Photo: Chelsea Durand
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Sagamore Farm’s Recruiting Ready, fresh off a stakes victory last out, will look to register another victory in his stellar 5-year-old campaign as part of a nine-horse field in Thursday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Fall Highweight at Aqueduct Racetrack.
One of three stakes on the nine-race Thanksgiving Day card, the 106th running of the Fall Highweight, a handicap for 3-year-olds and up going six furlongs, will see the Stanley Hough-trained Recruiting Ready enter off a 3 ¾-length win in the Bet on Sunshine at the same distance on November 2 at Churchill Downs.
The son of Algorithms has posted four wins in 10 starts since December, winning the Gravesend on December 23. After turning 5, Recruiting Ready won his first graded stakes by drawing away to a 3 ¼-length win in the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint on March 2, marking Hough’s first graded stakes win since 2011.
Recruiting Ready earned triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in four starts this year, including a 102 for a third-place finish in the Grade 2 True North on June 7 and a 105 for besting optional claiming company on September 13 at Churchill Downs. He enters the Fall Highweight off a 101 in a gate-to-wire win in the Bet On Sunshine.
Hough said Recruiting Ready has been training well at Churchill and is ready for his first start at the Big A since winning the Gravesend.
“He’s doing good and came back out of his works good, and I’m planning on vanning him up on Tuesday,” Hough said. “If he’s right, he gives you everything he has. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”
Five of Recruiting Ready’s previous six starts have come at six furlongs, which includes two wins and a runner-up effort in the Runhappy on May 11 at Belmont. “I’d say that distance is the best for him,” Hough said. “He’s a neat horse and a pleasure to be around.”
Carrying 132 pounds, Recruiting Ready will break from post 4 and pick up the services of jockey Jose Ortiz.
Trainer Jason Servis will enter a pair of strong contenders, including Mr. Amore Stable’s Firenze Fire, who will be making his first start since running a competitive fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 2 at Santa Anita.
A four-time graded stakes winner, Firenze Fire has recorded triple-digit Beyers in his last two starts and in four of his last six, including matching 103s for both the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, won by Mitole, and his second-place effort in Imperial Hint in the Grade 1 Vosburgh on September 28 in which he finished a nose off from his rival.
Firenze Fire, whose last five starts have come against Grade 1 caliber contenders, also ran second to Mitole in the Grade 1 Forego on August 24 at Saratoga Race Course. The 4-year-old Poseidon Warrior’s colt, who won the 2018 Grade 3 Gallant Bob and the Grade 3 Dwyer en route to eventually finishing fourth in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill, will carry the high of 134 pounds with Irad Ortiz, Jr. set to ride from post 2.
Servis’ other entrant, M and A Racing’s Happy Farm, will make his stakes debut after posting a 7-4-2 record in his first 18 starts. The 5-year-old enters with three straight wins, with the Ghostzapper gelding carrying 125 pounds with Jose Lezcano on the call from the outside post.
Long Lake Stable’s Stan the Man will come back off a five-month layoff. The 5-year-old Broken Vow gelding last raced in the 6 ½-furlong Grade 2 True North, finishing fifth. Trained by John Terranova, Stan the Man enjoyed success earlier in the year going longer, running second to Nicodemus in the one-mile Grade 3 Westchester on May 4 at Belmont and also won against optional claimers going a mile in February at Aqueduct.
“He couldn’t be doing any better right now,” Terranova said. “He’s looking great and starting to get ready for the winter season. We’re very happy with him. We’ve just been looking for a spot to get him started again.
“Sprinting six furlongs probably isn’t an ideal distance for him, but we’re just looking for something to get started back,” he added. “This is pretty much the only race that made sense.”
With a 5-6-2 career record in 19 starts, Stan the Man will look to continue his success at the Big A, where he is 4-4-1 in 11 races. He will carry 127 pounds from post 5 with Dylan Davis set to ride.
Courtlandt Farms’ Strike Power ran second in the True North and followed with consecutive fifth-place efforts, including the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on July 27 at the Spa and in the Lucky Coin last out on August 30 on the turf. Switching back to dirt, the Mark Hennig trainee will carry 128 pounds with Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons from post 6.
Rounding out the field is Lewisfield, second in the Chesapeake in August at Colonial Downs and second in the Maryland Million Sprint Handicap in October at Laurel, for trainer Jeff Runco [post 7, Trevor McCarthy]; Wonderful Light, third in the Challedon last out in September at Laurel Park, for trainer Michelle Nevin [post 3, Manny Franco]; No Distortion, a 6 ¼-length winner last out in a claiming race on November 8 at Aqueduct, trained by Bob Dunham [post 1, Eric Cancel]; and Seethisquick, making his stakes bow in his 24th career start, for trainer Darmindra Dharamjit [post 8, Kendrick Carmouche]