NEWS: racing

Startwithsilver explodes in the stretch to capture Broadway

Sunday, February 18th, 2018

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

Startwithsilver (Jump Start) bided her time in last place for the first half-mile of her stakes debut Sunday, Aqueduct’s co-featured $100,000 Broadway Stakes for New York-bred filly and mare sprinters, but when ready to run she unleashed an explosive rally down the middle of the track, passing the field and opening up to score a scintillating six-length victory.

Co-owned by Iris Smith Stable, Lady Sheila Stable and trainer Linda Rice, 5-year-old Startwithsilver broke her maiden on dirt in April of 2016, but until January 25 had run on dirt only one other time, instead compiling a solid race record in turf sprints.

In her return to dirt just over three weeks ago she wrote the script for the Broadway. She raced dead last and as much as eleven lengths off the pace in a 6-furlong sprint before finding her stride, engaged the field in the stretch and charged home to win by 2 3/4 lengths under jockey Junior Alvarado. The pair were reunited on Sunday and went off as the 2-1 second choice in the field of six.

Competition was fast and furious up front in the early stages of the Broadway as Sandy Bell and Shimmering Moon dueled through an opening quarter mile in 22.77, with 3-2 favorite Picco Uno in the hunt in third. Startwithsilver, unconcerned, traveled in last place seven lengths behind all the action.

Roused by her pilot in the turn, Startwithsilver passed her first horse in the approach to the quarter pole. She then angled out widest of all at the head of the stretch as the half ticked by in 46.88.

NYRA/Annette Jasko

The grey mare then kicked into gear and simply rocketed down the middle of the track, blowing past her rivals and opening up to win by six lengths in a final time of 1:11.44 over the sloppy (sealed) racing surface. Bee Noteworthy closed from fifth to get second and Picco Uno finished another two lengths back in third. Completing the order of finish were Sandy Belle, Frosty Margarita and Shimmering Moon. [VIDEO REPLY]

For Alvarado it was déjà vu all over again: “You sit on her and wait for her to have the kick she did last time, so that’s what I did.” He added, “As soon as we turned for home I just put her in the clear. I knew the race was over. And when she switched [her leads] she got another extra two gears and she just turned for home very strong. It was a nice win for her.”

As to the mare’s preferred surface, Alvarado sees greater potential for her right now on dirt, wet or dry. “I know she can do turf too, but I think her best right now is on the dirt. That turn-of-foot for home is incredible. The last time, it was a dry track and I was far back, and she was a little hesitant with the dirt at the beginning because it was her first race in a while running on the dirt. She was very professional [today]. She took the dirt well. And when I asked her, she was like a push-button. I just had to hang on tight.”

Previously Startwithsilver’s pedigree had convinced Rice to stick with turf. Bred by Burning Sands Stable and foaled at Rockridge Stud in Hudson, the mare is out of New York-bred Office Miss (Silver Ghost), a winner of three turf stakes. The female family also features Artie Schiller, Hidden Light and Ferdinand.

Rice said, “When we started with her, she broke her maiden on the dirt, but her mother had made around $350,000 on the grass, so we switched her to the turf, and there were just more opportunities for her there. Last winter, I decided to give her a break and freshen her up, and this winter I thought to try her on the dirt and give her another chance. We’ve been delighted with her last performances and I thought this race was pretty darn competitive.”

Lightly raced for a 5-year-old, with relatively long hiatuses between two and three, and three and four, Startwithsilver has compiled a career record of five wins, four seconds and two thirds from 15 starts, with $273,559 in earnings.

Purchased as a yearling by Raul Reyes’ Kings Equine at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall sale for just $32,000, Startwithsilver was bought by Rice for $180,000 at the 2015 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s Spring sale of 2-year-olds in training. She is the most recent reported foal for her dam Office Miss, who produced five winners.

Stretch-out sprinter Nine Route wires Gander

Sunday, February 18th, 2018

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

Stretching out from a pair of dirt sprints, Nine Route (The Factor) put a stakes victory on the board in his fourth career start at Aqueduct Sunday with a frontrunning victory in the one-mile $100,000 Gander Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds.

Trained by Jeremiah Engelhart for retired NFL coach Bill Parcells’ August Dawn Farm, the bay colt was piloted to victory by a hot-handed Dylan Davis who began Sunday’s race program with a personal rolling pick three. Davis would go on to sweep the first five races and win six on the card.

Headlined by undefeated 1-5 favorite Empire Line, the field of five was reduced by one on race day with the scratch of Michael Dilger-trainee Evaluator. The would-be contender, beaten just a nose by Empire Line in the Damon Runyon on January 15, is stabled in Belmont’s barn 10, now under a 21-day quarantine due to an outbreak of equine herpes myeloencephalopathy (EHM), which has claimed the life of one of Tom Albertrani’s fillies. No other horses have exhibited symptoms of the disease.

Gio d’Oro, the 7-2 second choice in the Gander, broke on top, but Nine Route, who was the lone confirmed speed of the quartet, successfully challenged for the lead by the time the horses exited the chute.

NYRA/Robert Mauhar

Nine Route traveled comfortably at the rail along the backstretch, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Gio d’Oro, followed by Empire Line another length back on the rail, and Engineers Report. After early splits ticked off in 23.91 and 48.20, Empire Line made a run at Nine Route, but dropped back and came under the whip. The favorite seemed not to have relished his first encounter with off going.

Nine Route completed three-quarters in 1:14.04 and edged clear in the stretch on his way to a convincing 3-length victory. Gio d’Oro won the battle for second, finishing a half-length ahead of a somewhat resurgent Empire Line, while longshot Engineers Report brought up the rear. The final time for the mile was 1:41.25 over the sloppy (sealed) track. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Off the board in his July 2 Belmont debut on the grass for Bill Mott, and only resurfacing on December 8 to break his maiden on dirt by more than six lengths for Engelhart, Nine Route came into the Gander off a solid allowance win over “good” going. He scored both sprint victories on the front end and for the colt’s stakes debut both trainer and jockey were minded to position Nine Route where he has done his best work.

“He was on the lead his last two races and coming in we thought he might be able to do the same thing today,” said Engelhart. “Dylan did a really nice job with him. Sometimes he tends to start a bit sluggish, but he got out of there okay and really handled the track which was also a concern.”

Added Davis, “He broke a step slow and I got a little worried, but once he got into stride, he took control and I got him to relax. He geared down and knew what he had to do turning for home.”

Dylan also noted that the sloppy conditions didn’t seem to bother the colt. “He handled it [the off-going] better than the others and just got the job done. He had no problems getting over it.”

Reviewing the Nine Route’s young career, Engelhart said, “He’s now 3-for-3 for us and he’s pleasantly surprised me every time. In his first start for us I wasn’t sure he would be able to handle the dirt and he did that, second start I was worried about allowance company and he passed that test and today we had some questions if he would handle a route distance and he did it pretty impressive.”

The conditioner has no specific plans for the colt’s next start.

Bred by McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds LLC, Nine Route is out of Flash Act, a Kentucky-bred multiple winner by Sky Mesa out of multiple Grade 1 winner Missy’s Mirage (Stop the Music). Missy’s Mirage is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Classy Mirage, the dam of Grade 1 winning sire Dublin.

Nine Route sold to Lane’s End for $190,000 as a weanling at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton November sale in Kentucky. When he was offered the following summer at the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred sale in Saratoga, August Dawn Farm had to go to $290,000 to get him into the stable. From three wins in four starts, he has earned $127,448.

Hit It Once More upsets Haynesfield S. at 16-1

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

Yellow Moon Stable’s Hit It Once More (Hard Spun), whose most recent stakes victory came in the Albany for New York-bred sophomores in July 2016, took almost everybody by surprise at Aqueduct on Saturday when he won the third running of the $100,000 Haynesfield Stakes in frontrunning style at longshot odds of 16-1.

Following an outstanding sophomore campaign in 2014 when he won four of seven starts, topped by back-to-back victories in the New York Derby and Albany stakes, Hit It Once More went winless in nine races in 2017. When trainer Gary Sciacca added blinkers for the 5-year-old’s first start of 2018, however, Hit It Once More woke up. He won a Parx allowance by more than four lengths on January 9, and next out, on February 3, going the same 1 mile 70-yard trip at Parx, attended a sharp pace before fading fifth.

“We went two starts back with the blinkers and it kind of seemed to make a bit of a difference on him,” said Sciacca. “Made him more focused to do his job. He always broke good but he pays more attention now.”

Breaking from post five to go the one-turn mile Saturday, Hit It Once More was gunned to the front by pilot Rafael Hernandez. By the time the field exited the chute onto the main track, he led by more than a length. Extending his advantage to two lengths along the backstretch through early splits of 23.80 and 47.73, and still unchallenged through six panels in 1:13.12, he kicked on at the quarter pole. After leading by more than three lengths in the stretch, the bay cruised under the wire a 2 3/4-length winner.

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

Favorite Can You Diggit (9-5) closed from off the pace into second, while Papa Shot, who chased in vain throughout, ended up in third. Finishing next in order were: Uncle Sigh, Clutch Cargo and Extinct Charm. The final time of for the mile over the muddy (harrowed) track was 1:39.52. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Hernandez reported he and Sciacca were determined to use Hit It Once More’s speed and new-found focus to their advantage. “That was the plan [to go to the lead],” Hernandez said. “Gary told me he’s better when he’s on the lead. So, I wanted to make sure he got the lead and, like he told me, he keeps going. He’s great on the lead. I didn’t let anybody get close to me. When he won a couple starts before, he was on the lead.”

Sciacca added, “I thought he could make the lead but with the one-turn mile, I was thinking they get on you from the start and they kind of did, but he got a breather when he opened up a little bit.”

Bred by JMJ Racing Stables and foaled at Sequel Stallions New York in Hudson, Hit It Once More is the lone winner for his stakes-winning dam Sunday Geisha.

Sold as a yearling for $105,000 at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale, Hit It Once More was purchased by Sciacca for $90,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-old sale for Bill Parcells’ August Dawn Farm. After 17 starts for Parcells, Hit It Once More contested the Empire Classic on October 21, 2017 in the colors of Yellow Moon Stable.

Having won six races from 24 career starts with two seconds and a third, Hit It Once More has bankrolled an impressive $494,642.


Battle Station wins the war in Rego Park Stakes

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

NYRA Photo

By Sarah Mace

Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Battle Station (Warrior’s Reward) scored a determined and disciplined victory Sunday in Aqueduct’s featured $100,000, Rego Park Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds. After dueling speedster Stoney Bennett into submission in the first half-mile, the colt outgamed determined challenger Morning Breez in the stretch to register the win by a neck.

Turning back from a mile to six furlongs, Battle Station was drawn at the rail in the evenly matched field of five – the post-time odds for for the quintet fell within the range of 2-1 to 5-1.

The dark bay colt broke third, but was gunned to the front by jockey Martin Garcia to challenge early pacesetter Stoney Bennett. Up the back stretch and around the turn Battle Station and Stoney Bennett dueled furiously through hot early fractions of 22.09 and 45.59.

Meanwhile, Morning Breez at the rail, who raced in tandem with New York Hero along the backside, gained a clear third in the turn and ranged up beside the pace-setters three-wide approaching the quarter pole, ready to make them both pay in the stretch.

After Battle Station put away Stoney Bennett for good, Morning Breez came knocking and headed Battle Station in mid-stretch. Battle Station surged again, came back with gusto and secured the victory by a neck in a final time of 1:12.30 over the muddy (sealed) racetrack. It is a credit to both horses that they raced true to their paths in very close quarters under utmost urging.

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

For third, New York Hero hit his best stride late to pass Stoney Bennett. Analyze Your Luck, who started poorly, completed the order of finish.

Martin Garcia, who had the call for the first time aboard Battle Station from trainer Wesley Ward said, “I was pretty excited since the day I worked him. I had confidence today. I knew he was not going to give up because I knew he was a fighter, and I knew he was going to come back. Even though [Morning Breez] passed me, my horse just got up.”

Garcia also praised Battle Station for handling his first encounter with sloppy conditions so well. “I think horses can be surprised sometimes when they see the mud, but he is really professional. It didn’t matter where he was, I think he was just ready to win today.”

Winner of his Saratoga bow in wire-to-wire fashion at Saratoga last year on the grass, Battle Station replicated the performance on dirt in the Bertram F. Bongard at Belmont in September. Eighth in the Sleepy Hollow, he wrapped up the year with a close second in an open optional-claiming race on November 25. In his seasonal debut, Battle Station checked in fourth in the one-mile Damon Runyon on January 15. From his three wins a second in six starts, the colt has earned $211,334

Bred by Lansdown Thoroughbreds, Battle Station is out of Uriel, an unraced daughter of Unbridled, who has produced six winners from seven starters.

Battle Station was purchased in utero by Mersad Metanovic Bloodstock when Uriel brought $17,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November sale. In November 2015 at Keeneland Ken and Sarah Ramsey bought Battle Station as a weanling for $50,000 from Consignor Kearney Park.


Holiday Disguise aces Biogio’s Rose from off the bench

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

NYRA/Alysse Jacobs

By Sarah Mace

After more than eight months off, Lady Sheila Stable’s Holiday Disguise (Harlan’s Holiday) returned to the races in picture-perfect form when she stalked and pounced her way to an open-length victory in the $100,000 Biogio’s Rose stakes at Aqueduct Thursday,

Last seen winning the Bouwerie Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths at Belmont Park last May 25 for her third win in a row, Holiday Disguise owed her extended holiday to an ankle issue.

Said trainer Linda Rice, “I was pointing her towards the [Grade 1] Test because it was seven-eighths and she had run so well in the Bouwerie. But she didn’t come out of the stake as well as I wanted her to, and she’s too promising a filly, so I said we have to stop. It wasn’t a popular decision, but her ankle was bothering her, so I gave her [time] off.”

Even so, Holiday Disguise has been ready to race for seven weeks, but in this case her connections had to contend with different circumstances beyond their control. Rice said, “We’ve been trying to get her in a race since December 13, but between the weather and quarantine and cancellations, it’s been tough.” Rice’s barn was quarantined in January when a horse tested positive for EHV-1.

Co-favored at odds of 6-5 (1.30) with Frostwise (1.20), Holiday Disguise broke forwardly to go the one-turn mile, but took back under Junior Alvarado and tucked in neatly behind dueling leaders Frost Wise and No Hayne No Gayne for the backstretch run.

Alvarado, aboard Holiday Disguise for the first time, explained that this was exactly what he and Rice had discussed. “That was the plan [to be covered up behind Frost Wise]. Linda said that she may be further back than normally because we were going a mile and she hasn’t run since May, but after the break, it was the opposite. She broke very sharp. And she was pulling a little in the first part. Once I got the chance to get her covered up, that was the key to the race.”

Cruising comfortably as the top two battled through early fractions of 24.38 and 48.16, Holiday Disguise began to move clear of Decorator directly to her outside and set up as a clear third for the run around the far turn.

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

At the quarter pole Holiday Disguise angled out three-wide, was shaken up by her pilot at the top of the stretch and, when asked for run, complied. Striking the front, she cruised smoothly to a 3 1/4-length victory. Alvarado, who peeked back in the final furlong and saw no menace in sight, geared the 4-year-old down in the final 70 yards.

After six furlongs in 1:14.40, the final time over the “good” going was 1:41.06. Frost Wise, second, finished 4 1/2 lengths ahead of No Hayne No Gayne, followed by Literata in fourth, Decorator Jen and Carry Your Heels.

Alvarado reported, “Before the half a mile pole, I knew I had a lot of horse. It was just a matter of time until I give her the green light and then when we turned for home I just put her in the clear and she did the rest. I was just a passenger this time.”

Rice was especially pleased with the way Holiday Disguise, whose longest race to date was seven furlongs, handled the mile. “She ran so well when we ran her last year at six [furlongs] and had a nice closing kick. At seven, she ran so well, so to me, I thought she was a natural to get [one mile], but you never know until you try them. I could see she was on the bridle and definitely interested, and I was happy she wasn’t loose on the lead.”

Holiday Disguise now has four wins from five starts, two stakes victories and has earned $209,150.

Bred by Dr. William B. Wilmot and Dr. Joan M. Taylor, Holiday Disguise is out of Wilmot and Taylor’s Thin Disguise (Yes It’s True), a winning half-sister to millionaire and 2007 New York-bred Horse of the Year Naughty New Yorker. Her second dam is the couple’s late star broodmare Naughty Natisha.

Thin Disguise has produced four winners from four foals to start, among them Midnight Disguise, who recently earned Kentucky Oaks points with a victory in the Busanda Stakes on January 25. The mare has a juvenile colt by Verrazano, a yearling filly by Tiznow and was bred in 2017 to Bodemeister.

Holiday Disguise first changed hands as a weanling, purchased by John Greathouse for $70,000 at the Keeneland November sale. Rice bought the talented filly for Sheila Rosenblum’s Lady Sheila Stable as a yearling, going to $220,000 at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred sale.


Audible hits Kentucky Derby trail with a bang in Grade 2 Holy Bull

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

Coglianese Photo

By Sarah Mace

Todd Pletcher-trained Audible hit the Kentucky Derby trail with a bang at Gulfstream Park Saturday, when he scored a dominant victory over an accomplished field of sophomores in the Grade 2, $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes. The Into Mischief colt earned 10 points toward a berth in the starting gate for the Run for the Roses, debuted at number 12 in the Derby points rankings and left his connections eager for the next step.

Campaigned by WinStar Farm in partnership with China Horse Club and SF Racing, Audible opened his account with a solid debut on September 27, coming from 18 lengths out of it after a sluggish start to finish third in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight for state-breds. The bay colt broke his maiden going a mile around one turn at Aqueduct with stalking tactics and, most recently, demolished open company allowance foes by 9 3/4 lengths in another one-turn mile contest.

Initially pointed to the Damon Runyon, Audible’s stakes debut was rerouted from Ozone Park to Hallandale Beach by weather. As Pletcher explained, “We actually brought him down [to Florida] a little bit later because we were entered in the [Damon Runyon, scheduled for December 30], and then all the bad weather hit in New York and it got delayed and carried over [until January 15]. Elliott Walden said, ‘Why don’t we just take him down to Florida and see how he trains and go from there.’ Maybe it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.”

Pletcher added, “He shipped in great, he trained really well when he got here so it kind of made it an easy decision that this was an easy race to target.”

Reunited with jockey Javier Castellano, aboard for the allowance win, Audible got respect from the bettors for his two-turn debut and class test, going off at odds of 3-1 along with Free Drop Billy and Tiz Mischief, behind 9-5 favorite Enticed.

Out of the gate well from post four, Audible entered the clubhouse turn four-wide, but maneuvered agilely over into the two path while rounding the bend, setting up in third behind dueling longshots Master Manipulator and Aequor through an opening quarter in 23.59 and half in 47.14.

Coglianese Photo/Leslie Martin

Moving out a path and into second in the approach to the far turn, then and up to challenge pacesetter Master Manipulator, Audible took over the lead midway around, only to be challenged by Free Drop Billy who got on even terms at the quarter pole.

What looked to become an epic stretch-long battle never materialized. Audible kicked away to score an eye-catching 5 1/2-length victory in a sharp final time of 1:41.92 for 1 1/16 miles. Free Drop Billy in second finished 7 3/4 lengths in advance of Tiz Mischief in third, while Enticed had to settle for fourth.

An enthusiastic Castellano said, “I love the way he did it today, compared to our last race, because his last race he was still developing and bit laid back. I really had to ride him last time out and he’d give it to you. Today he was sharp and had tactical speed in the race and we could move, and he’d give me everything I asked of him.”

Castellano added, “I love these kinds of horses, you don’t get in trouble with them, where you can move quick and can put them in a good position. I love the way he did it today. I think Todd did a great job developing this horse and to win the way he did today is very impressive. It’s only a mile and sixteenth today, but the way he galloped out was amazing. I look forward to the next race.”

Pletcher was also pleased with the stretch-out, “We felt like he wanted more ground and he kind of showed that in his first race when he didn’t get away real quickly and retreated when the dirt hit him in the face and then rallied with a pretty strong effort. Then he came back and won two pretty impressive races after that, so we felt like more distance was definitely what he was looking for.”

Commenting on Audible’s strong finish, Pletcher said, “He really kicked. Javier said he kept him to task because he was kind of looking around a little bit and saw the tire marks and he didn’t want him to make a mistake. He really accelerated. The final time was quite good.”

Pletcher is already thinking about how to prepare his charge to compete on even bigger stages: “I think the question now is do you run him two more times or one more time and we’ll let him tell us kind of how he bounces out of this.”

Fasig-Tipton Photo

The conditioner continued, “He’s a very kind horse to train, very easy on himself in the morning. I love the way he came over here and handled everything. He was perfect in the paddock, post parade, gate – all those little intangibles that really help with horses that are pointing for big days.”

Bred by Richard Leahy’s Oak Bluff Stables, LLC and foaled at Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains, Audible is a graduate of the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale, where he was purchased from Winter Quarter Farm by 4H for $175,000.

When presented to the world as a juvenile at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale, China Horse Club and WinStar Farm had to go to $500,000 to buy him.

At the time of the sale WinStar president Elliott Walden said, “I just liked everything about him, his pedigree, the way he moved and the way he galloped out. Very classy horse. [The price] was a little high, but those kind of colts bring that kind of range, so I thought it was okay.”

Audible’s dam Blue Devil Bel, bred and campaigned in New York by Leahy, is a multiple winner and six-figure earner by Gilded Time and a half-sister to multiple stakes winner and stakes producer Akilina. Blue Devil Bel has yearling filly by Lookin At Lucky and was bred in 2017 to Constitution.

From three wins and a third in four starts Audible has earned $287,720.

Swing and Sway powers over the Oaklawn slop in American Beauty

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

Coady Photography

By Sarah Mace

Westrock Stables LLC’s Swing and Sway (Maclean’s Music) trounced her competition in Saturday’s $125,000 American Beauty Stakes at Oaklawn Park, powering over the slop to win by more than seven lengths.

Breaking from the outside post of six to go six furlongs over the sloppy (sealed) track, Swing and Way wasted no time. Clear early and leading by 1 1/2 lengths after a quarter-mile in 22.36, the 4-year-old only improved from the there.

Ahead by two lengths after a half mile in a hot 46.00 and by four lengths in the stretch, Swing and Way poured it on in the final stages, posting a 7 3/4-length victory in a final time of 1:10.68. Sent off at 11-1 odds, the second-longest shot on the board, the filly returned $24.60 to win.

Winning Jockey David Cabrera, aboard Swing and Sway for the first time in the afternoon, said, “I worked this filly one time and I thought this is a really nice filly. I felt like we could get along really good. We saw that. She broke sharp, she liked it on the front end and she finished very well.”

Trained by Ron Moquett, the American Beauty victory was Swing and Sway’s fourth win in 13 tries, and boosted the Oaklawn-based runner’s earnings to $243,040.

Having broken her maiden and won an allowance early in 2017 at Oaklawn, Swing and Sway is well traveled, competing last year at Belmont, Finger Lakes, Saratoga, Laurel and Keeneland. She last visited the winner’s circle after winning the Niagara Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies at Finger Lakes last June 19 over a “good” racing surface.

Bred by Canyon Lake Thoroughbreds and foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia, Swing and Sway is out of Placerita (Gilded Time) a winning Kentucky-bred Gilded Time mare. She has eight winning siblings from 10 to start, led by graded winner Sticksstatelydude and multiple stakes winner Saturday Nite Ride. The family tree also boasts Grade 1 winners The Big Beast and Slew the Dragon.

The filly first changed hands for $50,000 as a short yearling at the 2015 Keeneland January mixed sale, going to Walter Bloodstock. Purchased by Woodford Sales for $117,000 at the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale in Saratoga, she attracted the attention of Westrock at the OBS March sale of 2-year-olds after a co-bullet :9 4/5 breeze in the under-tack show.

Midnight Disguise captures Busanda from off the pace, earns Oaks points

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

William B. Wilmot and Joan M. Taylor’s long-striding second-generation homebred Midnight Disguise has been nothing if not busy since winning her debut at one mile for trainer Linda Rice in mid-December.

Making her fourth career start in 41 days at Aqueduct on Thursday, Midnight Disguise took on – and beat – open rivals in the $100,000 Busanda Stakes for 3-year-old fillies from off the pace. The Busanda win is worth 10 points toward a berth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, just 99 days away at Churchill Downs.

Graduating at first asking by 6 1/2 lengths on December 15, six days later Midnight Disguise won a starter’s allowance by two lengths. In the January 14 East View stakes for state-bred fillies, she rallied impressively from last to second, though she ran erratically in the stretch. Thursday’s 1 1/8-mile Busanda would represent both a class hike and distance test for the daughter of Midnight Lute, who had yet to go beyond a mile.

Away well as all six fillies got off to an even start, Midnight Disguise, 5-2 second choice in the wagering, took a page from her East View playbook and dropped back to trail the field. Up front the two speeds, Oldfashioned Style and Take Charge Tina, led the group around the clubhouse turn and along the backstretch. Odds-on Hail tracked in third, followed by Incleveland in fourth.

Ten lengths off the pace early on, Midnight Disguise moved up a spot into fifth midway along backstretch and caught up with the vanguard by the approach to the far turn. Ultimately advancing into a menacing second midway round the bend, she set her sights on leader Oldfashioned Style.

With huge strides, Midnight Disguise took over the top spot just past the sixteenth-mile marker and went on to score a decisive victory by 4 1/4 lengths. Oldfashioned Style hung on for second, followed 3 3/4 lengths back in third by Hail. Incleveland and Take Charge Tina completed the order of finish. The final time for 1 1/8 miles was 1:55.81. The race was hand-timed, and internal fractions were unavailable due to a timer malfunction [VIDEO REPLAY]

“She’s just continued to improve and gain fitness and seasoning,” said trainer Linda Rice. “[In the East View] she ran a little bit green on the outside and in the stretch switching leads. But we were delighted today with how she ran the mile and an eighth and two turns. It really opens up a lot of doors.”

Winning jockey Trevor McCarthy, who also had the call in the East View, addressed the way he managed to avoid some of the greenness of Midnight Disguise’s East View run. “I was going to ask her to switch her leads, but last time I asked her to switch her lead, she kind of overreacted, so I said today I am just going to leave her alone and let her do her own thing.”

Added McCarthy, “She is still a little immature, but definitely a nice filly. [She] has a bright future in front of her. I am very happy that Linda gave me the privilege to ride her back, and the owners as well.”

Both trainer and pilot concurred that distance was Midnight Disguise’s friend. Said Rice, “We just wanted Trevor to get her in the clear because she’s so big and has such a big, long stride that she needs room. The distance, whether it’s two turns or one turn, will be key. We’re just trying to find what makes the most sense and gives her the most opportunity and let her learn and improve and not try and set the bar too high for her.”

With three wins and a runner-up finish from four starts, Midnight Disguise has earned $137,600.

Midnight Disguise is out of Wilmot and Taylor’s winning homebred mare Thin Disguise (Yes It’s True), a half-sister to millionaire and 2007 New York-bred Horse of the Year Naughty New Yorker.

Thin Disguise has produced four foals, all winners, including 4-year-old Holiday Disguise, winner of Bouwerie Stakes last May for Lady Sheila Stable. The mare currently has a 2-year-old colt by Verrrazano a 2017 filly by Tiznow and was bred last year to Bodemeister.


Control Group calls all the shots in Alex M. Robb

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

Michael Dubb and David Simon’s former claim Control Group (Posse) lived up to his name at Aqueduct Sunday, controlling every step of the $100,000 Alex M. Robb for older New York-breds. He took charge shortly after the bell and proceeded to a resounding 4-length victory.

Like the other year-end New York-bred stakes races this winter, the Robb, which is typically NYRA’s New Year’s Eve feature, took some time to schedule. Attracting six entries Sunday, the race lost Papa Shot, 3-1 second choice on the morning line, to a steward’s scratch due to an ongoing quarantine of one of Linda Rice’s barns after an EHV-1 positive on a different horse.

Last seen winning the Grade 3 Discovery for sophomores on November 25, 4-year-old Control Group made the victory look easy that day under Joel Rosario as the main speed of the field and earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure for his effort. Before the Robb, however, pilot Kendrick Carmouche reported that he and trainer Rudy Rodriguez discussed the possibility that fellow-speedster Wake Up in Malibu might be minded to challenge for the early lead.

Said Carmouche, “Rudy said, ‘Warm him up good and do what you think is best. If the other horse wants to go, he can sit, but he prefers to be in front.’”

Rodriguez also shared the pre-race instructions. “Coming into the race, me and Kendrick [Carmouche] talked about if [Wake Up Malibu] really wanted the lead, we were going to let him go and take it from there, but when he broke so good, and was in control, he runs his best races that way.”

Control Group, who had won four of his last five starts, three at the Robb distance of 1 1/8 miles around two turns, went off as the 2-5 favorite and highweight of 123, spotting his rivals two to eight pounds.

Control Group established command at the rail by the time the field entered the first turn. The bay colt was pursued through the far turn, in close order a half-length back, by Wake Up in Malibu two-wide, Can You Diggit three-wide and Extinct Charm down inside. Testosterstone trailed after a big gap. Fractions for the first six furlongs were not at all testing: 25.65, 50.16, 1:14.18.

At the head of the stretch Control Group finally shook off the persistent Wake Up in Malibu and continued to the wire, a 4-length winner in a final time of 1:52.19.

Behind him, Broman homebred Can You Diggit overhauled a fading Wake Up in Malibu and ran on to get second. Another 1 1/2 lengths back Extinct Charm closed from fourth for the show. Wrapping up the group were a closing Testosterstone and pace-presser Wake Up in Malibu. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“He broke good and I just set enough fractions going easy that I could speed up from the three-eighths pole [to] home. Pretty much cruise control, you know,” said Carmouche.

The pilot added, “The only time the pressure came was at the half-mile pole and the race was pretty much set from there with the fractions I set earlier. He was pretty settled. You can do whatever you want with him. Horses like that, you just sit on them and let them do their job.”

Rodriguez said, “It was a very good performance. He loves going two turns. The couple weeks we’ve had off waiting for the race, it looked like it benefited him. I knew he was only going to get stronger coming off the race he ran last time. We were giving a lot of weight to the other horses in the field, but we were confident in his ability and it showed today.”

Bred by Colts Neck Stable and Alan Goldberg and foaled at Vinery New York at Sugar Maple Farm in Poughquag, Control Group is one of two winners out of We Kept Her, an unraced Kentucky-bred daughter of Victory Gallop.

The mare’s other winner We Did is a full brother to Control Group and six-figure earner. The mare has a newly-turned 2-year old filly by Courageous Cat named Raging Cat and a 2017 filly by Giant Surprise.

Control Group has earned $381,570, with six wins, three seconds and three thirds from 14 starts. A graduate of the 2014 Fasig-Tipton New York fall mixed sale as a weanling when purchased by MRC Equine for $27,000, the colt RNA’d when offered as a yearling at the Saratoga New York-bred sale ($49,000) and again at two at the Midlantic spring sale of 2-year-olds ($19,000). Trainer Gary Contessa shrewdly picked up the colt for the bargain price of $15,000 at the 2016 OBS open horses of racing age sale.

Quezon garners fifth stakes victory in first running of the La Verdad

Friday, January 19th, 2018

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

By Sarah Mace

Marc Keller’s Quezon (Tiz Wonderful) put her fifth career stakes victory on the board at Aqueduct Friday in the twice-rescheduled $100,000 La Verdad for New York-bred fillies and mares. The 7-furlong race, run for the first time, was named for Sheila Rosenblum’s New York-bred star, who was crowned Eclipse champion female sprinter in 2015 before retiring for broodmare duty at Edition Farm in Hyde Park.

Quezon was the headliner of the two prior incarnations of the La Verdad, which was scrapped for bad weather on January 6 and January 12, respectively – in the latter case due to fog. On Friday, she went off as the 3-5 favorite in the six-horse field. A seventh entry, Linda Rice-trained Holiday Disguise, had to be scratched as officials still awaited test results on another Rice horse who tested positive for EHV-1 last week.

Away cleanly, Quezon set up in fifth position, rating at the rail while 16-1 Wonderment set the pace through early fractions of 22.96 and 46.07. As the field approached the far turn, Quezon began to work her way off the rail and close on the frontrunners.

In the bend, while 5-2 Absatootly moved up from third to get on even terms with Wonderment, Quezon advanced into third.

Challenging for the lead in upper stretch, Quezon swept past Wonderment and Absatootly on the grandstand side with a furlong to go. Fully in charge and opening up her advantage in the final panel, she crossed the finish line 4 1/4 lengths ahead of runner up Palladian bridge, who closed well for second.

Wonderment finished three lengths back in third, followed by Bee Noteworthy, Absatootly and longshot She’s All Ready. After six furlongs in a speedy 1:10.29, the final time was 1:22.68. [VIDEO REPLAY]

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

“I was hoping to be in the pocket right behind the leaders,” said winning rider Joe Rocco, Jr. “The way that it worked out, I wasn’t able to do that, but it worked out good. I had plenty of horse and she ran a bang-up race today.”

Continued Rocco, “She started her run at the top of the stretch and ran on well to the wire. Last time [in the Garland of Roses on December 9], she only really ran the last sixteenth. Today, she had more of a prolonged run, but it was nice. I was confident in the filly and she did what we thought she would, so it was great.”

Trainer Bobby Ribaudo said he felt very good about his mare’s chances before the race.

“We were very confident going into this. She was training great. Even with all the missed training over the last couple of weeks, she was able to get enough in. She was doing great. You can never be too confident in this business, but we were very confident today. And, she fulfilled that expectation. She really kicked on, more so than she did the last time, and basically [against] the same group of horses. We were very happy with the finish. She switched leads again, which was really nice.”

Ribaudo also cited Quezon’s affinity for colder temperatures as a positive factor. “I think the cold weather helps [her]. Last year, she didn’t get good until the fall. That was one of the reasons why we kept her here this winter and it looks like it’s held true. She can get hot in the paddock and stuff and sometimes she’s a wild filly. She even wanted to get a little hot today walking over with the blanket on. But the cold weather really helps her, I think.”

Quezon may make her next start in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie on February 17 at Laurel Park. Said Ribaudo, “It’s early, but I think the goal here is the Barbara Fritchie because it’s graded and the thing that’s eluded her is the graded win. That’s what I’m going to point for, then decide whether to lay her up for a while and bring her back or go ahead and breed her. That race will tell us.”

In five prior appearances in graded races, Quezon finished fourth in the Grade 2 Demoiselle in 2014, second in the Gallant Bloom in 2016, third in the same race the following year, third in the Grade 3 Vagrancy Handicap in 2017 and sixth in the Bed o’ Roses that year in her next start. She won the Garland Roses in 2017, but only after it was downgraded from Grade 3 to “listed.”

Ultra-consistent throughout her career, 6-year-old Quezon has won seven races in all, finished second six times and third twice in 18 starts. She has won a stakes race in each year: the Maid of the Mist at two, the Bouwerie at three, the Iroquois in the following year and the open Garland of Roses in her final start of 2017. Her earnings total just over three-quarters of a million dollars ($754,200).

Bred by Apache Farm LLC and foaled at Apache Farm North in Mt. Morris, 6-year-old Quezon is the only foal produced by Kalookan Dancer, a multiple stakes-winning California-bred daughter of Olympio. Quezon was a $90,000 purchase by Riverside Stable at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale in Saratoga.