Lugan Knight after his Jerome triumph (Joe Labozzetta)
By Mary Eddy – NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— BG Stables’ Kentucky homebred Lugan Knight will make his graded stakes debut for trainer Michael McCarthy in Saturday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham, a one-turn mile for sophomores, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Gotham, which attracted an overflow field, awards 50-20-15-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-five finishers and is carded as Race 9 on Saturday’s loaded 10-race card. The program co-features the $200,000 Busher, a 50-20-15-10-5 Kentucky Oaks qualifier, in Race 4 and the Grade 3, $150,000 Tom Fool Handicap in Race 8. First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.
Lugan Knight, a bay son of Goldencents, enters from a triumphant stakes debut in the $150,000 Jerome on January 7 at the Big A where he bested dual graded stakes-placed Arctic Arrogance going the Gotham distance over a good main track. Lugan Knight, piloted by Dylan Davis, maintained a half-length advantage over Arctic Arrogance at each point of call before coming to even terms with his foe at the top of the lane. The pair continued to battle furiously in the stretch before Lugan Knight put his head in front and inched clear to post the half-length victory in a final time of 1:37.77.
The Jerome effort, which awarded Lugan Knight 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, came on the heels of a stalking third-place finish in his first outing against winners in a November 26 optional claiming sprint at Churchill Downs. There, he rated in fourth-of-8 five lengths off the pace before showing a good turn of foot and closing to finish third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths by next-out Smarty Jones-winner Victory Formation.
“That was a new dimension for him that day,” McCarthy said of the Jerome victory. “I thought his race before that at Churchill Downs looked like he got a little bit lost and distracted through the lane. When he hooked up with that horse in the Jerome, he eye-balled him the whole way down the lane. It looked like he wasn’t going to let him by and he didn’t.”
Lugan Knight’s other win was a second-out graduation in October at Keeneland sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs. Out of the Speighstown mare Sly Roxy, Lugan Knight’s second dam is Roxy Gap, a multiple graded stakes winner and dual Canadian Champion. He has banked $175,775 in total purse earnings through a record of 4-2-1-1.
Davis returns to ride from post 10.
West Coast shipper Carmel Road will make his first outing for trainer Tim Yakteen on the heels of a pacesetting second-place finish in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity on December 17 for Hall of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert. Owned by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital and Catherine Donovan, Carmel Road is in search of his first stakes victory in his first try at a one-turn mile.
The bay son of Quality Road set swift fractions under Juan Hernandez in the 1 1/16-mile Los Alamitos Futurity, marking an opening quarter-mile in 23.61 seconds and a half-mile in 46.66 with Arabian Lion tracking in second. Carmel Road was challenged by subsequent winner Practical Move at the three-quarters call and could not fend off the 10-1 longshot, settling for second 3 1/4 lengths back.
Carmel Road’s lone victory came in a dominant second-out graduation, setting the pace in a two-turn mile maiden in August at Del Mar and bounding away to an 8 3/4-length victory. He finished a close third on debut when closing from eighth-of-9 in a five-furlong maiden over the same oval.
“We typically look for the type of horse that has that breakaway speed that can control the race. But he is a horse that can sit a trip as well if he needs to,” said Tom Ryan, manager of the ownership group. “He’s a good-minded colt, but we wouldn’t take his speed away from him if he were to break away from there. We love the one turn mile for him. We feel like it’s potentially a good set up for him and we’ll start from there and see if we feel he’s one that can get two turns effectively [going forward].”
Eric Cancel will look to engineer a winning ride from post 5.
Two undefeated contenders with 4-for-4 records will make their graded stakes debuts by way of Parx Racing. Lynch Racing and Nick Sanna Stable’s Recruiter [post 14, Angel Cruz] will make the second outing of his sophomore campaign for trainer Cathal Lynch while Imaginary Stables’ Howgreatisnate [post 2, J.D. Acosta] makes his seasonal debut for conditioner Andrew Simoff.
Recruiter, a bay Army Mule colt out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Lady Halite, enters from a strong 2 3/4-length score in the Parx Juvenile on January 3, which was originally scheduled for juveniles on December 27 but was moved to after the New Year due to weather with the condition adjusted to sophomores. Ridden to victory by Mychel Sanchez, Recruiter rated in fourth one length from the pace and pounced to the lead in mid-turn, drawing away down the stretch to cross the wire first in a final time of 1:26.75 over the sloppy and sealed track.
The Parx Juvenile was the first time Recruiter had rated from farther back than second, his other three victories coming in front-running fashion. Lynch said he is confident Recruiter can be effective in either a pacesetting or stalking position as he makes his first start beyond sprint distances.
“He’s out of a Medaglia d’Oro mare and he’s very quick, but he doesn’t need the lead – he just happened to be on the lead in a couple of his races,” said Lynch.
Recruiter’s four victories have come at three different racetracks and four different distances, beginning with a debut score sprinting five furlongs in August at Monmouth Park. He followed with a 1 3/4-length coup sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs to best winners in an October optional claimer at Laurel Park before earning his first stakes victory in the six-furlong James F. Lewis, III in November over the same oval.
Recruiter has worked steadily over the Fair Hill dirt training track, posting a series of five and seven-furlong works since his Parx Juvenile victory. He most recently breezed five-eighths in 1:01.20 on Thursday.
“He’s done everything right so far,” said Lynch. “We’ve shipped him all over and he doesn’t need to run on any one track. He has no problem jumping on the van and going to race somewhere. He’s very straightforward and we’re very fortunate. He acts like a really nice horse, so fingers crossed that he runs well there. He’s earned the chance and we don’t like to go up there unless they act like they’re legit enough to do it.”
Recruiter is cross-entered in the Rittenhouse Square on Monday at Parx Racing.
Howgreatisnate, a Kentucky-bred son of Speightster, was last seen posting a 3 1/2-length victory in the six-furlong Future Stars on December 5 at Parx in similar fashion to Recruiter’s Parx Juvenile win. The bay gelding tracked in fourth position under regular pilot J.D. Acosta and pounced to the lead at the stretch call before drawing off to victory in a final time of 1:12.07 over a fast Parx main track.
Three of Howgreatisnate’s four victories have come at six furlongs, except for his winning debut when taking a 5 1/2-furlong $40,000 maiden claimer in August at Delaware Park. He followed that effort with his first stakes victory in September in the First State Dash, a sprint restricted to Delaware-bred or certified juveniles at the Wilmington oval.
Klaravich Stables’ debut maiden winner Uncorrelated [post 4, Manny Franco] makes his first stakes appearance for four-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Chad Brown on the heels of a professional 2 1/2-length victory on January 6 over a sloppy and sealed Big A main track. The son of Arrogate tracked in fourth one length off the pace under Manny Franco and pounced to the lead at the half-mile call, maintaining his advantage at each point of call and completing the six furlongs in a final time of 1:12.35. The effort garnered a 69 Beyer.
Uncorrelated has worked over the Belmont training track six times since the victory, most recently covering a half-mile in 50.88 seconds on Friday.
“It’s a big step up for him and it took him a little time to recover from that maiden race, but in his last couple of works, he’s got his energy back and he looks OK,” said Brown. “We’ll give it a shot.”
Completing the field are graded stakes-placed General Banker [post 6, Frankie Pennington]; Eyeing Clover [post 13, Florent Geroux] and Transect [post 7, Joe Talamo], who are both undefeated through two starts; Grade 2-placed Fort Warren [post 8, Jevian Toledo]; Jimmy Winkfield runner-up Clubhouse [post 9, Kendrick Carmouche]; dual stakes-placed Raise Cain [post 12, Jose Lezcano]; and maiden winners Clear the Air [post 1, Jack Gilligan], Mr. Swagger [post 3, Carlos Olivero], who adds blinkers, and Slip Mahoney [post 11, Trevor McCarthy]. Radio Red [Jose Gomez] is listed as an also-eligible.
Fort Warren is cross-entered in Monday’s City of Brotherly Love at Parx while Clear the Air is listed as an also-eligible in Saturday’s John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park.