OZONE PARK, N.Y. – A field of nine juveniles will hope to garner qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby in the 106th edition of Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen at Aqueduct Racetrack, which is the first of five local preps for the “Run for the Roses”.
The main track event at the Big A offers 10-4-2-1 points towards the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 2 and is also the only graded stakes event on the North American stakes calendar for 2-year-old colts going 1 1/8 miles. The most recent Remsen victor to win the Kentucky Derby the following year was Thunder Gulch in 1995.
The Remsen is one of four graded stakes billed for the Cigar Mile Racing Festival on December 7, which includes its namesake race – the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile as well as the Remsen’s female counterpart, the Grade 2 $250,000 Demoiselle and the Grade 3, $250,000 Go for Wand.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who saddled Bluegrass Cat (2005) and Overanalyze (2012) to Remsen victories, will send out a pair of contenders in Alpha Sixty Six and stakes-placed Chase Tracker.
Owned by Paul Pompa, Jr., Alpha Sixty Six broke his maiden first out on September 7 over the Belmont Park main track as the lukewarm favorite before running a troubled fifth in the Grade 1 Champagne, where he finished 4 ¾ lengths back of Tiz the Law.
“We feel that he can run all day,” Pompa said. “He missed the break in the Champagne. He ran incredible but he spotted the field six lengths and it’s hard to make up a lot of ground when you’re up against those type of horses. We watched his gallop out and he did so very well. The race won’t be a distance issue if he’s good enough.”
Bred in Kentucky by Overbrook Farm and Kildare Stud, Alpha Sixty Six is a bay son of first crop sire Liam’s Map out of the dual stakes-placed Giant’s Causeway broodmare Giant Sensation. He was acquired for $400,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will look to build on his record of four Remsen victories as the pilot aboard Alpha Sixty Six from post 8.
Chase Tracker, owned by St. Elias Stables, enters the Remsen off a distant third in the Grade 3 Nashua to runaway winner Independence Hall. This effort came after a debut win at Parx Racing, which the dark bay Verrazano colt won by 3 ¼ lengths garnering an 82 Beyer Speed Figure.
Chase Tracker is out of the Lemon Drop Kid broodmare Nutmeg and is a direct descendant of dual California Broodmare of the Year Guilded Times.
Breaking from post 1, Chase Tracker will be ridden by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who guided Honor Code to victory in the 2013 Remsen.
Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey boasts the record for most Remsen victories among trainers and will attempt to saddle a fifth winner with Phipps Stables’ Amends.
The Kentucky homebred son of Uncle Mo, who sired 2016 Remsen winner Mo Town, was sixth on debut, but sported blinkers and broke his maiden at second asking over a sloppy off-the-turf event at Belmont Park in late October.
“He’s a big, nice-looking, sound 2-year-old,” said McGaughey, who saddled Honor Code (2013), Saarland (2001), Coronado’s Quest (1997) and Fast Play (1988) to Remsen triumphs. “He has a great way of going but he’s not a very good work horse so he’s hard to get a gauge on. His second race was a good race in the slop. He’s probably a true mile-and-an-eighth or farther type of horse. I hope the stretch out in distance and the blinkers made the difference. If they want to run around two turns, they’ll run around two turns. It doesn’t matter what you’ll do with him.”
Amends’ respective second and third dam are both Eclipse Award winners. His dam Guilty Verdict is out of 2005 Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Smuggler, whose dam was 1995 Champion Older Mare and Hall of Famer Inside Information.
“Smuggler was quick. He’s more like his mother, she was a little more one paced,” McGaughey said. “(Guilty Verdict) was a bit of a disappointment as a race horse but I think she’ll make it up as a broodmare. We’ll just have to see on Saturday.”
Amends will be piloted by Jose Ortiz from post 9.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Shadwell Stables teamed up to win the 2015 Remsen with Mohaymen and will look to strike gold once more with Ajaaweed.The Kentucky homebred son of Curlin was a second out maiden winner by 4 ¼ lengths at Belmont Park following a fifth-place finish at Saratoga on debut. Ajaaweed, named for the Arabic word for “generosity”, arrives at the Remsen off a distant fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity on October 5 at Keeneland to Maxfield.
McLaughlin is confident that his horse will get the Remsen’s nine-furlong distance.
“He’s doing very well. He shipped to Kentucky last time but didn’t ship really well and wasn’t quite himself for a couple of days,” McLaughlin said. “He came back here and has been training very, very well, and he’s ready. We think he wants a mile and an eighth, so all is well. He has a really good closing kick. Going a mile and an eighth, he’ll probably come from off of it [the speed].”
Ajaaweed will emerge from post 4 and will be ridden by Joel Rosario.
Rounding out the field are Forza Di Oro [post 2, Junior Alvarado], Cleon Jones [post 3, Jose Ortiz], Informative [post 5, John Bisono], Shotski [post 6, Luis Saez], and Prince James [post 7, Manny Franco].
Inaugurated in 1904 and first contested at the defunct Jamaica Race Course, the Remsen is named in honor of the American Revolutionary War leader Colonel Jeromus Remsen, who was one of the original settlers of Queens and helped lead the Continental Army during the Battle of Long Island.
The Remsen is slated as Race 9 on Saturday’s 10-race card. First post is 11:30 a.m. Eastern.
Via NYRA Press Office