• Alpha pointing to Grade 1 Cigar Mile; Cairo Prince possible for G2 Remsen
• Strathnaver returning to best game in Saturday's G3 Long Island 'Cap; Inimitable Romanee seeks elusive stakes win
• Plainview could give trainer DiPrima first New York stakes win on Sunday in deep edition of Three Coins Up
• Bombaguia ready to return in Three Coins Up
• Filly Tannery probable for G3 Red Smith 'Cap
In September, The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) announced a pair of purse incentives for the $500,000 Cigar Mile, one of which doubles the gross purse to $1 million for any Breeders' Cup winner who competes in the race.
"That's sweet," said Goldencents' trainer Doug O'Neill. "You have to love the purse incentive."
Goldencents, a 3-year-old son of Into Mischief, is 3-3-0 from nine starts this year, including victories in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and the Grade 3 Sham at Santa Anita Park. Last October, in his only previous trip to New York, he was runner-up to eventual juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby in the Grade 1 Foxwoods Champagne at Belmont Park.
"I thought he ran a dynamite race in the Champagne," said O'Neill. "Hopefully he can come back and win the Cigar Mile.
"He came out of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile in great shape," he added. "In talking with the owners, it seems he can bounce right back in the Cigar Mile. It's hard to get caught up [in the year-end voting for divisional honors], but when you have a horse that talented it's great to be able to showcase him on the East coast."
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Among those pointing to the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap is dual Grade 1 winner Alpha, coming off an eighth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile following a slow start.
"He's here at Belmont and we will train him that way," said Kiaran McLaughlin of the Godolphin Racing color-bearer. "We had been looking at it even before the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile; it was a month in between [the two races]. That race didn't seem to take much out of him. He stepped back right at the start and lost all chance at the start, especially with the track being a little speed-favoring. He was last throughout and passed a few."
Winner of the 2013 Woodward and 2012 Travers in a dead heat with Golden Ticket, Alpha is 2-1-0 from three starts at the Big A, including victories in the Count Fleet and the Grade 3 Withers and a second in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial behind Gemologist.
As a Grade 1 winner, Alpha would be competing for a $750,000 gross purse in the Cigar Mile as one of the purse incentives announced by NYRA in September.
McLaughlin added that Grade 2 Nashua winner Cairo Prince came out of the race in good order and would be nominated to the Grade 2 Remsen on the Cigar Mile undercard.
"We don't know what we're going to do," he said. "The Nashua was impressive for his second start, coming off a 5 ½-furlong maiden race. He had a great post, he tracked beautifully and he swept to the lead impressively."
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Strathnaver will attempt to win consecutive stakes for the first time in her career when she competes at Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday in the Grade 3, $200,000 Long Island Handicap, a 1 ½-mile turf race for fillies and mares.
A two-time winner in England, Strathnaver has won three of five races since being sent to trainer H. Graham Motion in the United States.
Strathnaver opened her stateside account with an optional claiming victory in March at Gulfstream Park, then doubled her tally with a score in the Grade 3 Bewitch in April at Keeneland. Following a pair of dull performances in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay in May at Belmont and in the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap in July at Arlington Park, she rebounded to take the Lady Baltimore by a head on September 21 at Laurel Park.
The 1 1/16-mile Lady Baltimore was the shortest race in which Strathnaver has competed since her arrival in the U.S. Her Bewitch victory came at the Long Island's 1 ½-mile distance.
"In the Sheepshead Bay she didn't handle soft turf, and then at Arlington she didn't ship well," said Motion, who trains the 4-year-old daughter of Oasis Dream for Andrew Stone. "We wanted to get her back in winning form, and [running in the Lady Baltimore] was a last-minute idea. She trained well, but we wanted to make sure she was all right. It was a game effort, considering the race was a bit short for her. We talked about going to Canada [for the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor], but the ground came up soft and we didn't even enter."
Strathnaver is one of two entrants in the Long Island for Motion, who also trains Inimitable Romanee, a 5-year-old owned by Gallaghers Stud.
Inimitable Romanee has placed in six stakes for New York-breds and seeks her first black-type win. In her most recent start, she was eighth in the 1 1/16-mile Ticonderoga on October 19 at Belmont Park. Like Strathnaver, Inimitable Romanee began her career in England.
"She's been a little unlucky as it's been a strong group of [New York-bred turf fillies and mares] the past two years," said Motion. "She lost her chance [in the Ticonderoga] when she hit the gate at the start, which took her out of the game. I've always wanted to stretch out because she's seemed like a real galloper."
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Greg DiPrima has won 117 races since saddling his first starter in 2006 but has yet to capture a stakes in New York. The trainer hopes that will change on Sunday when he sends out Plainview in the $100,000 Three Coins Up overnight stakes, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up that drew 10 horses and one main-track-only entrant.
Plainview, who has won three of six starts in 2013, enters the Three Coins Up off a pair of close calls in stakes at Belmont Park. The front-running 5-year-old gelding was fourth by a half-length in the Who's to Pay overnight stakes in September. In October, he was runner-up by 1 ¼ lengths in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker to Za Approval, who returned to finish second to reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
DiPrima has trained Plainview since claiming the son of Street Cry for $25,000 on behalf of owners Michael Imperio and Jesse Iglesias out of a six-furlong conditioned claiming race on the turf in May 2012 at Belmont.
"He was a big, good-looking horse," said DiPrima, whose lone stakes win came in the 2009 P.G. Johnson at the Meadowlands with Thoroughly Holy. "Well bred. They were sprinting him, and I thought he wanted to go longer."
After stumbling and losing his rider at the start of a race last December at Aqueduct, Plainview was given time off before making a winning return in an optional claimer in May at Belmont.
Plainview was sixth in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap in July at Belmont before going on to garner a pair of races at Saratoga Race Course: an optional claimer in July and a starter allowance/optional claimer in August.
"I thought giving him a break last winter helped him a lot," said DiPrima. "We sent him to Ocala and turned him out for a few months. We brought him back, and it seems like he enjoyed the time off."
DiPrima says the strategy for Plainview, the 3-1 second choice on the morning line, and jockey Jose Ortiz will be straightforward in the Three Coins Up.
"We know he likes it on the lead; there's no question about that," said DiPrima. "He has to like the turf. It has to be firm to good; if it's soft, I think it compromises him. If the turf is good for him and he gets comfortable on the lead, then he could be tough. Seven-eighths courses tend to help horses with speed. It tends to carry them a little bit."
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Ready for a return to the races in Sunday's $100,000 Three Coins Up is Goldmark Farm's Bombaguia, who has not seen action since an eighth-place finish over a yielding course in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap in June. Prior to that, the 5-year-old gelding finished an adventurous second in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy in his second start of 2013.
"He's fit, he's ready, he's happy," said trainer John Kimmel of Bombaguia. "It took him a long time for whatever was ailing him; I had him shipped to Cornell and they never could put their finger on it. With some patience and time, he started coming around when he came back to Belmont [in September]."
Bombaguia has since had six published workouts, most recently converging a half-mile in 49.41 on November 4 Belmont's training track.
"He's been working lights out every time," said Kimmel. "He just seems to be a very happy horse right now. I thought he should have galloped in the Fort Marcy, but he had to [change course] four different times in the stretch. I'm really pleased with him and am expecting a good performance."
Bombaguia will leave from post position 6 at 8-1 on the morning line with Luis Saez aboard.
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The final graded stakes on the turf in New York will be conducted next Saturday when Aqueduct Racetrack hosts the Grade 3, $250,000 Red Smith Handicap at 1 3/8 miles.
Heading the group of probables is Richard Santulli's Tannery, a 4-year-old filly who will take on males after winning the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor on October 27 at Woodbine. In August, she was fourth against males in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga and then was second to stablemate Laughing in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl in September at Belmont.
Also probable are Atigun, Hangover Kid, Howe Great, Imagining, Nutello, Quick Casablanca, and Sky Blazer. Artic North and School House are possible.
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