Sharp Aza Tack ran off to a 7 1/4-length victory in the Tyro Stakes at Monmouth on July 30. Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO
Juvenile Turf contenders ready to go on Future Stars Friday
Breeders’ Cup Notes/Edited
LEXINGTON, Ky.—R3 Racing’s Juvenile Turf Sprint contender Sharp Aza Tack galloped 1 1/8 m over Keeneland’s all-weather training track Wednesday morning with exercise rider Connor Murray aboard. The stakes-winning son of Sharp Azteca finished second in the Global Tote Juvenile Sprint Stakes at Kentucky Downs last time out for trainer Doug O’Neill after drifting out in the stretch.
“It’s a great racetrack at Kentucky Downs, but it is also a very unique oval,” O’Neill said. “I think there are a lot of turns and a lot of ups and downs, so I think it (the drifting in the stretch) was just him following the course. He tried hard, ran well and came out of it good. We’re expecting a big effort from him. I think the conventional oval will do him good this weekend.”
The Juvenile Turf Sprint will be the colt’s first time running in a graded stakes race. He’s had three previous starts in total.
“He’s just super athletic,” O’Neill said. “He just looks like a racehorse. He’s very well balanced and he checks all the boxes of what a good racehorse looks like. He definitely hasn’t disappointed us.”
Sharp Aza Tack will break from post nine under Tyler Gaffalione on Friday.
From the first crop of Oscar Performance, Andthewinneris comes to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1 after capturing the Castle & Key Bourbon (G2) at Keeneland on Oct. 9. On Wednesday he galloped a routine 1 ½ m on the main track.
Andthewinneris is a homebred for Susan Moulton, who offered him at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He failed to meet Moulton’s minimum price and she retained him on a final bid of $67,000.
“If you don’t buy us, you gotta beat us,” Moulton said after Andthewinneris won his career debut at Keeneland in April.
Following her family’s tradition, Moulton was deeply involved in racing before changing course. When she opted to get back in the game, she joined forces with Catalano about a decade ago. But his connection to her husband Shane Sellers, who won 4,393 races as a jockey including two in Breeders’ Cup races, goes back decades.
“Shane started riding (races) for me when he first came to Chicago,” Catalano said. “We won a lot of races together.”
West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing’s Battle of Normandy figures to get some firm ground Friday in the Juvenile Turf, something he did not have in his most recent start in the Pilgrim.
“You can draw a line right through that one,” trainer Shug McGaughey said of the seventh-place effort. “The ground was just too soft.”
Battle of Normandy was an impressive winner on debut at Saratoga and followed that up with a runner-up effort in the With Anticipation on a course labeled as good at Saratoga.
“He just couldn’t get out (of traffic) until it was too late,” McGaughey said of the With Anticipation. “And the horse that finished behind him (Andthewinneris) came back to win the Bourbon here.”
Jose Lezcano will be aboard for the first time in the Juvenile Turf.
Trainer Mike Maker has two chances to add another Juvenile Turf victory to his resume following Fire At Will’s score at Keeneland in 2020. On Wednesday both galloped on the main track.
“Neither has won a stakes (like Fire At Will at this stage) even though they are stakes placed,” he said. “Gaslight Dancer was unlucky to lose (when second in the Futurity Stakes at Belmont at the Big A Oct. 9.) I would compare him more (than Really Good) to Fire At Will. He’s had three starts and is very talented but still has to figure it out.”
Really Good comes to the Juvenile Turf after finishing third in the Castle & Key Bourbon Stakes (G2) at Keeneland Oct. 9.
Trainer Chad Brown will look for his second Juvenile Turf in four years when he saddles Team Hanley, Richard Schermerhorn and Paul Braverman’s I’m Very Busy in the 1m, $1 million grass test.
An eye-catching debut victor at Saratoga over 1 1/16m in August, the son of Brown-trained G1 Preakness winner Cloud Computing returned to finish a length second as the heavy favorite in the G2 Pilgrim on Oct. 2.
On Wednesday morning, the $135,000 OBS March graduate left Keeneland’s barn 64 and had a routine gallop on the dirt track under exercise rider Peter Leiva Roman. With a morning line of 9-2, the logical contender will reunite with Flavien Prat from post eight of 14 on Friday. Last out, over Aqueduct’s yielding turf, he broke from post nine of 11.
“I think the drawing a better post than last time and getting firmer ground hits the nail on the head with him,” Brown said. “He’s training very well and it’s great to have a talented son of Cloud Computing. I didn’t expect him to be a turf horse because of that, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a good horse.”
Spendthrift Farm’s Major Dude will attempt to give trainer Todd Pletcher a second victory in the Juvenile Turf.
Unlike Pluck, who had three starts on grass before winning the Juvenile Turf for Pletcher in 2010, Major Dude has made only one turf start.
“I loved his debut on the grass,” Pletcher said of Major Dude’s victory in the Pilgrim on Oct. 2 over yielding turf that came after three starts on dirt. “He handled that fine and I think he will handle the firm. He has had two good works over the course here.”
Another plus in Major Dude’s favor has been the company he has been keeping in his works.
“That has been very encouraging,” Pletcher said of Major Dude working with Grade 1 winner and FanDuel Mile (G1) presented by PDJF contender Annapolis.
Major Dude galloped 1 1/2m with Nora McCormack aboard Wednesday morning and later had a paddock schooling session.
Graham Motion trainee Nagirroc galloped 1 m Wednesday morning under exercise rider Emma Cary. Owned by Madaket Stables, Little Red Feather Racing and William Strauss, the son of Lea is slated to compete in the Juvenile Turf. He was purchased privately by the group after his first start and broke his maiden next time out.
“He’s a very classy horse. He almost looks more like a three-year-old than a two-year-old,” Motion said. “I told those guys (the ownership group) from the get-go that this horse seems like a really nice type. We breezed him one time before we ran him in the maiden race.”
Nagirroc went on to win the Futurity Stakes at Belmont At The Big A two weeks after breaking his maiden.
“When you buy a horse at this time of the year you’ve got to have the Breeders’ Cup in mind, and that’s why you get into these horses, so we rushed him a little bit to do that (run in his first race for the connections),” Motion said. “When he won, in order to get him here (the Breeders’ Cup), we really needed to run him back again (in the Futurity). He’s just done everything so professionally. He’s a cool horse.”
The colt will break from post nine on Friday with Manny Franco aboard at morning-line odds of 20-1.
Qatar Racing, Marc Detampel and Fergus Galvin’s Reckoning Force will attempt to make amends in the Juvenile Turf one race after finishing seventh as one of the favorites in Keeneland’s Bourbon Stakes.
Winner of the $497,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile four weeks prior, Sept. 14, the son of Air Force Blue will have a rider and equipment change when the 20-1-shot breaks from post 11 under Tyler Gaffalione. He was ridden in his last two stateside efforts by Joel Rosario.
“He’s a pretty calm horse and, if anything, he might be a little too calm, so we’re putting a set of blinkers on this Friday just to sharpen him up a little bit,” trainer Brendan Walsh said. “He just, at some parts of the race, lacks a little sharpness.
“The last day we ran him here in the Bourbon, he had some trouble leaving the gate – he got pinched – and was too far back and there was a horse in front who was all over the place,” Walsh continued. “We just never got any kind of a run in the race and that’s why we thought we would crack on and take our chance in the Breeders’ Cup.
“I think the horse is good enough, he just needs to be a littler sharper. He got a nice draw in 11 and I prefer that to being inside, where he could get buried. Being outside, he has options.”
D. J. Stable’s Webslinger is among a field of 14 horses entered in Friday’s Juvenile Turf here at Keeneland. The Mark Casse-trained son of Constitution galloped a mile Wednesday morning over a fast track in preparation for his first start since winning the Nownownow Stakes as a maiden at Monmouth Park in September.
“He’s a horse that we’ve liked all along,” Casse said. “He had just a terrible trip at Saratoga (in his second start). He should’ve won easily. That’s why I ran a maiden in a $500,000 stake, because that’s what I thought of him. If you look at his numbers, they’re as good as anybody’s. I think he has a legitimate chance.”
Webslinger will be breaking from post 10 under Dylan Davis who rode the colt in his previous start. He has morning-line odds of 20-1.