Feb. 17, 2020, at Aqueduct under Jorge Vargas, Jr., Amundson won the Hollie Hughes Stakes earning Black Type. (Chelsea Durand)
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – While veteran sprinter Amundson has contested the last two editions of the Hollie Hughes at the Big A, trainer Horacio DePaz said the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Curlin is likely to return in an optional-claiming tilt.
Sporting a ledger of 16-5-1-2, Amundson won the 2020 Hollie Hughes and finished fourth in his title defense in February. The bay gelding won a state-bred optional-claimer in July at the Spa but was off-the-board one month later in a difficult second level optional-claiming sprint in August at Saratoga won by graded stakes placed Beau Liam.
“He’s still eligible for the open ‘2X’ which is a very tough condition in New York. We’ll see if we can slip into one of those spots,” DePaz said. “We ran him for a tag in Saratoga and he won, and he came back in open company and that was a tough spot, the Asmussen horse Beau Liam was just a monster in that race.
“Hopefully, he can step up,” DePaz added. “He’s getting older, but he can show up with some really good efforts. He seems to like some spacing between his races.”
DePaz said he may have two possible starters in Schwartz homebreds Winners Laugh and Our Man Mike for the upcoming Hollie Hughes, a six-furlong sprint for state-breds 4-years-old and up slated for February 19 at the Big A.
“Our Man Mike is more of a closing sprinter but Winners Laugh would definitely fit the Hollie Hughes a little bit better,” DePaz said.
Winners Laugh, a 4-year-old son of Broken Vow out of the graded-stakes placed Bernardini mare Bridgehampton, won a state-bred allowance sprint on May 9 at Belmont and followed three weeks later with a distant third in the one-turn mile Commentator over a muddy Belmont main track. Winners Laugh returned last out on December 3 in a state-bred optional-claiming sprint at the Big A, finishing sixth while racing off a six-month layoff.
Our Man Mike, a 3-year-old son of Street Boss, boasts a ledger of 11-1-2-4. Last year, he finished second in both the Aspirant and New York Breeders Futurity – a pair of six-furlong sprints at Finger Lakes.
The dark bay gelding graduated at fifth asking in a one-turn mile in April at Aqueduct and has hit the board in 3-of-6 starts since.
Barry Schwartz’s New York homebred Shalimar Gardens worked a half-mile in 49.75 seconds December 24 over the Belmont dirt training track for DePaz.
The sophomore daughter of Uncle Mo, out of the Grade 1-winning Officer mare Princess Violet, graduated impressively at third asking in September, wiring older, open company by 11 3/4-lengths in a one-turn mile over Big Sandy.
She followed with a good fourth in the seven-furlong Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland after exiting the inside post in a solid field of 11 sophomore fillies. Last out, Shalimar Gardens finished a distant fourth in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Comely on November 26 at the Big A.
DePaz said Shalimar Gardens will target an allowance tilt in mid-January.
“We swung for the fences going to Keeneland with her in the Raven Run and then we tried the race at Aqueduct,” DePaz said. “She has all her conditions, so we’ll regroup and rebuild her confidence, and point towards a spring campaign with stakes caliber horses.”
DePaz said he was impressed with the first two career starts by Shalimar Gardens – both on-the-board efforts sprinting 6 1/2-furlongs at Saratoga.
“The races at Saratoga were too short for her but she finished up really well,” DePaz said. “I was impressed with her Raven Run. It was a big task to ship to Kentucky and then we drew the one hole, and she ran fourth against a solid field of fillies down there. I think the mile and an eighth last time was a bit too far and the track was a bit too testing for her. A mile may suit her better.”
NYRA Press Release (Edited)