Vacation Dance Vies for Second Consecutive Stakes Win in $500K NYSSS Great White Way

December 14, 2022

Vacation Dance victorious in the Atlantic Beach (NYRA/Coglianese)

By Mary Eddy – NYRA Press Office

OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Sleeping Giant Stables, America’s Pastime Stables and KimDon Racing’s graded stakes-placed Vacation Dance will vie for his second consecutive stakes score for trainer John Kimmel in Saturday’s $500,000 NYSSS Great White Way, a seven-furlong sprint for eligible New York-sired juveniles, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The Great White Way, carded as Race 9 on Saturday’s 10-race card, is one of four stakes on the loaded program, which will also feature the $500,000 NYSSS Fifth Avenue in Race 7, the $100,000 Alex M. Robb in Race 8 and the $100,000 Bay Ridge in Race 3. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.

Vacation Dance, a grey son of The Lieutenant, arrives from a tidy 1 1/4-length victory against open company in the six-furlong Atlantic Beach over the Big A turf on November 5 in wire-to-wire fashion. Guided to victory by returning rider Kendrick Carmouche, Vacation Dance broke sharply and rushed up to lead the field through honest fractions of 22.30 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 44.65 for the half-mile while under some pressure from No Nay Hudson. Vacation Dance shook off the challenge from his rival down the lane and inched clear to post the victory in a final time of 1:08.41.

The Atlantic Beach came one start after Vacation Dance earned a graded placing in his first start against winners when a game third in the Grade 3 Futurity, coming up a neck shy in a blanket finish behind the victorious Nagirroc, who exited that effort to finish a close third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

“He’s doing very well,” said Kimmel. “I’ve been very pleased with his progression. We had geared him towards the grass earlier in the summer and into the fall. He did very well winning a stake and breaking his maiden first time out.”

Vacation Dance has made each of his three lifetime outings over the lawn and will try dirt for the first time in the Great White Way. Kimmel said Vacation Dance, who stands at nearly 17 hands tall, has matured enough to give dirt a try as he reaches the end of his juvenile campaign.

“Sometimes they [bigger horses] find their efficiency is much better on the grass – they have a tendency to not have developed fully, especially in their hind end,” said Kimmel. “Now that he’s almost a 3-year-old, I think he’s starting to get a stronger hind end on him and he’s able to handle the dirt better than he did.”

Kimmel said he is confident Vacation Dance has the talent and class to handle the switch in surface.

“He ran well in the graded stake and just fell short of going to the Breeders’ Cup – he was on the also-eligible list,” said Kimmel. “After he won the open-company stake on the grass, we knew that he was Stallion [Stakes Series] eligible, so we started gearing his training on the dirt pretty regularly since that race. He’s just getting better and better all the time and I think he should be pretty competitive in this spot.”

Vacation Dance’s works over the dirt include two bullets, the most recent a five-furlong drill in 1:02.48 over the Belmont Park main track on December 3. He also posted a half-mile in 48.21 Saturday over Belmont’s dirt training track.

“He’s got very good tactical speed,” said Kimmel. “He’s a really nice horse to be around and is a class act. He’s big, strong, a beautiful mover, and there’s not much about him that you wouldn’t like.”

Bred in the Empire State by Harry Landry and James Hogan, Vacation Dance will emerge from post 11.

Ramblin Wreck breaks his maiden Sep. 16 at Belmont at the Big A (NYRA/Coglianese)

Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Peter Searles and Patty Searles’ Ramblin’ Wreck is in search of his first stakes victory after finishing a close fourth last out in the Central Park on November 26 at the Big A. Trained by Danny Gargan, the son of Redesdale rallied from 5 1/2 lengths off the pace in the one-mile Central Park and finished well to come up 2 1/2 lengths short of the winning Bat Flip.

Like Vacation Dance, Ramblin’ Wreck will make the switch to dirt after showing ability on the turf, though the latter has made one start over the main track when a distant sixth on debut in a state-bred sprint in August at Saratoga. His lone victory from four starts was a second-out score traveling 1 1/16 miles over the Big A turf in September.

Dean Reeves, owner of Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, said he is looking forward to Saturday and beyond with Ramblin’ Wreck.

“We were really happy with how he closed in his last race,” said Reeves. “It looked like he showed a really nice kick at the end. I think he’s going to have a really big year next year against New York-breds. We’ll see how he does on the dirt. It’ll be a bit of a challenge but I’m hoping his talent can overcome some of that and we can get a big win.”

Ramblin’ Wreck, who was bred in New York by Ron Bowden, has been assigned post 9 with Manny Franco in the irons.

Stakes-winner Jackson Heights [post 1, Javier Castellano] will look to return to winning ways for trainer Orlando Noda after a last-out fifth-place finish in the state-bred Sleepy Hollow on October 30 at Belmont at the Big A. Owned by Zilla Racing Stables, Black Jack Racing and Acqua Nova Stable, Jackson Heights broke his maiden in style two starts back with an off-the-pace victory in the Bertram F. Bongard against state-breds on September 29. He rallied from last-of-5 to earn the two-length victory over Arctic Arrogance, who won the aforementioned Sleepy Hollow next out. The son of Union Jackson was bred in New York by Sequel Stallions New York.

Playingwithmatches scores at second-asking Nov. 17 at Aqueduct (NYRA/Coglianese)

Walter Downey’s Playingwithmatches [post 3, Romero Maragh] will look to keep up his positive momentum on the heels of a second-out maiden score in a six-furlong state-bred maiden claimer on November 17 for conditioner Mark Hennig. The dark bay Bellamy Road gelding, who was bred in the Empire State by Tea Party Stable, was bumped hard at the start of his October 27 debut at the Big A, but broke better at second asking and went wire-to-wire to post the three-quarter-length victory at odds of 17-1.

“Just breaking was a big difference maker,” Hennig said. “I don’t know that he’s a gate-to-wire horse all the time, but it worked out well in that last group of horses. He always trains well and doesn’t do anything too crazy. He’s a pretty routine horse.”

Rounding out the field are a septet of maidens in Bustino Santino [post 2, Dylan Davis], General Banker [post 4, Eric Cancel], Zapruder [post 5, Edgard Zayas, blinkers ON], Tater and Tot [post 6, Andre Worrie], Incantation [post 7, Heman Harkie], Lifetime of Chance [post 8, Jose Lezcano] and Laurel Valley [post 10, Jorge Vargas, Jr.].

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