Nakatomi holds on to win an allowance optional claimer Nov. 5, 2022 at Keeneland (Coady Photography)
NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Trainer Wesley Ward is hopeful that stakes winner Nakatomi can throw quite a party for his seasonal debut in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Tom Fool Handicap for older horses sprinting six furlongs at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Owned by Marc Detampel, Qatar Racing, and Tim O. Banker, Nakatomi was a last-out fourth in the Grade 1 Malibu on December 26 at Santa Anita. There, he took to the rear of the nine-horse field down the backstretch and began moving past runners into the far turn before launching a late rally to just miss third, finishing 5 1/4 lengths behind the winner Taiba.
Nakatomi logged a trio of breezes over the all-weather surface at Turfway Park in February, the most recent of which was a five furlong move in 1:03.40 last Thursday. Ward expressed interest in using the Tom Fool as a prep for next month’s Grade 3 Commonwealth at Keeneland, where the son of Firing Line is unbeaten in three starts including the six-furlong Bowman Mill in October 2021.
“We gave him a little time after that race out at Santa Anita. We got him back to Kentucky and let him settle in,” Ward said. “We we’re looking for a prep for the Commonwealth and this looked like the perfect spot for him to have that. He’s doing very well. He shipped into Belmont [on Tuesday] with no issues so we’re looking forward to it.”
Prior to the Malibu, Nakatomi won a 6 1/2-furlong allowance optional claimer on the November 5 Breeders’ Cup undercard at Keeneland, where he utilized stalking tactics to defeat eventual graded stakes winner Endorsed by a half-length.
Despite being more of a “come-from-behind” sprinter, Ward said Nakatomi has the ability to display speed given the circumstances.
“He showed some good speed at Keeneland on Breeders’ Cup day,” Ward said. “We’ll see how the race plays out on paper, obviously it’s a sprint so there’s going to be some fast ones in there. I think we have a fresh horse for this year starting off. Hopefully, he just continues on and runs a good race here. Then it’s on to Keeneland and on from there.”
Ward spoke volumes of jockey Dylan Davis, who will pilot Nakatomi from post 6 in the eight-horse Tom Fool, which includes graded stakes winning seasoned veterans Drafted and Eastern Bay as well as the formal graded stakes winner Runninsonofagun.
“I have full confidence in Dylan. I have a great relationship with him over the years since he was a bug rider,” Ward recalled. “I’m excited to get him on this horse. I know that’s his track right now, so I’m looking for a big run.”
Ward also said he plans on being more active on the NYRA circuit following the conclusion of Keeneland’s spring meet, which runs from April 7-28.
“I’m excited to get Belmont going. We’ll get there a little early and get ready for the 2-year-old races,” Ward said. “We have some exciting ones for this year coming up. We’re going to look to do more in New York this year after Keeneland.”