A compact-but-competitive field of seven dirt sprinters will be on tap for Sunday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Fall Highweight Handicap at six furlongs for 3-year-olds and up at Aqueduct Racetrack, led by the versatile Majestic Dunhill for trainer George Weaver and owner R. A. Hill Stable.
A son of Majesticperfection that always seems to pack a late punch, Majestic Dunhill is in career form as his 5-year-old campaign winds down. Majestic Dunhill was at one time strictly a turf horse, having run on grass for the first nine starts of his career before making his foray onto the main track late in 2018. His first dirt start, which came in the ungraded City of Laurel at Laurel Park, resulted in a win, and his connections then decided to focus exclusively on dirt races for his 2019 campaign.
Despite running well on a number of occasions, including a near miss in the 2019 Grade 2 General George at Laurel, Majestic Dunhill failed to pick up a win as a 4-year-old and the drought continued in his initial start of 2020, which prompted Weaver to try him on turf again in the First Defence at Belmont Park, a race he very nearly won.
After a disappointing seventh in an optional claimer on the Belmont lawn, however, it was back to dirt for the dark bay gelding, where he finished up the track in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga Race Course. Following another near miss in an optional claimer on September 25 at Belmont, Majestic Dunhill finally got back to his winning ways with a last-out victory in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap on October 31 at Belmont over a muddy track.
Interestingly, Majestic Dunhill has flashed new and improved early speed in his last two starts, which should be beneficial as he cuts back from seven furlongs to three-quarters for the Fall Highweight. With his rider for those last two starts, Joel Rosario, out of town on Sunday, Jose Lezcano will pick up the mount from post 3.
To make it two straight, Majestic Dunhill will have to deal with the classy Dubai shipper Drafted, who hasn’t run since finishing sixth in the Saudi Cup Sprint on February 29 at King Abdulaziz Racetrack. A son of Field Commission, Drafted was at one time a contender in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, having won a pair of graded events in the UAE in the lead-up to the 2019 Golden Shaheen. After finishing a decent fifth in the race, the Florida-bred gelding was forced to hit the sidelines for a long time before he returned with a third-place finish in the Group 3 Dubawi at the start of 2020, which he followed with a fourth in the Group 3 Al Shindagha, both at Meydan in Dubai.
Previously trained by Doug Watson, Drafted will make his first start for the New York-based David Duggan on Sunday and his third domestic run as he raced twice in the U.S. as a 2-year-old when he was under the care of trainer Eoin Harty and Godolphin LLC.
“When quarantine hit in Dubai my longtime friends decided to redirect him to America,” said Duggan, who trains Drafted for Misty Hollow Farm. “He’s been here a couple months now. He spent a month in Maryland and then came to me. He’s straightforward. He can be a little funny to gallop but his works have been very good and on his best day he can be competitive here. He could be a little ring rusty, but this race is just a starting point. I wish it were an easier spot but that’s the way it goes in New York. He’s working well and is fit enough, so I can’t complain.”
A six-time winner from 16 lifetime starts, Drafted will be ridden for the first time by Dylan Davis from post 2.
Claimed for $16,000 earlier this year by Silvino Ramirez, Share the Ride will look to keep his magical season going and overturn the decision from the Bold Ruler two starts ago, in which he finished a neck behind Majestic Dunhill. Since being claimed in his first start of 2020 on July 5 at Monmouth Park, the 5-year-old Candy Ride gelding has been in raging form, possibly due to the addition of blinkers, which occurred on September 5 in the Grade 3 Red Bank on turf and have been equipped ever since.
It took him awhile to find the winner’s circle for his new connections, but he did so in style on September 12 at Monmouth, taking the Mr. Prospector by a widening 3 ¾ lengths before finishing third in the Grade 1 Vosburgh and second in the Bold Ruler.
Jose Ortiz will take the call from post 5 aboard Share the Ride, who makes a quick turnaround for the Fall Highweight having recently dominated an allowance event at Parx Racing on November 18.
Another reformed claimer, Tribecca will attempt to win his fourth race of the year on Sunday. A New York-bred son of Bustin Stones, Tribecca was haltered for $25,000 last summer by trainer Chris Englehart and owner Ronald Brown and has won six of nine starts for his new connections, including an emphatic victory last out in the Hudson on October 24 at Belmont.
Kendrick Carmouche will retain the mount aboard Tribecca from post 7.
Trainer John Terranova will send out the salty older dirt runner Stan the Man, who turns back in distance following a distant third-place finish in the Grade 2 Kelso in his most recent outing. The 6-year-old Broken Vow gelding has won at distances ranging from six furlongs to 1 ⅛ miles on the main track and has been a force at the Big A, where he’s notched five of his seven lifetime victories. Although he struggled earlier in the year, he seems to have benefited from his connections removing blinkers two starts ago, which resulted in a win in the Tale of the Cat at Saratoga.
Eric Cancel, who was aboard Stan the Man in the Kelso, will take the call again from post 6.
Burns Thoroughbred Racing’s Arch Cat, trained by Daniel Velazquez, finished third last out in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler. A 13-time winner from 38 career starts, Jorge Vargas, Jr. will have the call from the inside post aboard the 6-year-old Arch gelding.
Absentee, a five-time winner exiting an off-the-turf score at Belmont on October 29, completes the field for trainer Jorge Duarte, Jr. and Colts Neck Stables. Junior Alvarado has the call from post 4.
The Fall Highweight is slated as Race 8 on Sunday’s 10-race card. First post is 11:50 a.m. America’s Day at the Races will present daily television coverage of the Aqueduct fall meet with coverage to air on FOX Sports and MSG Networks.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Aqueduct Racetrack, and the best way to bet every race of the 18-day fall meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
NYRA Press Release, NYRA Photo Chelsea Durand