congrats.

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