NEWS: racing

Weekend Hideaway sharp on return in Affirmed Success

Friday, April 29th, 2016
NYRA/Adam Coglianese

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

By Sarah Mace

Trainer Phil Serpe had Red and Black Stable’s Weekend Hideaway (Speightstown) in winning form after a 4 1/2-month vacation: on Belmont Park’s opening-day Friday the six-year-old scored an authoritative victory over seven rivals to take the six furlong, $100,000 Affirmed Success Stakes. The win was the veteran’s ninth career victory and sixth stakes score.

Fourth choice in the betting at odds of 5-1, Weekend Hideaway got out of the gate first from post two, but then let longshot Little Popsie and others go on with it through a blazing early fractions of 22.32 and 45.14, while he cruised along at the rail a length back in fourth.

Angled out one path at the top of the stretch by jockey Luis Saez, Weekend Hideaway rallied toward the front between horses, took over with a little more than a furlong to go and edged ahead to a confident 2 1/4-length victory. He stopped the clock in 1:10.30.

Favored Loki’s Vengeance, winner of last year’s Affirmed Success, finished second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Drama King. Following them in order across the finish line were Ostrolenka, Little Popsie, Between the Lines, Eye Luv Lulu and Bond Vigilante. [VIDEO]

Saez said, “We had a good break and I thought we’d get to the lead but I waited and sat on the rail. I had plenty of horse and at the quarter-pole was able to get through and up to the wire. He’s a good horse and tries all the time. He’s a nice horse.”

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

Phil Serpe added “[Weekend Hideaway] always steps up and runs a big race for us during the year. He ran a huge, huge race before his last race [of 2015]. I guess he went a little backwards off that race.” In his penultimate start of last year, a five-furlong dash at Gulfstream Park West, Weekend Hideaway romped by more than six lengths. He tired to last next out in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream.

Serpe continued, “He hadn’t been away from the track in two years, and it was in our plans to send him away for a while. We sent him to South Carolina to freshen him up, and he came back really well today. He just needed a little vacation.”

If all is in order after this race, Serpe said he would consider the Commentator for Weekend Hideaway’s next start on Big Apple Showcase Day May 30.

From nine wins, four seconds and four thirds Weekend Hideaway has earned $631,532. His most impressive performance came in January 2015, when he dominated the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Gulfstream, completing six furlongs in 1:08.64 for a 107 Beyer Speed Figure. His stakes victories include wins in the Bertram Bongard and David Stakes at two, the Gone Fishin on the Belmont turf in 2013 and the John Morrissey at Saratoga in 2014.

Bred by the late Carl Lizza’s Flying Zee Stables, for whom Serpe was a long-time trainer, and foaled at Highcliff Farm in Delanson, Weekend Hideaway is the first foal and only winner out of New York-bred Apocalyptical, an unplaced New York-bred daughter of Wiseman’s Ferry. Weekend Hideaway was purchased by Michael Hoffman’s Red and Black Stable for $40,000 in the yearling portion of the Flying Zee Dispersal in October 2011.

Sudden Surprise notches fifth stakes tally in NYSS Times Square

Sunday, April 24th, 2016
NYRA/Chelsea Durand

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

Repole homebred Sudden Surprise was looking for his first win of 2016 at Aqueduct on Sunday afternoon in the 6 1/2-furlong, $100,000 Times Square division of the New York Stallion Series for New York sired 3-year-olds. He was also seeking redemption for an inexplicable clunker last out on March 6 the open Jimmy Winkfield, when he failed to fire and finished last as the favorite. In the event, the son of New York-based Repole stallion Giant Surprise gratified his connections with a fifth career stakes victory as Aqueduct Racetrack concluded its 19-day spring meet.

Bet down to 4-5 favoritism with John Velazquez in the irons, Sudden Surprise broke cleanly from his inside post and assumed the lead shortly after the start.

Taking the field through a quarter in 23.76 and half-mile in 47.04, while maintaining a one-length advantage over Lucky Lurie, he was called upon for more run at the quarter pole when the competition began to encroach.

Steadfast to the wire, despite drifting out in the stretch, Sudden Surprise crossed the finish line a 1 1/4-length winner in a final time of 1:17.66.

Lucky Lurie finished second, three-quarters of a length in front of Dr. Shane and Bust Another, who finished heads apart in third and fourth. Completing the order of finish were Timber and Gaming. [VIDEO]

Velazquez commented, “[The trip was] just the way we expected it. We came out running and I put him to the lead and tried to hold on. With all those horses, he likes to be there, so why take away his fight, you know, his style.”

Continued the winning rider, “[He’s] pretty much the same [as last year]. The only thing he did today he was a little green, running in and out; I don’t remember him doing that before, but he put in a good fight. I thought once he was in front and the horse would come to him, he would get to put in his fight and we’d be good.”

Byron Hughes, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, said, “Now we can cross a line through that last race. He’s a very consistent horse and it was a good win. Last time out, he just didn’t fire. It’s very exciting for him to win his fifth stakes race. Timing-wise, we’ll see how he comes out of it and go from there.”

At two Sudden Surprise won five of six starts, including four stakes races: the Funny Cide at Saratoga second out following a Spa debut maiden-breaker, the Bertram Bongard at Belmont, and the Notebook and NYSS Great White Way at Aqueduct. Second in when he stretched out to 1 mile and 70 yards in the Gander Stakes in his 2016 debut, he gave way in the Winkfield, before the Times Square score.

From six wins, and five stakes victories, and a second, Sudden Surprise has netted just shy of a half-million dollars in earnings ($498,800).

Foaled at Mill Creek Farm in Stillwater, Sudden Surprise is the first foal out of Ready and Good, a placed Florida-bred runner by More than Ready, also trained by Pletcher for Repole, who had a lone career start. She has visited Repole stallions exclusively, and has a 2-year-old filly by Overdriven and a yearling filly by Stay Thirsty. She was bred in 2015 year to Uncle Mo with no foal reported as yet.

Libreta nails NYSS Park Avenue at 13-1

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

By Sarah Mace

Libreta, a daughter of former New York sire Girolamo bred by Darley and foaled in Kentucky, scored a determined victory in this year’s running of the 6 1/2-furlong, $100,000 Park Avenue division of the New York Stallion Stakes series at Aqueduct on Saturday.

Making her second start of the year for trainer Tom Albertrani and fifth career start overall, the bay filly was looking for her second win. A decisive maiden-breaker at 6 1/2 furlongs last September at Belmont Park, she tired to last when ambitiously spotted in the Grade 2 Matron in her final start of the year. Runner-up in a Gulfstream Park allowance for her seasonal debut in early February, she was reunited with regular rider Luis Saez for the Park Avenue after a brief freshening. She was sent off as the 13-1 fifth choice in a formidable field of seven 3-year-old New York-sired fillies.

After exchanging a few bumps with neighbors out of the gate from post two, Libreta vied for the lead along with pacesetter She’s All Ready, Behrnik’s Bank and Wonderment for the first part of the run up the backstretch. After a quarter mile in 23.35, Libreta dropped back into the pocket and saved ground through the far tur through a half in 46.77.

Angling out at the quarter pole for the drive, she closed ground on She’s All Ready. With the outcome nip and tuck through midstretch, Libreta overhauled her rival just past the sixteenth pole to get the win by one length in a final time of 1:18.58. She’s All Ready finished second, followed by Frosty Margarita, Gregorian Gold, Madame Maybry, Behrnik’s Bank and Wonderment. [VIDEO]

Saez reported, “I used to ride the filly and I always used to try to put her in front because she wins in front. Today was different, there was too much speed so we had to decide to stay back and come from behind. When we came to the three-eighths, she responded. I had the horse and when we got to the stretch, we had the pace to let her run and ask her and she responded.”

Pedro Matteo, assistant to winning trainer Tom Albertrani, said, “I told Luis, ‘You know the filly,’ so I didn’t have to say too much. He told me there was a lot of speed in the race, so he was going to try and take back. The filly is nice; she’s got a lot of potential. We were disappointed last year when she was [sixth in the G2 Matron], but she came back in Florida and finished second. She’s been here a week, and has been training well. Tom picked out a nice spot for her.”

Libreta is the first foal out of Enrichment, a placed Ghostzapper mare also bred by Darley in Kentucky. Libreta’s first stakes victory improves her record to two wins a second and third from five starts and boosts her earnings bankroll to $125,660.

Silver Mission first starter, first winner for Mission Impazible

Thursday, April 21st, 2016
NYRA/Chelsea Durand

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

As the 2-year-old racing season begins to take hold in New York, Silver Mission, the first starter for New York-based sire Mission Impazible, got a stern test in his debut, an open 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race that kicked off the card at Aqueduct on Thursday.

The Twin Creeks Racing Stables and Sequel Racing homebred was forced to battle well-regarded Fuhrlong (Langfuhr) right to wire and then survive a post-race inquiry into the somewhat bumpy stretch run, but in the event, emerged with a gutsy three-quarter length victory.

The grey/roan Todd Pletcher trainee, bet down to 1-5 favoritism by post time, made his way to the lead after a first quarter in 22.18, but was destined to be attended to the wire by Fuhrlong.

The pair were inseparable through a half in 46.52 and battled to finish line, but Silver Mission put on a final burst of speed under jockey John Velazquez to capture the victory in a final time of 53.25 which withstood the scrutiny of the stewards.

The colt’s sire, Mission Impazible (Unbridled’s Song), stands at Sequel Stallions New York for a 2016 stud fee of $7,500. Tabbed as a TDN Rising Star at two after breaking his maiden first out during the 2009 Keeneland spring race meet, he went on to win the 2010 Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and 2011 Grade 2 New Orleans H. He ran second in three Grade 1 races, the 2012 Donn H., 2011 Clark H. and 2011 Stephen Foster H. and retired at the end of the 2012 season with earnings of nearly $1.3 million.

Silver Mission’s dam is Grade 3 winner and $438,843-earner Nashinda, who is a half-sister to Canadian champion Archers Bay (Silver Deputy).

Silver Mission, as a New York-sired New York-bred, earned, in addition to the $50,000 winner’s share of the purse, a 30% breeder’s award for his victory ($15,000), a 20% open company owner’s award ($10,000) and 10% stallion owner’s award ($5,000) from the Fund. Moreover,  with added Fund and NYRA incentives this spring for the New York 2-year-old racing program, Twin Creeks Racing/Sequel Racing earned a $9,000 owner’s bonus and Todd Pletcher earned a $4,000 trainer’s bonus.



Effinex back in the winner’s circle after G2 Oaklawn Handicap

Saturday, April 16th, 2016
Coady Photography

Coady Photography

By Sarah Mace

Third to Melatonin as a beaten favorite in his March seasonal debut in the Santa Anita Handicap, New York-bred champion and 2015 Horse of the Year Effinex turned the tables impressively on that rival in Saturday’s Grade 2, $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap after a protracted duel.

Top-weighted at 121 pounds in the eight-horse field and ridden for the fourth straight time by jockey Mike Smith in the 1/18-mile contest, the 5-year-old son of Mineshaft was bet down to 8-5 favoritism. Melatonin was 2-1 second choice.

Backers expected to Effinex to return to the form he enjoyed last year, when he won the Grade 1 Clark, Grade 2 Suburban and Grade 3 Clark, and ran second to American Pharoah in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It was not unreasonable that he would move forward at Oaklawn for trainer Jimmy Jerkens.

In Santa Anita, Effinex’ first start after a 3 1/2-month lay-off, he suffered from the combined liabilities of time off, a long ship to California and a dramatic case of hives on race day. This time around the horse had been settling in at Oaklawn since the beginning of the week under the care of trainer Jerkens’ assistant Kent Sweezey and all systems seemed to be go

Breaking from the outside post, Effinex moved up quickly after the bell to join early leader Melatonin from post three and Blofeld from post one, who were also both aggressive out of the gate.

Entering the first turn as a close second to Melatonin, Effinex latched on to his rival for the length of the backstretch, applying increasing pressure rounding the far turn and heading into the stretch. The clock registered 23.18 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 47.85 for the half-mile and 1:12.05 for six furlongs.

Effinex gained a slight advantage over Melatonin with three furlongs to go and held tenaciously to the lead. Mike Smith, who rode Effinex confidently from the start, asked for a little extra in the final furlong. Effinex responded and drew clear to win by a length. Point Piper finished third another 2 3/4 lengths back, followed across the line by Blofeld, Upstart, Domain’s Rap, Carve and Financial Modeling. The final time for nine furlongs over the fast track was 1:49.

“He was a different horse today,” said Smith. “He just wasn’t happy in California because of the hives. He battled with Melatonin down the backside and just kicked it into another gear.”

Jerkens, who watched the race on TV from New York, commented, “That was really nice. I am very pleased with what he did today. He stayed closer to the pace than he’s used to doing. He really likes that track, and he likes it fast like that.”

Continued Jerkens, “He grabbed it right away, which I was happy to see because I thought he was going to end up losing too much ground coming out of the gate [from post 8]. Mike let him run a little more to cross over and that was a good job on his part.”

When asked what lies down the road for Effinex, Jerkens said, “We don’t know what’s next. We want to get him home and get him back to the barn. We want to savor this one a little bit before think about that. It’s a long year and there are a lot of races for him.”

Effinex, a four-time grades stakes winner, has record of eight wins, two seconds and four thirds in 22 starts and earnings of $2,682,950, which elevates him to third place on the all-time New York-bred earnings list, behind 2003 Kentucky Derby hero Funny Cide ($3,529,412) and A Shin Forward, who raced exclusively in Japan ($3,421,360).

Bred by Dr. Russell S. Cohen and campaigned by his 84-year-old mother Bernice’s Tri-Bone Stables, Effinex is the only foal out of multiple stakes-winning Tri-Bone homebred What a Pear by E Dubai. What a Pear’s dam Perfect Pair was purchased by Tri-Bone as a juvenile at OBS in 1999 for $28,000. The stable is named after Cohen’s three sons, who called one another “bonehead” when they were growing up.

Macagone wires Danger’s Hour

Sunday, April 10th, 2016
NYRA/Adam Coglianese

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

By Sarah Mace

Speedy Trinity Farm homebred Macagone, a gelded son of Artie Schiller, picked up his first stakes win at Aqueduct on Sunday when he led the field gate-to-wire to win the open $100,000 Danger’s Hour run at one mile, the first New York turf stakes of 2016.

Macagone had been freshened since his final start of 2015 which was also his first stakes effort for conditioner Michelle Nihei: Gulfstream’s El Prado Stakes on December 12.

Only fourth choice of six to take the Danger’s Hour over the yielding turf at 6-1 odds, the gelding was partnered with the hot-handed Jose Ortiz, who had been in the irons for the 5-year-old’s maiden breaker at Belmont Park in June 2014.

Out of the gate cleanly and alertly, Macagone assumed his customary place on the lead and bowled along with a two-, then three-length advantage through solid splits of 24.44, 48.41 and 1:12.21.

Still unchallenged at the top of the lane, Macagone drew away through midstretch. With a furlong left to go, favorite Takeover Target closed the gap, but Macagone had plenty still left in the tank to make the outcome anything but a certainty, winning by a clear 3 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:36.96.

Takeover Target finished second 1 1/4 length in front of Fredericksburg and completing the order of finish were: Legendary, New York-bred turf champion Lubash who was making the first start of his 9-year-old campaign, and Late Night. [VIDEO]

Jose Ortiz said, “[Macagone] wanted the speed of the race and I went to the lead early. It’s good to have speed in a race on the turf because the turns here at Aqueduct are tight and the horses come from behind sometimes and they don’t want to go to the wire. This is a nice horse, he looked great today, and Michelle Nihei brought him back really well.”

A consistent runner throughout his restricted and open conditions, Macagone has five wins, three seconds and four thirds from 18 starts and has earned $295,742. His dam Isabel Away, a winning daughter of Skip Away, has produced another successful turf runner, Birchwood Road by Pure Prize, a three-time grass winner of nearly $200,000.

Isabel Away currently has a 2-year-old full brother to Birchwood Road, a yearling colt by Colonel John, and was bred last year to Freud.

Wonderment makes the grade in Bourbonette Oaks

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016
Coady Photography

Coady Photography

By Sarah Mace

Wonderment, a grey/roan daughter of New York-based sire Cosmonaut, stepped it up a notch in her graded stakes debut at Turfway Park on Saturday’s Spiral Stakes undercard, wiring a full field of 3-year-old fillies in the Grade 3, $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks.

Trained by Ken McPeek for owners Magdalena Racing and Chris Sterbenz, Wonderment came into the one-mile Bourbonette Oaks with three starts to her credit, none further than six furlongs.

After winning her Belmont unveiling last July 9 at five panels, she wheeled back just 10 days later to romp in the six-furlong Lynbrook Stakes by six-plus lengths. Returning to the races for her sophomore debut at Aqueduct on February 20, she finished a solid third against fellow New York-breds in the 6-furlong Franklin Square Stakes. Wonderment, who added Lasix for the first time on Saturday, posted a trio of works at Keeneland leading up to the Oaks.

The filly’s conditioner was curious to see how she would take the added distance. Said, McPeek last week, “We want to stretch her out once and see how she handles that. I think she’ll relish the stretch-out.” Relish the stretch-out, she did.

Drawn in post two (of 12) with Cornelio Velasquez, her Franklin Square pilot, back at the helm, and sent off as the 4-1 second choice, Wonderment outbroke 3-1 favorite Marquee Miss at the bell to emerge as the pacesetter. Traveling on the inside, she led the favorite by a half-length through a 23.25 first quarter and extended her advantage to a length along the backstretch and round the far turn while clocking a half in 47.07.

Shaking off her rival as she entered the stretch two-wide, Wonderment extended her lead to two lengths, then kicked away energetically in the final furlong to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Inconclusive (9-1) closed well to nose Marquee Miss for the place. After six furlongs in 1:13.05 the final time for the race was 1:39.04.

Cornelio Velasquez commented, “My filly was coming off a layoff in New York and she needed her race last time. She wanted to go to the lead and we had a lot of horse coming down the top of the stretch. She likes the distance and the synthetic track and she wanted to go easy on the lead.”

Alan Shell, assistant for McPeek said, “That last race (the Franklin Square) she was really sharp, and her gallops have been getting stronger and stronger, and her breezes have been so sharp, we were confident that she would like the route of ground.’

Continued Shell, “We work a lot of horses in company, young horses like her, but we can’t really work her in company. We probably spend more time in the morning trying to slow her down because we don’t want her to do too much. She used that speed today.”

Although the Bourbonette carries 50 eligibility points for the winner toward the May 6 Kentucky Oaks and Wonderment now sits in eighth on the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” points leaderboard, McPeek told the DRF she is not likely to go. “She’ll probably go back to New York-bred company,” he said, “There is a seventh eighths race at Belmont [the $125,000 Bouwerie Stakes on May 30].”

Bred by Michael S. Landers and foaled at Mill Creek Farm in Stillwater, Wonderment sold as a weanling to Baccari Bloodstock for $24,000 at the Fasig-Tipton New York Fall Mixed sale. Offered the following year at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale, she did not attain her reserve when bid up to $47,000.

An earner of $181,160 from three victories and a third, Wonderment is one of three winners, including six-figure earner Persuasive Devil (Closing Argument), from three foals to start out of A Wonder She is, a winning daughter of Three Wonders from the family of Videogenic. The mare currently has 2-year-old filly by Twirling Candy named Arabesque, and yearling colt by Discreetly Mine named Potential Danger and was bred last year to Itsmyluckyday.

Cosmonaut stands at Keane Stud in Amenia for a 2016 fee of $5,000.


Upstart triumphs off the bench in Grade 3 Razorback

Sunday, March 20th, 2016
Coady Photography

Coady Photography

By Sarah Mace

Trainer Rick Violette had Upstart just where he hoped he would be after six months on the bench for the talented ridgling’s 2016 debut Saturday in the Grade 3, $350,000 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park. Upstart relaxed early, launched a sustained bid from midway on the far turn and drove relentlessly toward a one-length victory over nine rivals in the 1 1/16-mile dirt contest.

Violette commented last week on the ridgling’s lay-off and development from three to four. “He had a long, hard season as a 3-year-old, and we thought it best to give him some time off,” said Violette. “He is bigger, stronger. He’s filled out – what you would hope for.” Violette originally targeted the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 5 for Upstart’s 2016 debut, but deemed his charge needed a couple more weeks before his first race and opted for the Razorback.

Coady Photography

Coady Photography (#7)

Conceding two to eight pounds to his rivals as the 120-pound highweight on Saturday, and bet down to 5-2 favoritism in the field of ten under jockey Joe Bravo, Upstart bided his time in the early stages of the race after breaking from post eight. He traveled in seventh about a half-dozen lengths off the pace while negotiating the clubhouse turn three wide. Up front, pacesetter Shotgun Kowboy clocked the first quarter mile at a good clip in :23.15 and moderated the pace for a quarter in :47.50.

After cruising down the backstretch, Upstart began to come under some extra encouragement as he rounded the far turn five wide. Showing no hint of leg-weariness in the stretch, the blaze-faced dark bay kept driving relentlessly to the lead . . . and the wire, gaining the top spot with a furlong to go and driving home for a one-length victory. After a mile run in 1:37.77, he stopped the clock at 1:44.12.

Coady Photography

Coady Photography

Said jockey Joe Bravo, “I’m going to give full credit to the whole Rick Violette team for bringing this horse together. When you’re off that long, it’s tough to get a horse ready to run. He left there really nicely, relaxed really good the first turn. Probably a little farther back than Rick wanted. But, he was so comfortable and relaxed. I was really happy the way he was going.”

Bravo continued, “You saw the move he made around the turn. He’s back. He’s a pretty nice horse. He proved it to everybody. I’m just glad he’s a big, happy horse for the rest of the season.”

Said Violette, “I couldn’t be happier. He gave up ground on both turns but he was resolute up the lane. He ran right through. He’s back to where we hoped he would be and I’m thrilled.”

Bred by Mrs. Gerald A. Nielsen and foaled at her Sunnyfield Farm in Bedford, Upstart was purchased by owner Ralph Evans on Violette’s advice at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred yearling sale from the Summerfield consignment for $130,000. WinStar Farm acquired a minority interest in the horse last April.

A real looker from the start, Upstart waged two strong back-to-back campaigns at two and three. Winner of his 5 1/2-furlong Saratoga debut from off the pace by open lengths, he followed up just nine days later with a victory as a supplemental entry to the state-bred Funny Cide Stakes. Upstart wrapped up the year with a wide-trip second to Daredevil in the slop in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont before shipping out west to run a strong third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

In 2015 Upstart emerged as a top contender for the Kentucky Derby in three starts at Gulfstream Park. Dominant winner of the Grade 2 Holy Bull in his sophomore debut, Upstart was controversially disqualified from a clear victory in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. He then ran second in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. Unplaced in the Kentucky Derby, Upstart ran three more times in 2015, finishing third in the Grade 1 Haskell to American Pharoah, fourth in the Travers and fifth in the Pennsylvania Derby. To date he has earned $1,460,280 in 12 starts from four wins, three seconds and two thirds.

Miss Matzoball upsets Gulfstream’s Captiva Island

Saturday, March 12th, 2016
Coglianese Photos/Leslie Martin

Coglianese Photos/Leslie Martin

By Sarah Mace

Masie Stable homebred Miss Matzoball (Smoke Glacken) made her stakes debut on Saturday a winning one when she got up in the final strides to land a victory in Gulfstream Park’s $75,000 Captiva Island, a 5-furlong turf sprint for fillies and mares.

A three-time winner going into the Captiva Island, 4-year-old Miss Matzoball was coming off a career-best performance for trainer Roy Lerman, a 1 1/2-length victory in a second-level allowance race at Gulfstream on February 14 under Javier Castellano at the same trip as the Captiva Island. Partnered with Edgar Zayas on Saturday she was drawn in post five of eight and sent off at generous odds of 9-1.

Though bumped at the break, Miss Matzoball managed to settle nicely into stride behind the pacesetters, while an eager Maggiesfreuddnslip pulled her way to the front in the three path and led the field by 1 1/2 lengths through a first quarter in 21.19 and a half in 43.02.

Clear of traffic, Miss Matzoball worked her way up into fourth approaching the quarter pole while the top two betting choices caught up with Maggiesfreuddnslip, favorite Jewel of a Cat on the outside and second-choice Katie’s Kiss on the inside.

Maggiesfreuddnslip bore out in the turn, carrying Jewel of a Cat with her. Katie’s Kiss then scooted into the lead on the inside. Miss Matzoball came through in-between the new leader and a recovered Jewel of a Cat, with a determined final bid.

Coglianese Photos/Leslie Martin

Coglianese Photos/Leslie Martin

Surging in the final sixteenth, Miss Matzoball outsprinted Jewel of a Cat for second and overhauled Katie’s Kiss in the final strides to get up to win by a half-length, stopping the clock at 54.92 for a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 98.

“She’s a nice filly,” winning trainer Roy Lerman said. “She’s only run one poor race, her first start when she bled at Saratoga as a 2-year-old. She’s always right there and very honest, very calm. She’s easy to be around. She’s more like a pony really.”

Lerman continued, “I knew Maggie had extreme speed, quicker than any of these other horses. I thought if she made the lead she’d be very tough to get by. It didn’t work out that way, but it set up for Miss Matzoball because she’s very handy. She’s quick, but not with extreme speed. You can put her wherever you want.”

Now a four-time winner with two seconds and a third from 10 starts, Miss Matzoball has earned $181,527.

Foaled at Stone Bridge Farm in Gansevoort, Miss Matzoball is the first foal out of Miss Matzo, a Maryland-bred daughter of Royal Academy who was unplaced in her single career start. Miss Matzo has produced three other fillies, a 3-year-old by Girolamo named Moonshine Cate, a two-year-old by Girolamo named Kinky Sox and a Proud Citizen yearling named Citizen Matzo. She was bred to Gio Ponti last year.


Sharp, professional score for Awesome Gent in Jimmy Winkfield

Sunday, March 6th, 2016
NYRA/Adam Coglianese

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

By Sarah Mace

Burning Sands Stable homebred Awesome Gent (Awesome Again) racked up his third straight victory over the Aqueduct inner oval and first stakes win when he came from just off the pace under Manny Franco to score a professional and decisive score in Sunday’s the six-furlong, $125,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes for 3-year-olds.

Unplaced as the favorite when unveiled by Todd Pletcher at Saratoga last summer, Awesome Gent returned to the races at Aqueduct on December 19, again as the bettors’ choice, to romp by eighth-plus lengths. Meeting winners for the first time a month later was not a problem. The bay gelding bested a short field with a frontrunning 6 1/4-length victory on January 15.

Sent off as 7-2 third choice on Sunday, Awesome Gent broke well from the three hole, but chose to wait in the wings in third position while longshot Moon Over a Beauty and 2-1 favorite and fellow Pletcher-trainee Sudden Surprise, who charged out of the gate to his inside, dueled up front, clocking a sizzling quarter mile in 22.17 and half in 45.64.

Coming under a drive midway into the far turn, Awesome Gent advanced onto even terms with the leaders and angled out four wide for the drive.

The gelding took over with three-sixteenths left to go and cruised to the wire unopposed. He won by four lengths over Quijote, who split horses in the stretch, and stopped the timer in a sharp final time of 1:10.60. King Kranz checked in third, followed across the line by Condo King, Moon Over a Beauty and Sudden Surprise. [VIDEO].

NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

Jockey Manny Franco reported, “When I saw the two horses [Moon Over a Beauty and Sudden Surprise] fighting on the lead, I decided to sit [behind] and wait until the quarter-pole to make my move. He responded really good. He’s a nice horse and he has speed too, but he does whatever you want him to.”

Pletcher assistant Byron Hughes added, “I thought Manny did a great job, broke sharp and sat outside the pace and took over the top of the stretch and drew off it was very impressive. He’s been here all winter long and it’s been great to have him in the barn. Hopefully his success over the inner continues to the outer track.”

Franco also observed, “I think [he could go longer], Todd [Pletcher] has done such a good job with him. He’s a really nice one.”

Awesome Gent, who has earned $142,492 from his three wins, is one of seven winners out of Pawnee Patti, an Arkansas-bred stakes-placed six figure earner by Sir Richard Lewis. She is the dam of Arkansas-bred Comedero by Posse, who won ten stakes races, headed by the Grade 3 Chick Lang Stakes at Pimlico, and earned $675,814. The mare currently has a 2-year-old filly by Pomeroy, who is a registered New York-bred, and was bred to San Pablo last year.