• Rattlesnake Bridge to use Westchester as prep for the Met Mile
• Hymn Book possible for Westchester as he works toward 7yo bow
• Westchester probables include two-time G1 winner Flat Out, impressive optional claiming winner Big Screen
The Stonestreet Stables color-bearer, whose lone defeat came when stretched out to 1 1/16 miles in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall, enters the seven-furlong Road Princess off a pair of graded stakes wins at Gulfstream Park. She opened her sophomore campaign with an eight-length triumph in the six-furlong Grade 3 Old Hat on New Year’s Day and came back on January 26 with a 5 ½-length victory in the Grade 2 Forward Gal going seven furlongs.
A daughter of Malibu Moon, Kauai Katie’s average winning margin in her five career victories is more than seven lengths. She has posted two five-furlong workouts over Belmont Park’s training track since arriving from Florida: 1:03.26 on April 7 and 1:00.70 on April 14.
“She’s doing great,” said Michael McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “The plan as I understand it is to target one-turn races moving forward.”
The Grade 1, $300,000 Acorn on May 27 at Belmont Park likely would be the next major target, said McCarthy.
For the Road Princess, Kauai Katie will be ridden by Javier Castellano from post position 4 as the 123-pound highweight. Also entered were Kelli Got Frosty, the second choice at 8-1 from post position 5, and Cubicle Queen, Secret Union and Kimono from the rail out.
The Pletcher barn also will be represented in the first graded stakes of the Belmont Park spring/summer meet, with the lightly raced Cross Traffic making his stakes debut in the Grade 3, $150,000 Westchester on Saturday, April 27.
Owned by GoldMark Farm, the 4-year-old Unbridled’s Song colt broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park on January 24 and returned on March 10 to post a 7 ½-length victory in a one-mile optional claimer, earning a 97 Beyer Speed Figure in the process.
“He’s an exciting kind of a horse,” said McCarthy of Cross Traffic. “He had a great work the other day [5 furlongs in 1:00.45] on the training track. Last year, he couldn’t seem to get over the hump, had a couple of little things, and it was decided to regroup. The time he was here he touted himself as a pretty nice sort of horse.”
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Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin hopes patience will pay off with Rattlesnake Bridge, a 5-year-old who is targeting the Westchester after winning a Gulfstream Park optional claimer by a head March 30, his first start in almost 17 months.
Owned by Nicholas Brady’s Mill House, Rattlesnake Bridge is a stakes winner who was second in the 2011 Grade 1 Travers. The son of Tapit went to the sidelines after finishing ninth in that year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
In his comeback, Rattlesnake Bridge stalked the pace, took the lead nearing the quarter pole, and defeated Rightfully So following a lengthy battle.
On Friday, Rattlesnake Bridge breezed four furlongs on the Belmont training track in 48.60 seconds in company with Cicada winner Elghayoor.
“The crazy thing is he never had any surgery,” said McLaughlin. “That says a lot about Mill House. We tried to give him time off, he bruised a cannon bone, we brought him back, he bruised a cannon bone, we brought him back. It’s nice that they were patient, and he’s doing great.”
McLaughlin acknowledged that Rattlesnake Bridge will have to avoid a “bounce” and handle graded stakes competition in the Westchester, which he is using as a prep for Belmont’s Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on May 27.
“We’re a little concerned about [it being his second race off the layoff], and it’s a step up in class,” said McLaughlin. “We’re pointing for the Met Mile. It’s a Grade 1 and is an important race to win to become a valuable stallion. So, how do we get there? This has worked out well, four weeks and four weeks. This will only help him, considering the 16 months off. We’re not just training him into it. Let’s race him.”
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Stuart S. Janney, III’s Hymn Book is gearing up for his 7-year-old debut, which could come in next Saturday’s Westchester.
Winner of the 2012 Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park, Hymn Book hasn’t raced since finishing last of five in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap in November at Aqueduct. He returned to the worktab in February at Payson Park and has turned in a pair of four-furlong breezes over Belmont’s training track on April 7 and April 16.
“He’s an honest, hard-trying horse, 7-years-old now,” said Buzz Tenney, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. “If we get a little of an off track, that will help him some. It will be a place to get him started. He’s a kind, quiet horse. You’d never know he’s in the barn. He’s easy to train and goes out and breezes the right way. He’s always been a sound horse, and he’s an easy horse to train. He runs well fresh, and pretty much always run well.”
In six starts at Belmont, Hymn Book has won three races, all overnight stakes. His 5 ¾-length win in Belmont’s Frank “Pancho” Martin overnight stakes in October preceded his start in the Cigar Mile.
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In addition to Cross Traffic and Rattlesnake Bridge, the list of Westchester probables includes two-time Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup hero Flat Out, recent runaway optional claiming winner Big Screen, as well as Pants On Fire and Winslow Homer, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes. Private Tale, like Hymn Book, is possible for the race.