William Morey’s Shotgun Hottie and Rudy Rodriguez’s Magic Circle both aiming for the Busher Stakes
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Five-time winner Pirate’s Punch will return to the barn of trainer William Morey for the first time since 2018 in the one-mile $125,000 Stymie on February 26 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Morey saddled the veteran son of Shanghai Bobby through his first three career starts in the summer of 2018, competing at the maiden special weight level in Southern California before being transferred to Jeff Mullins for his following three starts.
Trained by Grant Forster for the bulk of his career, Pirate’s Punch proved a force to be reckoned with during his 2020 campaign, registering three victories, including a triumph in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park.
Pirate’s Punch was acquired by Morey for $90,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale on behalf of Gulliver Racing, who co-owns in partnership with Craig W. Drager and Dan Legan.
Morey said he is hopeful that Pirate’s Punch, who is winless in seven starts since the Salvator Mile, will regain his form in New York.
“We want to give him a chance and see if we can get him back on the beam,” Morey said. “My wife [Elizabeth Morey] and I bought him as a yearling for those clients. I recommended Grant to train them in Kentucky and they had a really good run with him. The owners wanted to try something different, and they called me about trying him in New York.”
Pirate’s Punch is a half-brother to Grade 1-winner Girvin and graded stakes-winner Midnight Bourbon, both of whom are millionaires, as well as graded stakes winner Cocked and Loaded. All are out of the unraced Malibu Moon mare Catch the Moon.
“At that time, we were shocked to get him for as much as we did,” Morey said. “He’s a half to Girvin and at that time he was a hot horse. We were worried he’d go for a lot more money because of Girvin. The fact he was by Shanghai Bobby might have been why it stayed down as he wasn’t as popular a sire at the time.”
Jeff Ganje and Omar Aldabbagh’s Shotgun Hottie captured the seven-furlong Ruthless on February 6 in her debut for Morey at the Big A. Morey said the Gun Runner filly will target the $250,000 Busher Invitational on March 5, a one-turn mile offering 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
Trained previously by Tom Amoss, Shotgun Hottie cut back to one turn for the Ruthless following a fourth-place finish in the two-turn Untapable on December 26 at Fair Grounds Race Course.
“That was fun, exciting, and a little nerve-racking as well, but it was a great race,” Morey said of the Ruthless effort. “We’ve always wanted to run her at a mile or even further. We ended up going in the Ruthless knowing it might be a little short, but it worked out for us.”
Doctor Jeff returns to Rodriguez barn; Magic Circle on point for Busher Invitational
Stakes-winner Doctor Jeff is back at the stable of trainer Rudy Rodriguez following two months of downtime at Michael Schrader’s In Front Farm in upstate New York.
Owned by Michael Dubb and Michael J. Caruso, the 3-year-old son of Street Boss was a last out winner of the six-furlong Atlantic Beach on November 5 over the Belmont Park turf. The winning stakes effort came one month after finishing fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Pilgrim at Belmont.
Doctor Jeff returned to the work tab on February 8, going an easy three-eighths in 38.58 seconds over the Belmont dirt training track.
“We were excited when we saw he would run well on the grass. I thought for sure he wanted to go long,” Rodriguez said. “We have to get him together. The other day was his first work back and it was nice and easy. When we get a little closer, we’ll talk to Mr. Dubb and see what they want to do.”
Doctor Jeff broke his maiden on debut in an off-the-turf event in July at Belmont and followed in August with a fifth-place finish as the favorite in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special which was won by High Oak.
Rodriguez said he has not decided on where or when Doctor Jeff would make his sophomore debut.
“I’m going to let the horse tell us what to do,” Rodriguez said. “We tried to run him back short and, at some point, I think we could stretch him out. We’ll see when the time comes. He looked good and went nice the other morning.”
Purchased for $90,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Doctor Jeff is out of the stakes-placed Flatter mare Wild Bea, who also produced graded stakes-placed Queen of Beas as well as dual stakes-winner Flattering Bea. Her second dam Tarquina was a winner on the turf in France.
Rodriguez said J.W. Singer’s Magic Circle is scheduled to make her next start in the $250,000 Busher Invitational on March 5 at the Big A, which offers 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-four finishers. The Kantharos filly captured the nine-furlong Busanda last out on January 23, earning 10 points toward the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.
“So far that’s the plan,” said Rodriguez, who saddled Condo Commando  and Water White  to Busher scores. “She’ll have her next breeze this weekend.”
Aqueduct Racetrack Notes/ NYRA Press Office
Photo: Shotgun Hottie wins the Ruthless Stakes/Susie Raisher NYRA