General Jim takes command in an allowance at Keeneland Oct. 29 (Coady Photography)
By Mary Eddy – NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Courtlandt Farms’ talented juvenile General Jim will test his abilities against stakes company for the first time in Saturday’s $120,000 Central Park for 2-year-olds traveling one mile over Aqueduct Racetrack’s outer turf.
General Jim, trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, enters the 10-horse field as the only horse to have defeated winners, his latest effort a first-level allowance coup on October 29 at Keeneland. The Into Mischief bay settled into fifth-of-12 under jockey Luis Saez and patiently awaited his cue before unleashing a bid in the turn to take command at the stretch call. General Jim widened his margin down the lane and landed the victory by 3 1/4 lengths, completing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.04.
The win added to a second-out maiden score in similar fashion on September 3 at Saratoga Race Course where he rallied from 3 1/2 lengths off the pace to secure a neck victory. General Jim’s other start was a distant third on debut over the main track behind subsequent stakes-placed Bourbon Bash in August at the Spa.
McGaughey said switching to turf has made the difference for General Jim.
“I think he likes the turf. His two races on the turf have been good and his one at Keeneland was excellent,” McGaughey said. “Not that I won’t try him on the dirt again. We’ll just see how he comes along. Being by Into Mischief, he ought to like it, but the light did go off and he trained well from Saratoga breaking his maiden to the race at Keeneland.”
General Jim, an $850,000 purchase at last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale, is out of the stakes-placed Curlin mare Inspired by Grace, a full sister to multiple graded stakes winner Off the Tracks and a half-sister to dual graded stakes winner Concord Point.
“I think he’s got a right to be a nice horse, whether its dirt and turf or just turf, who knows,” McGaughey said.
Junior Alvarado will ride from post 10.
Fellow Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will challenge with two contenders as Calumet Farm’s Kentucky homebred Calycanthus [post 1, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] and Harrell Ventures and Starlight Racing’s Bat Flip [post 2, Jose Ortiz] make their stakes debuts.
“They’re both doing well and have similar styles,” said Pletcher. “They’ll kind of be up close to the pace and that seems to be working out OK on the course at the moment.”
Calycanthus, an English Channel bay, improved from an off-the-pace sixth-place effort on debut in August at Saratoga to graduate at second asking in wire-to-wire fashion on October 16 at Belmont at the Big A. Ridden to victory by Dylan Davis, Calycanthus took early command of the 10-horse field and never looked back, defeating next-out winner C’Est Magnifique by 1 3/4 lengths and covering the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.89.
Pletcher said Calycanthus relished a more prominent trip second time out.
“He got lulled to sleep a little bit the first time when we rated him,” Pletcher said. “He got involved earlier last time and the flow of the race helped, plus the experience.”
Calycanthus boasts a regal pedigree with his second dam, Toe in the Water, being a full-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Queenie Belle, who produced millionaire and 2010 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic winner Unrivaled Belle. Calycanthus’ dam, the Toccet mare Wardelle, was a stakes winner with over $400,000 in earnings through a 66-start career.
Bat Flip arrives from a maiden-breaking score last out in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight in wire-to-wire fashion on October 23 at Belmont at the Big A. The bay son of Good Magic was hustled to the lead by Jose Ortiz and led at each point of call to kick clear down the stretch and post a 1 3/4-length victory.
Stretching out over the turf proved the answer for Bat Flip, who finished off-the-board in his first two starts sprinting on the main track. He switched to turf in his third outing traveling six furlongs and improved to finish a game second to Nagirroc, who exited that effort to win the Grade 3 Futurity on October 9 at Belmont at the Big A.
Pletcher said Bat Flip’s affinity for turf was a pleasant surprise.
“He ran pretty well when we sprinted him on the grass and that set him up well for the stretch out,” Pletcher said. “We didn’t really expect him to be a turf horse when he first came in, but it’s turned out to be his home at the moment.”
Conditioner Christophe Clement will send out debut maiden winner Liar’s Poker for his first start against winners after a three-quarter-length victory traveling 1 1/16 miles on October 16 at Belmont at the Big A. A New York homebred for Waterville Lake Stables, Liar’s Poker stalked in third under Joel Rosario before rallying down the stretch to claim the narrow victory over General Banker.
“He ran well last time. He looked very professional,” said Clement. “I think he’s improved a little bit from the race, which he needs to do to run against open company.”
The son of Empire Maker has posted three works since his maiden coup, most recently covering a half-mile over Belmont Park’s inner turf in 50.44 seconds. He is the first named foal from the stakes-placed Exchange Rate mare Epping Forest, who finished second in the 2017 Coronation Cup at Saratoga for the same connections.
Dylan Davis will look to engineer a winning ride from post 3.
Maram LLC’s Kentucky homebred Dandy Handyman [post 7, Jose Lezcano] boasts a stakes placing for trainer Keri Brion after a closing runner-up finish in the 1 1/16-mile Awad on October 29 at Belmont at the Big A. The dark bay son of Outwork set the tempo under Trevor McCarthy and had a two-length advantage at the stretch call, but could not stave off the late run from Freedom Trail and was defeated by three-quarters of a length.
Dandy Handyman’s Awad effort came after a victorious debut on September 7 at Colonial Downs in off-the-pace fashion, closing from eighth-of-10 to nail Take Me to Jimmy by a head in the one-mile maiden special weight.
Rounding out the field are Noble Huntsman [post 4, Javier Castellano], Ramblin’ Wreck [post 5, Manny Franco], Dr. Settle’s Dream [post 8, Joel Rosario] and Let’s Go Big Blue [post 9, Eric Cancel], who adds blinkers. Sweetlou’sgotaces [post 6, Jorge Vargas, Jr.], the lone filly in the field, is cross-entered in the $120,000 Tepin against females on Sunday’s nine-race program at the Big A.
The Central Park is slated as Race 5 on Saturday’s 10-race program, which also features the Grade 3, $175,000 Fall Highweight in Race 8 and the Grade 2, $300,000 Red Smith in Race 9. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.
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