• Bush has Unbridled Command, Beautiful But Blue, and Wholelottashakin for NY Showcase Day Stakes
• Risky Rachel has Coronel aglow in lead up to Iroquois
• Lubash, Miss Valentine to carry the torch for Clement on Showcase Day
• New York Showcase Day fields taking shape
ELMONT, N.Y. – Hessonite, a troubled fifth in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational on September 29, remains on target for a title defense in the $175,000 Ticonderoga on October 20, New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park.
“We’re very fortunate after the trip she had that she did come back OK,” said David Donk, who trains the Freud filly for William J. Punk, Jr. and Philip DiLeo. “So, she’s trained quite well in the last couple of weeks.”
In the Ticonderoga, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares, Hessonite will be reunited with regular rider Ramon Dominguez, who opted to ride Aruna in the Flower Bowl.
“They’re a good team,” Donk said of Hessonite and Dominguez. “She came back after a pretty frustrating trip and it didn’t take much out of her. She cooled out really easily after the race. We got lucky nothing happened to her when she checked so hard in there, but nothing happened so it looks like, knock on wood, everything’s good.”
Hessonite has won six stakes in her career, including three straight prior to the Flower Bowl.
Donk said he plans to also run Michael and Lynn Shanley’s Freedom Rings, a distant second to Hessonite in the John Hettinger on September 9, in the Ticonderoga.
“I’m limited on the spots to run [Freedom Rings],” said Donk. “I prefer to run her at a distance of 1 1/8 miles and farther and this is only 1 1/16 miles, but she will come back [in the Ticonderoga].”
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Trainer Tom Bush will be well-represented on New York Showcase Day with a trio of stakes runners in addition to some planned undercard starters.
Leading Bush’s stakes contingent is Lakland Farm’s Grade 3 Saranac winner Unbridled Command, who breezed five furlongs in 1:02.05 on Saturday and who will be entered in the 1 1/16-mile Mohawk Stakes on the turf, worth $175,000.
Unbridled Command, winner of his last three starts, was entered in the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap on October 6 at Belmont Park, but Bush opted to scratch in favor of a start on Showcase Day. The 3-year-old Master Command colt turned in a 1:02.05 five-furlong turf breeze on Sunday.
“We thought we’d have to lay much closer in [the Jamaica] than what I think his best race is,” Bush said. “When he ran in the Saranac, there was a lot of pace and he was able to get back and make that run. I think that’s his best race, and it wasn’t going to be that kind of race in the Jamaica. [The Mohawk] will be tough, too. Those are two nice older horses [Lubash and Compliance Officer], for sure. I don’t know if we can beat those older horses or not, but it is October. You’re supposed to be able to compete against them if you’re good enough, so we’re going to find out.”
Chester and Mary Broman’s Beautiful But Blue also will square off against older fillies and mares in Saturday’s $150,000 Iroquois Stakes. The daughter of El Corredor returns to New York-bred company after a pair of third-place efforts in open stakes – the Charles Town Oaks on September 22 and the Grade 1 Test on August 25 at Saratoga Race Course. Prior to those starts she had beaten elder state-breds in the Spa’s Fleet Indian stakes and counts two of her five wins at the seven-furlong distance of the Iroquois.
“It’s the same with Beautiful But Blue,” Bush said. “You’ve got to run against the older ones sometime. Going long, she’s probably got a little bit more speed, but going short, she’s a good stalker. That’s probably the kind of trip we’ll have again in this race. I hope so.”
On Sunday, Beautiful But Blue posted a 1:03.04 five-furlong breeze.
Bush added that Parting Glass Racing’s Wholelottashakin will go in the Ticonderoga on the turf. Exiting a fourth-place effort in the Given overnight stakes on September 20 at Belmont Park, she was clocked in 1:01.72 for five furlongs over the turf on Sunday.
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Trainer Juan “Manny” Coronel issued an upbeat bulletin Sunday morning as his filly, Risky Rachel, aims for her second straight win in the $150,000 Iroquois, a seven-furlong race for New York-bred fillies and mares on New York Showcase Day.
“She’s coming out into this race perfect,” said Coronel, who competed as a jockey in his native Argentina before coming to the United States. “We’re very excited. No excuses. Everything is really, really good.”
Risky Rachel won last year’s Iroquois under the care of trainer H. James Bond, Coronel’s former boss. Owner Sanford Bacon transferred Risky Rachel to Coronel when the Argentine set out on his own earlier this year, and the 5-year-old mare gave Coronel his first win as a trainer when she won the Broadway in March at Aqueduct Racetrack.
After the Broadway, Risky Rachel made three starts at Belmont, winning the Putthepowdertoit overnight stakes, finishing last of seven when trying turf for the first time in the Mount Vernon, and reporting home second in the Chaldea overnight stakes. She enters the Iroquois off a second to Beautiful But Blue in the Fleet Indian and a 3 ½-length triumph in the Union Avenue in August at Saratoga last time out.
“We gave her a little break after her race in Saratoga,” said Coronel. “Perfect. She had three very tough races, one at Belmont and at Saratoga. I couldn’t be more happy pointing for [the Iroquois]. She’s coming in a little fresh, but she loves to be fresh. She needs a little space [between races], and everything is really, really good. Seven furlongs, I don’t mind. She’s going to give a huge race.”
Risky Rachel’s tactical speed makes her dangerous in the Iroquois, Coronel said.
“I know a couple other horses have a lot of speed, so we can sit off a little bit,” said Coronel. “I’m not scared of seven furlongs because I know she’s [won at the distance] here. I think she’s going to run a huge race. She can run five furlongs, she can run six, she can run seven, she can run a mile. She’s not difficult to ride.”
Coronel, who had only one other horse besides Risky Rachel when he started his training career, has seen his barn expand to 10 head and expects to receive four more horses at the end of the month. From 13 starters, he has posted a record of 5-4-1.
“I couldn’t be happier right now. Everything is perfect,” said Coronel. “I just started six months ago, and I’m very excited for the owners. They have 100 percent supported me. The filly, Risky Rachel, opened doors, and Mr. Sanford [Bacon] gave me the opportunity. Dr. Bortolazzo, the owner of the rest of the horses, opened doors and has nice horses, too, and people see that.”
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Trainer Christophe Clement will have two representatives on New York Showcase Day with Miss Valentine heading to the $150,000 Iroquois for filly and mare sprinters and Lubash looking for his third straight stakes victory of the year in the $175,000 Mohawk at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
Second in the Kingston on May 27 in his debut for Clement, Lubash next finished fourth, beaten 1 ¾ lengths in the Grade 3 Red Bank on July 4 at Monmouth Park. The 5-year-old Freud gelding then ticked off a pair of stakes wins, rallying from seventh in the West Point at Saratoga and coming from just off the pace to snare the Ashley T. Cole at Belmont.
“Lubash has been a pleasant surprise,” said Clement of the Aliyu Ben J Stable color-bearer. “He’s getting older, and sometimes they get better when they get older. He’s been very consistent – he races on soft, he races on firm, and that’s nice, because this time of year anything can happen.”
Miss Valentine, a 4-year-old Afleet Alex filly, will be making her first start since finishing third to fellow Iroquois entrants Beautiful But Blue and Risky Rachel in the Fleet Indian on August 1 at Saratoga.
“We didn’t have anything to run her in during September, so she will train up to New York Showcase Day,” said Clement of Miss Valentine, who is owned by Waterville Lake Stables. “I thought in the past she wanted to go further, but in fact she’s more like a come-from-behind, seven-furlong, miler. You have more pace going seven furlongs or a mile, and she needs a lot of pace to run at.”
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New York-bred juveniles get two chances to shine on New York Showcase Day in the $125,000 Bertram F. Bongard and the $125,000 Joseph A. Gimma for fillies, both at seven furlongs.
Likely for the Bongard, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, are In Harm’s Way, third in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and second in the New York Breeders’ Futurity at Finger Lakes last time out; Saint Arthur and Tequila Hero, the third-and fourth-place finishers in the Breeders’ Futurity; and last-out maiden winners Goodtolook, James Jingle, Read the Proposal and Western Grit, along with Lucci the Lion, Meet the Mets, Mr. Rodriguez, The Cauliflower Kid and Slot Play.
Gee Linz, a 2 ½-length starter allowance winner in open company last time out, and Matchmadeinheaven, who is 2-for-2 in stakes at Finger Lakes, are among the probables for the Gimma. Also expected to line up are Agilion, 1-1-1 in three starts; recent maiden winners Carameaway and True Fortune; Heidi’s Holiday, third in the allowance to Gee Linz last time out, and Zeke’s Surprise, most recently fourth in an allowance against colts. E Schifty and Polan are questionable.
Filly and mare sprinters face off in the seven-furlong, $150,000 Iroquois, which is expected to draw defending champion Risky Rachel; graded stakes winner Agave Kiss, who returns to restricted company after finishing second in the Valor Lady overnight stakes; multiple stakes winner Beautiful But Blue, most recently third in the Charles Town Oaks; Guyana Princess, a winner facing claimers last time out; Lady On the Run, making her first start since finishing sixth in the Fleet Indian at Saratoga Race Course, and Miss Valentine, third in the Fleet Indian.
Under consideration for the six-furlong, $150,000 Hudson are the streaking Saginaw, winner of eight of his last nine starts; Neatie the Cat, putting his 2-for-2 record on the line in his stakes debut; Ground Force, winner of an optional claimer last time out; Shrewd One, who is 3-3-0 in six 2012 starts, and Sportswriter, most recently sixth in the Groovy overnight stakes.
Compliance Officer will be back to defend his title in the $175,000 Mohawk at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, which is also expected to attract Grade 3 Saranac winner Unbridled Command; New York Derby winner Fox Rules; Grade 3 Red Bank winner Get Serious, most recently third in the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger; Ashley T. Cole and West Point winner Lubash; Street Game, third in the Ashley T. Cole last time out; Strong Impact, making his stakes debut as the anticipated pacesetter for stablemate Compliance Officer; Majestic Raffy, and Minnie Punt. Hangover Kid is questionable.
Longtime rivals Hessonite and Gitchee Goomie, first and second, respectively, in last year’s Ticonderoga, head the field for this year’s edition of the 1 1/16-mile turf race. Lining up against the top two in the $175,000 race likely will be Color Blind, Considerate, Dreaming of Cara, Freedom Rings, Inimitable Romanee, Ladywell Court, Mystic City, Prize Doll, Wholelottashakin and Kibosh.
The centerpiece of the afternoon is the $250,000 Empire Classic, with Evan Shipman winner Lunar Victory expected to attract considerable support along with 3-year-old Saratoga Snacks, who carries a four-race win streak into his stakes debut. Likely to oppose them in the 1 1/8-mile race are Johannesburg Smile, third in last year’s Classic, and Sailmate, most recently fourth in the Promenade All overnight stakes. Saginaw, Fiddlers Afleet and Brigand also are under consideration.