Harpers First Ride targets $100,000 Deputed Testamony

July 29, 2021

G3 Winner, Leading Trainer Gonzalez Seek 11th Victory Together Saturday

BALTIMORE, Md. – GMP Stables, Arnold Bennewith and Cypress Creek Equine’s Grade 3 winner Harpers First Ride and Maryland’s leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez, who celebrated a successful reunion last month, will look to keep their mojo going Saturday in defense of last year’s victory in the $100,000 Deputed Testamony at historic Pimlico Race Course.

The Deputed Testamony is among three $100,000 stakes on a nine-race program, joined by the Challedon for 3-year-olds and up and Alma North for fillies and mares 3 and older, both sprinting six furlongs. All three races are part of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series.

First race post time is 12:40 p.m.

Harpers First Ride, 5, and Gonzalez, a 44-year-old who has topped the state’s overall trainer standings since 2017, have proven to be an ideal partnership. Claimed on behalf of Robert D. Bone for $30,000 out of a maiden claiming win Sept. 14, 2019 at Churchill Downs, they have teamed up for 10 wins, four in stakes, with two seconds and a third in 16 subsequent starts.

The most recent came in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance June 27 at Pimlico, where the Paynter gelding circled the field and drew off to a 1 ¼-length triumph under Angel Cruz, who has been aboard for six wins including all four stakes. Harpers First Ride had gone winless in three starts for trainer Robertino Diodoro after being sold privately prior to his run in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) Jan. 23 at Gulfstream Park.

“The owners called me and we talked about it and they asked if I would take him back, and I said, ‘Yes, sure,’” Gonzalez said. “It’s tough when you’re a trainer and you don’t know the horse. They have to figure it out. He tried his best and when he came back the horse was in really good condition.

“He’s doing good. After the last race he came back really happy, like he knows he won the race,” he added. “After that he’s been training every day like before when I had him and I think he is in good shape for the race.”

Harpers First Ride hit his best form last fall, kicked off by a popular 3 ¼-length win in the Deputed Testamony at Laurel Park, his stakes debut. Wins followed in the historic Pimlico Special (G3), Richard W. Small and Native Dancer to cap a 2020 season where he won seven of 11 races and nearly $500,000 in purse earnings.

Having had him back since a failed bid at a second straight Pimlico Special in mid-May, Gonzalez feels Harpers First Ride is rounding back to that form. Cruz is named to ride back from Post 6 of seven.

“I believe he is. I think the more time he has, he’s going to prove he’s going to come back to that horse,” Gonzalez said. “We’re working for that. We know he’s got the talent. We know he can run. I believe he’s going to come back like he was.”

Hillwood Stables’ multiple stakes winner Cordmaker is a familiar foe, having run second or third to Harpers First Ride in the Deputed Testamony, Pimlico Special, Richard Small and Native Dancer last year. They most recently hooked up again in the May 14 Pimlico Special, with Cordmaker running fourth and Harpers First Ride 10th.

Cordmaker, a gelded 6-year-old son of two-time Horse of the Year and 2014 Hall of Famer Curlin, was in the Pimlico Special for the third straight year after having run third in 2019 and 2020. It was his first race since a front-running, one-length triumph in the March 13 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial at Laurel.

“He came out of the last one great and he’s doing good,” trainer Rodney Jenkins said. “He probably just needed to go and get back in the game. We didn’t really crank him up for that race.”

Cordmaker owns nine wins, five in stakes, and more than $600,000 in purse earnings from 29 career starts. Regular rider Victor Carrasco has the call from Post 4.

“Knock on wood, he’s as sound as he’s ever been and he’s doing well,” Jenkins said. “He’s a nice horse. We’ll see how he does.”

Morris Kernan Jr., Yo Berbs and Jagger Inc.’s Magic Michael will be making his second straight stakes start for trainer Jamie Ness after finishing second, two lengths behind Grade 3 winner Phat Man, in the 1 1/16-mile Battery Park July 10 at Delaware Park.

“He ran well at Delaware the first time in the stakes, got in a little trouble. He got out and ran second. He probably could have won or been right there if he hadn’t gotten in trouble, but that happens,” Ness said. “I really like the distance of this race, the mile and an eighth, because he looks like he wants to run all day, and here we are.”

Magic Michael has finished first or second in eight of nine starts, six of them wins, at Parx since being claimed by Ness for $30,000 last fall at Churchill Downs. The exception came in an open, 1 1/8-mile allowance March 14 in New York, where he ran last of six following a troubled start.

“He fit the Parx program as far as conditions,” Ness said. “He did what we want and blew through all his conditions. Now we’re a stakes horse. That’s the plan, and he went according to plan.

“We had one little hiccup. He went up to Aqueduct and I don’t know what happened that day. He stumbled coming out of the gate and rushed up, but other than that he’s been first or second,” he added. “He’s a really nice, young, improving horse. I feel real good about this weekend.”

Parx’s leading rider, Ruben Silvera, gets the assignment on Magic Michael from the rail. Ness and Silvera teamed up to win the $100,000 Bald Eagle Derby with Indian Lake July 24 at Pimlico.

Mischief Afoot has finished first in each of his last two starts, both at Pimlico, though he was disqualified to second for interference following in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance April 8. He returned to capture the same condition by 1 ¾ lengths May 15 on the Preakness Stakes (G1) undercard and has posted three bullet workouts at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. for his return.

Bourbon Calling ran seventh in the June 25 Kelly’s Landing in his season debut for trainer Ian Wilkes. He won the seven-furlong Russell Road and was second by 1 ¼ lengths in the one-mile Ack Ack (G3) last summer and fall.

Forewarned is a three-time Ohio-bred stakes winner that ran third in the 2020 Westchester (G3) at Belmont Park and is a frequent visitor to Maryland, having finished behind Harpers First Ride in the 2020 Richard Small and Native Dancer and Cordmaker in the 2021 John B. Campbell and Harrison Johnson.

Diodoro owns and trains Two Thirty Five, who exits a sixth-place finish in the 1 ¼-mile Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) May 31 at Santa Anita for trainer Doug O’Neill. The 7-year-old gelding won the 2019 Harry Brubaker at Del Mar and was third in the 2019 Native Diver (G3) and 2020 San Pasqual (G2).

The Deputed Testamony returned to the Maryland stakes calendar last year after not having been run since 2008. It pays homage to the last Maryland-bred winner of the Preakness Stakes (G1), who upset Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Sunny’s Halo in 1983. Bred and raced by Bonita Farm and Francis P. Sears and trained by Bill Boniface, Deputed Testamony also won the 1983 Haskell (G1) and Federico Tesio.

Maryland Jockey Club Press Release

Photo: Harpers First Ride (MJC)

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