Law Professor kicks off his 2023 campaign with a win in the Queens County Jan. 7 (Chelsea Durand)
By Keith McCalmont – NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Kentucky homebred Law Professor drops in from graded company for Saturday’s $125,000 Excelsior, a nine-furlong route for older horses, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Rob Atras, the 5-year-old Constitution gelding captured the off-the-turf 2021 Grade 2 Santa Anita Mathis Mile while in the care of Michael McCarthy, who conditioned the horse through his first 10 starts.
Law Professor made a winning debut for Atras in September, scoring a half-length victory in the restricted Tapit over the Kentucky Downs turf before posting a strong runner-up effort to multiple Grade 1-winner Life Is Good in the Grade 1 Woodward on October 1 at Belmont at the Big A. He closed out his 2022 campaign with an even fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Keeneland.
The versatile dark bay won his seasonal debut here in impressive fashion, romping to a 7 1/2-length score in the nine-furlong Queens County on January 7. He finished a distant third last out after attending the pace in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Razorback Handicap on February 18 at Oaklawn Park with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Atras said training locally and racing out of his own stall will benefit the sometimes temperamental Law Professor, who he expects will enjoy a prominent trip under jockey Manny Franco.
“He’s pretty handy. He can be close to the pace or sit just off of it,” Atras said. “I’d like him to get a clean break and let Manny get him into a rhythm. Manny knows the horse well.”
Atras had also considered Law Professor for a pair of nine-furlong options out-of-town in the Grade 2, $500,000 New Orleans Classic won on Saturday by West Will Power over the favored Art Collector at Fair Grounds, as well as the Grade 2, $1 million Oaklawn Handicap on April 22.
“The New Orleans race looked pretty tough with Art Collector and we looked at the Oaklawn race a little, but the timing is good, he does well in New York and he obviously likes this track,” Atras said.
Law Professor has breezed back four times over the Belmont Park dirt training track, including a half-mile effort in 49 flat Saturday.
Franco, leading rider at the recently concluded Big A winter meet, has the call from post 2.
Peter Brant and Robert LaPenta’s Grade 1-placed Miles D [post 4, Eric Cancel] stretches out to nine furlongs for the first time since capturing the Discovery here in November 2021.
Trained by four-time Eclipse Award-winner Chad Brown, the 5-year-old Curlin bay has made just three starts since that score, including a third in last year’s Grade 3 Mineshaft at Fair Grounds. Following an off-the-board effort in his seasonal debut in the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper in January at Gulfstream, Miles D enters from a prominent runner-up effort to the streaking Repo Rocks in the one-turn mile Stymie on February 25 at Aqueduct.
The regally-bred bay, third-place finisher of the 2021 Grade 1 Travers, is out of the Bernardini mare Sound the Trumpets, who is a half-sister to multiple Grade 1-winning Champion Storm Flag Flying. Miles D’s third dam is Hall of Famer Personal Ensign.
Graded stakes placed Ohio-bred Forewarned [post 6, Dexter Haddock] is closing in on millionaire status with a record of 58-12-10-4 for purse earnings of $987,383 as he looks to defend his title in this event.
“I don’t want to pick up just a check, I want the whole check,” said trainer Uriah St. Lewis, with a laugh.
Owned by St. Lewis’ Trin-Brook Stables, the 8-year-old Flat Out bay enters from a rallying score in the one-mile and 70-yard Washington Crossing on March 7 at Parx where he carried a field-high 126 pounds – four pounds more than the majority of his six rivals.
“He’s doing fantastic. We were looking for something a little softer before we ran in the Excelsior and that race here turned out to be perfect,” said St. Lewis, who also won the Excelsior in 2018 with Discreet Lover when the race was a Grade 3. “It was his home track – a mile and 70 was a little short and he carried a lot of weight – but we thought with the right trip, he could win it.”
His head score over Untreated in last year’s Excelsior was his lone win in 10 outings in 2022 that included runner-up efforts in the John B. Campbell in February at Laurel Park, the Best of Ohio Governor’s Buckeye Cup in August at Thistledown and the Best of Ohio Endurance in October at Mahoning Valley Race Course. Forewarned won three consecutive runnings of the Best of Ohio Endurance from 2019-21.
St. Lewis said Forewarned, out of the graded-stakes placed Five Star Day mare Fortune Play, is as game as they come.
“He’s a warrior. He trains in the slop, on hard tracks, you name it. He just loves to run and he loves this game,” St. Lewis said. “His sire was good and his dam was real good and won stakes, too. About 15 people in Ohio have asked me if they can have him to stand him when he’s finished his racing career. He loves that state. He went out there and won the Best of Ohio three years in a row and missed it by a neck last year. He always tries very hard.”
Forewarned, who earned graded black type with a third-place finish in the 2020 Grade 3 Westchester at Belmont, worked five-eighths in 1:04.36 on March 17 at Parx.
“He’s been training really good since his win,” St. Lewis said. “This track is so deep that if you can train on it, most likely you can go to any race and run. This track is really heavy. Good horses work in 1:02 and 1:03. When you get a 47 here, it’s fantastic.”
Rounding out the field are Bourbonic [post 3, Kendrick Carmouche], winner of the 2021 Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher; graded-stakes placed Portos [post 7, Trevor McCarthy] for conditioner Tom Morley; stakes-placed Curlin’s Wisdom [post 1, Jason Huayas] for trainer Linda Rice; and Keystone Field [post 5, Jose Lezcano] for trainer Mike Maker.
The Excelsior is slated as Race 8 on Saturday’s nine-race card. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.