Hagler looks to secure first stakes win in Jimmy Winkfield

January 28, 2022

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – E.V. Racing Stable’s Hagler will add blinkers as he looks to secure his first stakes win for trainer Rudy Rodriguez in Sunday’s $100,000 Jimmy Winkfield for sophomores sprinting seven furlongs at Aqueduct Racetrack.

A son of Tapiture, Hagler enters the Jimmy Winkfield off a fifth in the Jerome going a one-turn mile over the sloppy and sealed main track at the Big A on New Year’s Day, setting the pace before weakening in the stretch under Trevor McCarthy and finishing five lengths behind winner Courvoisier.

The Jerome was the farthest the chestnut colt had traveled in his career, having broken his maiden in convincing fashion at Belmont Park going 6 1/2 furlongs in October to best a field of six other rivals by 4 1/2 lengths under Jorge Vargas, Jr.

Vargas Jr. got the call again in his next start, sending Hagler to the lead and never looking back to score in a seven-furlong optional claimer at Aqueduct, finishing up 1 1/4 lengths the better of stakes winner Doin’ittherightway.

Rodriguez said he is hopeful Hagler will appreciate turning back to sprinting after his off-the-board finish in the Jerome.

“From what he’s shown us in the morning, it looks like he wants to be a sprinter,” said Rodriguez. “You never know though. Maybe when he gets a little older he can go a little longer. But I want to try to keep him short. Let’s hope cutting him back will be good for him. It’s not an easy race and when you run in these kinds of races they’re usually tough.”

Hagler’s recent works over the dirt training track at Belmont Park include a half-mile in 51.44 seconds on Thursday and a bullet half-mile on January 21, breezing in 51.11 over the fast surface.

“He came out of that work good and we just kind of take it one day at a time with him,” said Rodriguez of Hagler’s bullet work. “I gave him one more work on Thursday. We just do what we have to do.”

Bred in Florida by his owners, Hagler is out of the twice-winning Latent Heat mare Ambitious Dancer. His full brother, Sky of Hook, took down the Rick Violette at Saratoga Race Course in 2019 for Rodriguez to be Tapiture’s first black type winner. Hagler will emerge from post 8 with Vargas, Jr. in the irons again. 

E.V. Racing Stable will also send out stakes-placed Life Is Great in the Jimmy Winkfield. Trained by Robert Klesaris, the son of Tapiture graduated in a seven-furlong maiden special weight at the Big A in November before shipping to Laurel Park to finish a game third in the seven-furlong Heft on December 26.

Life Is Great raced from off the pace in the Heft, settled in fourth position by Horacio Karamanos after being bumped at the start, closing well down the center of the stretch to be beaten just two lengths as the 3-5 favorite.

Out of the Read the Footnotes mare Zucca, Life Is Great is a half-brother to Sadie Lady, winner of the Correction at Aqueduct and the Dancin Renee at Belmont Park last year. Manny Franco rides from post 6.

Elizabeth Merryman’s Witty is one of four horses cross-entered in Saturday’s $100,000 Spectacular Bid at Laurel Park, along with Beast Or Famine, H P Moon and Coastal Mission.

Witty enters the Jimmy Winkfield as one of two stakes winners in the field, having captured the Pennsylvania Nursery at Parx in his last start for trainer McLane Hendricks. A grey son of Great Notion, Witty graduated at second asking in a six-furlong maiden special weight in October at Parx, closing from off the pace under Carol Cedeno to earn a career-best 75 Beyer Speed Figure for his 4 3/4-length victory.

Witty made easy work of his step up to stakes company for his first start against winners, stretching out to seven furlongs in the Pennsylvania Nursey in December to coast home a cool 5 1/2 lengths the better of Uncle Buddy as the 2-1 favorite in the field of 10 juveniles. Cedeno will ride again from post 7.

Three-time winner Dance Code is the other stakes winner in the field, entering off a last out win in the Parx Juvenile for trainer Juan Vazquez. Owned by Richie’s World Stables, Dance Code was a debut winner sprinting 4 1/2 furlongs in June before a third-place effort in the Grade 3 Sanford in July at Saratoga Race Course.

After an optional claiming win at Parx and a fourth behind Witty in the Pennsylvania Nursery, the bay son of Honor Code rebounded to grind out at 1 1/2 length win in the Parx Juvenile three weeks later under Nik Juarez. Frankie Pennington picks up the mount from post 4.

Morello, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, will try to remain undefeated after sprinting to a debut win at the Big A on November 27 for owners Blue Lion Thoroughbreds and Craig Taylor. A chestnut son of Classic Empire, Morello was a $250,000 purchase by his owners at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-old sale last May where he breezed an eighth of a mile in 10.1 seconds.

Morello was a clear winner under Jose Lezcano in his November debut six months later, closing from off the pace to win the six-furlong maiden over next-out winner Inevtabl Conection by 4 1/4 lengths. Lezcano retains the mount from post 2.

H P Moon will make his return to the races for trainer Lacey Gaudet after a five-month layoff. Owned by KEM Stables and Five Hellions Farm, H P Moon was a dominant debut maiden winner at Laurel in August, romping in a six-furlong sprint by 9 3/4 lengths and earning an 81 Beyer for his effort. A bay ridgling by Malibu Moon, H P Moon will exit post 5 with Trevor McCarthy up.

Completing the field for the Jimmy Winkfield are stakes-placed winners Coastal Mission [post 1, Arnaldo Bocachica], who also adds blinkers, and Beast Or Famine [post 3, Kendrick Carmouche].

The 38th renewal of the Jimmy Winkfield is slated as Race 8 on Sunday’s nine-race card. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.

Originally run as the Best Turn, the race was renamed in 2005 to honor jockey James Winkfield, a two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby and the last black jockey to take home the roses on the first Saturday in May. 

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

NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Aqueduct Racetrack, and the best way to bet every race of the winter meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.

NYRA Press Release

Photo: Hagler breaks his maiden October 29, 2021/NYRA Photo

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