Little Vic rolls to victory in the Tom Fool under Carlos Olivero (Chelsea Durand)
Mr. Swagger Likely To Join Little Vic on Wood Memorial Card
Stakes-placed Big Tentations to Ship to Big A for $100K Correction
NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Little Vic, trained by Juan Carlos Avila for owner Victoria’s Ranch, stalked and pounced to an impressive 1 1/2-length score over graded-stakes winner Runninsonofagun in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Tom Fool Handicap, a six-furlong sprint for older sprinters at the Big A.
The victory provided jockey Carlos Olivero and Little Vic with their first graded wins, following a pair of runner-up efforts at Aqueduct in the six-furlong Gravesend in December and the seven-furlong Grade 3 Toboggan on January 28.
“He has improved,” said Avila. “I made a decision with the jockey and the owner that we don’t like Little Vic on the front no more. He needs to be behind the faster horses and he has improved every race. He’s doing perfect this morning. He’s happy and home with no problems.”
Little Vic tracked in third in the Tom Fool as Chateau provided sharp splits of 21.92 seconds and 45.14 over the muddy and sealed main track. Olivero gave Little Vic his cue late in the turn and the Practical Joke colt responded with a strong outside move, gaining the advantage at the stretch call and powering away to stop the clock in a final time of 1:09.73.
Little Vic has finished first or second in each of his last five starts, including an allowance score over older horses in October at Delaware Park ahead of a win in the City of Laurel in November at Laurel Park. He added blinkers following the Gravesend where he lost by a nose to the graded-stakes winning millionaire Drafted, who finished a non-threatening sixth yesterday.
“When he lost to Drafted, at the quarter-pole he had no focus. Carlos said to put blinkers on and since then he’s been perfect in the race,” Avila said. “It’s incredible. The horse is not faster, he’s more relaxed. I don’t know why, but it’s true.”
Avila said Little Vic is likely to target the seven-furlong Grade 1, $300,000 Carter Handicap presented by NYRA Bets on April 8 here. He is likely to be joined on the same card by stablemate Mr. Swagger, who after finishing sixth in Saturday’s Grade 3 Gotham here, will try the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino which offers 100-40-30-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-five finishers.
Mr. Swagger, a sophomore son of Maclean’s Music, is also owned by Victoria’s Ranch, which is the racing operation of retired professional baseball player Victor Martinez, a five-time MLB All-Star.
The $225,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase has made two career starts at the Big A with Olivero up, graduating in a 6 1/2-furlong sprint on January 28 by three-quarters of a length on debut over Register, who exited that event to earn a 93 Beyer in a narrow nose maiden score.
Mr. Swagger was bumped at the break in the Gotham and urged into fourth position just three lengths off the pace at the half-mile call, but failed to fire after saving ground through the turn.
“His race was excellent. Carlos maybe put him too much early in the race yesterday,” Avila said. “When we went into the race, I said to Carlos, ‘the horse is ready, but you need to put Mr. Swagger in last place and at the quarter-pole, you go outside.’ I don’t know what happened. He pushed the horse too much early and we need to stay back. In the Wood Memorial, he should run very nice.”
Avila said he expects Mr. Swagger should benefit from stretching out around two turns.
“Yes. I am sure of that,” Avila said.
Out of the Thunder Gulch mare Tee Off, Mr. Swagger is a half-sibling to multiple graded-stakes winning turf router Five Iron.
Avila also noted he will ship stakes-placed Big Tentations to the Big A for Saturday’s $100,000 Correction, a six-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares.
The 4-year-old Practical Joke bay, who finished second in the Sanibel Island at Gulfstream in April, enters from a runner-up effort in a dirt sprint on January 23 at Parx. Eric Cancel will pilot Big Tentations in the Correction.