Thin White Duke, trained, bred and co-owned by Phil Gleaves with Steven Crist, Ken deRegt and Bryan Hilliard, switched from turf to dirt to graduate in fine fashion in the $150,000 Funny Cide last out on September 4 at Saratoga.
Gleaves said the New York-bred son of Dominus, who worked a half-mile solo in 50.96 Wednesday on the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga, is on target for the $100,000 Bertram F. Bongard, a seven-furlong test for state-breds on Big Sandy slated for October 2.
“He went in 50 and change this morning and got the last quarter in 24. I thought he looked very good,” said Gleaves. “His energy level is very good and we’re moving on towards the Bongard.”
Thin White Duke finished third in his first two career starts on the Belmont main track before switching to turf and finishing second in a pair of sprints at Saratoga.
In the 6 ½-furlong Funny Cide, Thin White Duke saved ground in sixth position as Lookin for Trouble rattled off swift splits of 22.13 and 45.07 before being angled out by Joel Rosario for a winning stretch run over the game mutuel favorite Eagle Orb.
Thin White Duke is named for the David Bowie stage persona associated with the 1976 album Station to Station, which includes the track “Stay,” which Gleaves said is his personal favorite.
“I’m the world’s biggest David Bowie fan. I’ve seen him a bunch of times in concert and I always wanted to name a horse Thin White Duke,” said Gleaves. “I love that particular stage persona of David Bowie and when this guy came along, I thought he was the one.
“My favorite Bowie song is ‘Stay,'” he added. “It has a heavy, electric disco sound and with Bowie being the master of change in his style, it was really out of the box even for Bowie. That’s probably my favorite although there are so many great ones.”
Thin White Duke, much like his namesake, has also demonstrated versatility posting good efforts on both dirt and turf.
“His siblings have all preferred the turf, but he’s by Dominus who won graded stakes on both surfaces,” said Gleaves. “We started him on the dirt but then he ran two bang-up races at Saratoga on the grass.
“We’re keeping an open mind about it [a return to grass], but the New York-bred stakes in the fall are all on the dirt so that was our reason for running in the Funny Cide,” he added. “We wanted to find out how he fit with the better New York-breds on the dirt. So, for now, we’ll stay on the dirt but he’s one of those adaptable horses that can run on both.”
Gleaves said a good effort in the Bongard could set up Thin White Duke for a start in the $150,000 Sleepy Hollow, a one-turn mile for juveniles on Big Sandy as part of Empire Showcase Day on October 24.
“It wouldn’t be too quick [back], that wouldn’t bother me. It would all depend on how he ran in this next one,” said Gleaves.
Although Jockey Joel Rosario was aboard for the stakes score, Gleaves said Manny Franco, aboard for the first four starts, would take the star turn in the Bongard.
“Joel has commitments that day in Kentucky so Manny Franco will be riding the ‘Duke,'” said Gleaves with a laugh. “No other ch-ch-changes.”
Bryan Hilliard’s Second of July, a Kentucky-bred son of Jack Milton, earned a shock debut win on September 20 in a six-furlong maiden special weight on the Belmont turf as the 68-1 longest shot on the board.
With Dylan Davis up, Second of July tracked a moderate early pace from third position before striking the front late in the turn and battling to a three-quarter length win that garnered a 68 Beyer Speed Figure.
“He had trained well in the morning on the dirt, but I had not had him on the grass,” said Gleaves. “Having said that, he’s by Jack Milton who is having good success with his offspring on turf. Jack Milton was a good turf horse himself winning the  Maker’s Mark Mile [at Keeneland].
“We knew he was dead fit and we knew he would run well,” added Gleaves. “But we knew there were some highly touted horses in there, which is why he was such a big price.”
Gleaves said Second of July will now point to the Grade 3 Futurity, a six-furlong turf sprint on October 11 offering a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
“He’s come out of the win excellent. He’s had three days off and will head back to the track tomorrow,” said Gleaves. “I walked and grazed him myself this morning to see how he was and his energy level was very high. He’s come out of the race in great shape.”
NYRA Press Release/ NYRA Photo