Arctic Arrogance (outside) stays stuck to Lugan Knight’s shadow for the entire trip as the latter hugs the rail to victory. Photo by Chelsea Durand
NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Lugan Knight registered a career-best 85 Beyer Speed Figure for his game half-length score in Saturday’s $150,000 Jerome, a one-turn mile for sophomores, at Aqueduct Racetrack. In victory, he secured the maximum allotment in the Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying race which offered 10-4-3-2-1 points to the top-five finishers.
Trained by Michael McCarthy for George Yager’s BG Stables, the Kentucky homebred son of Goldencents outdueled graded stakes placed Arctic Arrogance in a thrilling stretch drive to capture his stakes debut by a half-length on the stretch out. The top-five was rounded out by General Banker, Neural Network and Andiamo a Firenze.
“It was a great effort,” Yager said. “I didn’t know what to expect, but he was very game. It was a one-turn mile, so he was OK.”
Yager, known to his friends as ‘Big George’, formed his namesake BG Thoroughbred Farm in 2014 in partnership with trainer Hector Palma. Located in Hemet, California, the 51-acre farm includes training and lay-up facilities and is home to 40-50 broodmares and a number of stallions including Capital Account and Originaire.
The Los Angeles native, a graduate of Cal State Northridge, has also worked as an actor and producer, including a role in the 1997 film L.A. Confidential based on the novel by James Ellroy.
Upcoming Kentucky Derby qualifiers at the Big A include the nine-furlong Grade 3, $250,000 Withers on February 4 [20-8-6-4-2], the one-mile Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham [50-20-15-10-5] on March 4 and the nine-furlong Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino [100-40-30-20-10] on April 8.
Yager said he’s not sure if Lugan Knight will want to stretch out beyond the one-mile distance his sire – a dual Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile-winner – excelled at and will leave the race planning in his trainer’s capable hands.
“That’s up to Mike,” Yager said. “I’m very realistic. He may have his limitations as far as distance is concerned. I’ve been in this game awhile and I don’t get too carried away.”
Lugan Knight is out of the winning Speightstown mare Sly Roxy, while her second dam is multiple graded stakes-winner Roxy Gap, who banked $952,790 in a 19-race career that included 2012 Sovereign Awards in her native Canada for Champion Older Mare and Champion Female Sprinter. The versatile Roxy Gap was a graded winner on synthetic and turf and graded stakes placed on dirt.
Sly Roxy graduated on debut in July 2017 at Saratoga Race Course, drawing off to a 5 1/2-length win in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight for the Hall of Fame duo of jockey Javier Castellano and trainer Mark Casse. She followed with a fifth-place effort in that year’s Grade 2 Adirondack but failed to reach the heights of her talented dam.
“I bought her, and she won first time out at Saratoga, but she lost her luster,” Yager said. “Since then, I’ve sold her – had I only known.”
Lugan Knight entered the Jerome from a trio of sprint efforts in Kentucky, graduating at second asking in October at Keeneland. He followed with a close third-place finish in an optional-claimer in November at Churchill Downs won by Victory Formation, who exited that effort to win the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park.
Lugan Knight successfully stretched out to one mile in the Jerome, a cagey affair, as NYRA’s 2022 leading rider Dylan Davis allowed the colt to take command through moderate splits of 23.41 seconds and 47.70 over the good main track with Arctic Arrogance stalking from second.
Arctic Arrogance, who entered from a runner-up effort in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Remsen, loomed large into the turn but Lugan Knight continued to find more and staved off his rival to notch the win in a final time of 1:37.77.
Yager said he also has high hopes for the McCarthy-trained Friendlypersuasion, a sophomore daughter of Arrogate, who graduated at second asking in an off-the-turf tilt in August at Indiana Grand ahead of a prominent fifth in the Grade 3 Pocahontas in September at Churchill Downs.
She was last seen posting a 10 1/2-length score in a 1 1/16-mile optional-claimer on October 9 at Keeneland that registered a career-best 70 Beyer.
“She looked like she was going to be pretty good, but she got hurt,” Yager said. “She’ll be back in a couple months.”
Friendlypersuasion, bred in Kentucky by Bridlewood Farm, is out of the graded stakes winning Indian Charlie mare Brazen Persuasion.