Major Dude, Nagirroc Pursue More Graded Stakes Glory in G3 Manila

July 2, 2023

Major Dude (Coady Photography)

By Ryan Martin – NYRA Press Office

ELMONT, N.Y.— Highly consistent graded stakes winners Major Dude and Nagirroc will go head-to-head against six other sophomores in Friday’s ninth running of the Grade 3, $250,000 Manila at Belmont Park.

The one-mile Widener turf test boast graded status for the first time after previously being used as a springboard to subsequent Grade 1 triumphs by past winners Bricks and Mortar [2017], Win Win Win [2019] and Annapolis [2022].

Three-time graded stakes winner Major Dude, a Spendthrift Farm-owned son of second crop sire Bolt d’Oro, boasts field-best earnings of $714,895 through a 10-4-2-2 record. The bay colt was a last-out winner the Grade 2 Penn Mile on June 2 at Penn National, where he stalked the pace from third and lost ground around the far turn, but made a sweeping three-wide move to win by three-quarters of a length.

A 10-1 winner of his turf debut in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Pilgrim in October at Belmont at the Big A, Major Dude was a close ninth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf the following month at Keeneland. He has finished no worse than third in five starts this season, which include a triumph in the Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy going 1 1/16 miles on February 4 at Gulfstream Park en route to a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Jeff Ruby Steaks in March over Turfway Park’s all weather surface.

“I think this suits him more than those longer-distance turf races. He seems to have more punch at the end of that distance,” said Spendthrift Farm’s general manager Ned Toffey. “It wasn’t a superstar field [in the Penn Mile] but he did what he was supposed to do and I like how he did it. He encountered a little adversity there and really responded to that well, got aggressive and finished up really strong. It was really nice to see. It was a race he should have won, and he did.”

Irad Ortiz, Jr. will retain the mount aboard Major Dude from post 5.

Nagirroc tears up the turf and sets a new track record in the James W. Murphy May 20 at Pimlico (Jeff Snyder/MJC)

Trainer Graham Motion will saddle Nagirroc, who has never finished off the board in seven lifetime starts and was a last-out winner of the one-mile James W. Murphy on May 20 at Pimlico, where he sported blinkers for the first time.

The bay son of Lea entered his prior engagement off a second-place finish in a strong edition of the Grade 3 Transylvania on April 7 at Keeneland, which featured next-out stakes winners Webslinger [third] and Mi Hermano Ramon [fourth].

“We backed up a little bit by going in the Pimlico race, which obviously was an easier spot than some of the other races that we could have gone in, but I really wanted to try blinkers,” Motion said. “When you make changes like that you don’t want to make things too complicated for them. It really worked out that day and I’ve been really impressed with him.”

Nagirroc made his debut in Indiana with trainer Jim Corrigan and was acquired privately by owners Little Red Feather Racing, Madaket Stables and William Strauss following a second place finish on debut at Horseshoe Indianapolis. Transferred to Motion, Nagirroc graduated in September going six furlongs at Belmont at the Big A before winning the Grade 3 Futurity in October over the same surface and, subsequently, finishing third at 39-1 odds in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland.

Motion expressed interest in targeting more ambitious spots later in the year.

“We made the decision to wait for this race which I think is the good move and I’m hoping this sets us up for some other races later this summer,” Motion said.

Flavien Prat will ride Nagirroc from post 4.

Trainer Cherie DeVaux will saddle Victory Partners’ More Than Looks [post 3, Joel Rosario] as he makes his stakes debut.

The More Than Ready dark bay broke his maiden over Gulfstream Park’s synthetic in March before finishing second to eventual graded stakes winner Turf King in a Keeneland allowance the following month. He enters from a narrow victory against winners on June 17 going 1 1/16 miles over the Ellis Park turf.

“He broke his maiden at a mile and seventy and he ran really well at Keeneland to just get beat by Turf King and that horse came back to flatter his form,” DeVaux said. “He came back and ran really well to win at Ellis, closing into a paceless race to just get up. He has a lot of talent, but he’s just taken a while to come around and he still acts a bit green in his races. He’s getting better each start and as he matures.”

Joseph Allen and CHC Inc.’s Talk of the Nation [post 2, Jose Ortiz] has done little wrong since switching to the turf three starts back for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.

The Quality Road dark bay defeated winners in his turf debut in a Tampa Bay Downs allowance optional claimer before capturing the Columbia on March 4 over the same surface. He enters off a runner-up one-length defeat as the heavy favorite in the June 3 Jersey Derby at Monmouth.

Belouni victorious in the Woodhaven April 22 at Aqueduct (Chelsea Durand)

Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, Michael Kisber, and William Rucker’s Belouni [post 6, Joel Rosario] will try to make amends after finishing last-of-7 in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Pennine Ridge for trainer Chad Brown. The Fast Company French-bred previously captured the Woodhaven in April at Aqueduct going the Manila distance.

Brown also entered Klaravich Stables’ Activist Investing [post 7, Dylan Davis] who has not raced since breaking his maiden at third asking in October at Belmont at the Big A. The son of Kingman will cut back to a flat mile after making all three of his previous efforts at the 1 1/16-mile distance.

Completing the field are Jose D’Angelo-trained Amstrong [post 1, Javier Castellano], and Dreaming of Kona [post 8, Scott Spieth] for trainer Aldana Spieth, who both are last-out stakes winners over synthetic.

The Manila honors the five-time Grade 1 winner, who was named 1986 Champion Turf Horse for fellow Hall of Famer LeRoy Jolley. The son of Lyphard won 12-of-18 starts, including a thrilling victory in the 1986 Breeders’ Cup Turf over the following year’s Champion Turf Horse Theatrical.

The Manila is slated as Race 9 on Friday’s 10-race program. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.

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