Integration impresses in the Hill Prince (Joe Labozzetta)
By Mary Eddy – NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing’s Integration kept his perfect record intact while scoring his second graded stakes victory in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Hill Prince, a nine-furlong inner turf test for sophomores, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey and confidently piloted by Kendrick Carmouche, the Quality Road bay added to a last-out rallying victory in the Grade 3 Virginia Derby on September 9 at Colonial Downs, where he defeated Grade 1-winner Program Trading, and a debut 1 1/16-mile maiden victory at the same oval on August 12.
“I think this was his best race. The race at Colonial was really a good race and a good field – the horse that was second was a Grade 1 winner,” said McGaughey. “To come back and do it here, I think it was a really good race.”
Integration, who set a new track record in the nine-furlong Virginia Derby, again delivered a record performance in the Hill Prince. His final time of 1:46.06 is on par with the track record of 1:46 set by Slew the Dragon in the 1985 Lashkari, which came before times were measured in hundredths and were instead rounded down to the nearest fifth.
Away from post 3 as the 4-5 mutuel favorite, Integration was patient as Laurel Valley rushed up from his inside to take command exiting the chute and through the wire for the first time with Equitize tracking a close second under a tight hold from Irad Ortiz, Jr. The top two opened up 5 1/2 lengths on Integration as he tracked in third through an opening quarter-mile in 23 seconds flat over the firm footing.
“I told Kendrick that it didn’t look, to me, like there would be a whole lot going on in this race,” McGaughey explained. “The pace was a little more than I thought and I said, ‘be careful with this inner track now, don’t let him lose contact.’ I thought he rode a great race.”
The field spread out in a line down the backstretch with positions unchanged through the half-mile in 47.43 before I’m Very Busy, who tucked in along the rail from post 8, attempted to advance on the inside as Carmouche nudged Integration for more in the three-path.
Rounding the turn, Integration ranged up on the outside of Equitize with dead aim on Laurel Valley as I’m Very Busy needed a seam and was angled off the rail by Manny Franco with three-quarters in 1:12.33. Integration put his head in front at the top of the lane and drifted out wide to the center of the course as the oncoming I’m Very Busy found an opening to the outside of the tiring pacesetters, but Integration had plenty left to draw off and post the decisive five-length score.
I’m Very Busy held place honors by one length over Toofareastiswest with Freedom Trail completing the superfecta. Faraday, Laurel Valley, Equitize, Classic Catch and Quality Chic rounded out the order of finish. Main track-only entrant Crupi was scratched. Toofareastiswest was pulled up in the gallop-out by Joel Rosario and was vanned off.
Carmouche, who has piloted Integration in both of his graded wins, praised the colt’s professionalism.
“Those horses in front of me were going pretty well,” said Carmouche. “I was sitting on the rail at the beginning, and I angled him out to the three path where they couldn’t keep me in there. This horse did everything on his own. This is a monster.”
McGaughey said Integration has thrived after training over synthetic at Fair Hill.
“I always liked this horse,” McGaughey said. “He just had little things and we had to stop – nothing major. He had a little splint and we have to back off of him. I made one good move – which I don’t make that many times [laughs] – when I sent him down to Fair Hill. I think he really liked that – the paddock, training, breezing on the Tapeta. I think that was a good move. He went before Saratoga.”
Bred in Kentucky by Larkin Armstrong, Integration was a $700,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale purchase and is out of the multiple turf graded stakes-winning mare Harmonize, who won the 2016 Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. He earned $137,500 for his victory and now boasts $473,500 in total purse earnings while returning $3.60 on a $2 win ticket.
McGaughey added that Integration could potentially test Grade 1 company next in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational on January 27 at Gulfstream Park.
“He’s going to go to Florida as soon as I can get him there. It’s [the Pegasus] something we’ll have to think about,” said McGaughey. “I’m sure West Point will be all in for that. We’ll see.”
Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with nine-race card, featuring the $120,000 Central Park in Race 5 and the $135,000 Forever Together in Race 7. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.