• Pletcher could be loaded for Heineken Holidayfest
• Puerto Rican import My Wandy’s Girl possible for G1 Gazelle off Thursday overnight stakes win; Mine Over Matter aims for G3 Fall Highweight
• Soldat returns Saturday for McLaughlin; Dance Card set for G1 Gazelle
• Friend Or Foe comes off 460-day layoff on Sunday for Kimmel
“He has a multitude of little problems that you have to tweak all the time, but he’s great right now,” said Tagg. “He had a mile-and-a-half gallop this morning with Robin [Smullen], and he was loving it. He likes the [Belmont main track] better than the training track. We had to train him on the training track quite a bit the last couple of weeks, and he didn’t like it at all. He’ll train on it because he’ll do anything you ask him to do, but he didn’t like it. He loves the big track. I think [Aqueduct’s main track] is pretty close [in similarity to Belmont’s main track], and it has little bigger turns than the [training track].”
Jersey Town, a Charles Fipke homebred, won the 2010 Cigar Mile and posted his second graded stakes score when he took Belmont’s Grade 2 Kelso Handicap by 3 ½ lengths on September 29. He tired to fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on November 3 at Santa Anita after pressing the pace.
“The whole Breeders’ Cup was weird,” said Tagg. “There were two horses picked over him [sixth-place finisher Emcee and seventh-place finisher Shackleford]. He beat both of them, and yet he didn’t get anything. I don’t think he liked the two turns particularly. They’re tight, little turns there, and maybe he didn’t like them.”
The Cigar Mile for 3-year-olds and up heads the November 24 card, which also includes the Grade 1, $350,000 Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen for 2-year-olds, and the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle for 2-year-old fillies. The Grade 3, $150,000 Fall Highweight for sprinters will be contested on November 22 and the Grade 2, $200,000 Go for Wand Handicap for fillies and mares is scheduled for November 23.
Aaccording to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, others who are probable for the Cigar Mile are Buffum and Associate, first and third in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap on October 27; Grade 1 winner Hymn Book, who dropped in class to take the Frank “Pancho” Martin overnight stakes on October 19; and Stay Thirsty, the 2011 Grade 1 Travers victor who missed by a head when second in the Grade 1 TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 29. In addition, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is expected to send either Coil or Capital Account, first and second in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship. Groupie Doll, a clear winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, is possible, as are Shackleford and Ultimate Eagle.
In the Remsen, Tagg will be represented by Indy’s Illusion, who won a one-mile off-the-turf allowance race in the mud by 1 ½ lengths on October 4 at Belmont. The Remsen will be his fourth start and first around two turns.
“He seems like a long-distance horse,” said Tagg of Indy’s Illusion, another Fipke homebred. “He’s just a knife blade of a horse; he’s not very wide or anything. He’s a lovely mover; it looks like he just glides over the ground. I call him a ‘hollow pipe.’ We have some big hopes for him, but we’ll just have to see. He doesn’t have the numbers some horses have got. He hasn’t run a 90 Beyer or anything like that, but, to me, he has gotten better with every race.”
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Trainer Todd Pletcher appears to have a loaded hand for next week’s Heineken Holidayfest, with possible starters in five of the six Thanksgiving Week graded stakes.
In the Grade 3, $150,000 Fall Highweight Handicap on Thanksgiving Day, Pletcher is likely to be represented by seasoned veteran Caixa Eletronica, who carries the blue and orange colors of Mike Repole.
A three-time graded stakes winner whose most recent victory came in the Grade 2 True North Handicap on June 9 at Belmont Park, the 7-year-old son of Arromanches exits a seventh-place finish in Belmont’s Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap on October 27. Caixa Eletronica counts 18 victories from 59 career starts at distances ranging from six furlongs to 1 1/8 miles. The horse’s sole win at 1 1/8 miles came during the 2011 Saratoga Race Course meet when he captured a starter handicap by a nose carrying 131 pounds. He was assigned 133 pounds for the Fall Highweight.
“He’s shown that he can carry a heavy weight and run well,” Pletcher said. “He seems to be in good form at the moment, breezed well this morning, makes sense to try. I think the track was speed biased [in the Bold Ruler]. It seemed like during that little window of time, very few horses were making up any ground. They had to run against the grain of the track.”
Caixa Eletronica covered a half-mile, breezing, in 49.30 on Friday morning over the Belmont training track.
Pletcher could have two starters for Friday’s Grade 2 Go For Wand Handicap with Morrow Cove, recent winner of Aqueduct’s Raging Fever overnight stakes, and R Gypsy Gold, who was most recently fifth in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm on October 27 at Belmont.
“They are both under consideration for the Go For Wand if they breeze well tomorrow and if the field is light,” Pletcher said.
On Saturday, Pletcher is likely to send out 2011 Travers winner Stay Thirsty in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap. The son of Bernardini finished second, beaten a head by Flat Out, in the Grade 1 TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational. Stay Thirsty has not competed around one turn since finishing second in the seven-furlong, Grade 1 Three Chimneys Hopeful at Saratoga in 2010.
“With the way he ran in the Jockey Club last time – we put him into the race, he set some pretty fast fractions and ran very well – we think off a sharp performance like that and with seven weeks in between he should be a fresh horse,” Pletcher said. “Hopefully the cut-back will suit him well. As a 2-year-old he was second going 5 ½ furlongs, won going six, and he was a good second in the Hopeful. He’s shown some ability to run well in some one-turn races and hopefully being sharp and everything, he can do it again.”
Stay Thirsty is set to stand at Ashford Stud in 2013.
“It would be a huge win for him,” Pletcher said of the Cigar Mile. “For a horse that’s already accomplished a lot, especially a Travers winner to also show the versatility to win at a mile, would be a feather in his cap.”
Pletcher’s strong 2-year-old contingent will likely have a presence in both the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen and the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle on Saturday, with Micromanage, Delhomme and Violence probable for the 1 1/8-mile Remsen and recent maiden winner Unlimited Budget expected to return on short rest for the 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle.
“We’ll make a decision after the breezes on Sunday,” Pletcher said of his Remsen starters. “It’s possible that Delhomme will get on a plane Tuesday and go to Churchill for the Kentucky Jockey Club [Grade 2, November 24, 1 1/16 miles], or possible that they could both run here.
“I think they’re comparable races,” Pletcher continued. “The only difference really is that one is a shorter ship and 1 1/8 miles versus a plane ride and 1 1/16 miles, but we’ve also had some success for WinStar at Churchill in the Jockey Club – Any Given Saturday, Super Saver, Gemologist – so maybe that will factor into it a little bit.”
Delhomme, owned by WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing, broke his maiden at Belmont Park on October 13 going a mile. Mike Repole’s Micromanage exits a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Foxwoods Champagne on October 6.
“I was disappointed in the Champagne,” Pletcher said. “I think we learned something about the way he needs to be ridden. He needs to be involved in the early part of the race a little more. He’s the kind of horse that has a good cruising speed, and he needs to get into it as opposed to trying to make up ground in the stretch. The horse has trained very well before and since then, and we’re looking for an improved effort.”
Repole also campaigns Unlimited Budget, a 9 ½-length, first-out maiden winner on November 9 at Aqueduct.
“[The Demoiselle] is back quick, but she seemed to win with something left the other day and she’s come out of it physically well,” Pletcher said. “Looking at the calendar moving forward there just aren’t many opportunities. It’s not something we do often, but we’re considering it in her case.”
Expected to face the Todd Squad in the Remsen are Frac Daddy, Indy’s Illusion, Keep the Canoli, Normandy Invasion, Quinzieme Monarque, and Stormy Len.
Joining Unlimited Budget on the list of Demoiselle probables are Emollient, Listen Boy, and Watrugonnadoroise, with Giant Cats Eye also under consideration.
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Puerto Rican import My Wandy’s Girl, who won Thursday’s Pentelis overnight stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack in her mainland debut to extend her winning streak to nine, could make a nine-day turnaround to compete in the Grade 1 Gazelle on November 24, trainer Mike Hushion said on Friday.
A four-time stakes winner in Puerto Rico, My Wandy’s Girl was sent to Hushion’s barn in New York following her 12 ¼-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile Roberto Clemente on August 26 at Camarero Race Track. Prior to the 6 ½-furlong Pentelis, she had made four straight starts at 1 1/16 miles or longer.
In Thursday’s race, My Wandy’s Girl was away last of six, waited behind traffic, and surged past Mildly Offensive at the sixteenth pole en route to a one-length win under Ramon Dominguez.
“The last week she really got to looking good and she was training well,” said Hushion, who trains the 3-year-old daughter of Flower Alley for Guillermo Berrios. “I liked the [Pentelis], and I’m going to look into running back in the Gazelle. I want to go back to a mile and an eighth. I had the Gazelle in mind. I told Dominguez in the paddock, ‘Save as much as you can,’ and he hit her only three times. We’ll see. She looks good this morning, so it could be a good place to go.”
Should My Wandy’s Girl compete in the Gazelle, she likely will face Charles Town Oaks and Imperial Gesture heroine Book Review; Dance Card, an easy winner of the Belle Cherie; Grade 3 placed Jemima’s Pearl; two-time winner Open Water; Sea Island, second by a nose in the Banner Gala; and Wildcat’s Smile, runner-up in the Raging Fever.
Hushion confirmed that Mine Over Matter will make his graded stakes debut in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap at six furlongs on November 22. The Chester and Mary Broman homebred was last seen coming from off the pace to take the Hudson for New York-breds by one length on October 20 at Belmont Park.
“He should get a good set up [in the Fall Highweight],” said Hushion. “I’d like to win a graded stake with him, Mr. Broman would like to win a graded stake with him. It takes two speed horses.”
Also expected for the Fall Highweight are Caixa Eletronica, Frazil, Golddigger’s Boy, Leave of Absence, Mine Over Mater, and This Ones for Phil. Il Villano and Small Town Talk are possible.
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Multiple graded stakes winner Soldat returns to the races for the first time in more than eight months Saturday afternoon at Aqueduct when he faces nine others in the $80,000 If Winter Comes overnight stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.
The 4-year-old War Front colt’s only other start of 2012 was on March 4 at Gulfstream Park, where he came off a 10-month layoff and posted a three-length victory in an optional claiming race. That 1 1/16-mile turf race was Soldat’s first start since an 11th-place finish in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, after which he was given time off with foot problems and next encountered other minor physical issues.
“He’s doing well,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin of Soldat, who counts the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and the Grade 3 With Anticipation among his four career victories. “He’s won on dirt and turf, but he’s better on turf. The timing of this race is good.”
Owned by Harvey Clarke, Soldat returned to training in September at Belmont and has had six published works since, most recently covering five furlongs in 1:02.06 on November 11 over the training track.
Dance Card will make her graded stakes debut in the Grade 1, $350,000 Gazelle on Cigar Mile day, the trainer confirmed.
The 3-year-old Tapit filly has won three of her four career starts, most recently a 7 ½-length triumph in the Belle Cherie overnight stakes on September 23 at Belmont.
“Dance Card is doing great,” said the trainer. “She’s going to switch [from Darley] to Godolphin and run under the blue team. She’s had three works in a row and we’ll work her one more time, probably Sunday or Monday, before the race.”
Dance Card’s only defeat came in her May 20 debut at Belmont when she finished second to eventual stakes winner Book Review.
“If you watch the race, or read the chart, it was wild,” said McLaughlin. “She broke slow, down on the inside, rushed up down the backstretch, circled five-wide on the turn, opened up four lengths and then got caught by Book Review. She could easily be undefeated, Dance Card – it was a wild race. You have to respect Book Review, but we’re better than that now. Very nice filly.”
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“It’s been a long time coming.”
So said trainer John Kimmel of Friend Or Foe’s return to the races on Sunday at Aqueduct for the first time since August 6, 2011. The 5-year-old will face five other New York-breds in the $80,000 Fourstars Allstar at a mile, his first appearance since a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap at Saratoga.
“I think I saw 460 days,” said Kimmel of the layoff. “He’s doing really well and he’s ready for a race. We’ll see what he’s got. He’s very sound, very happy and his fitness is good. We’ll kind of get the rust off and see what we have.”
Winner of his first three starts in 2010, including the Mike Lee for New York-breds, Friend Or Foe next finished fourth in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and sixth in the Grade 1 Travers. He returned to restricted company and set a stakes record of 1:46.94 in winning the Empire Classic before closing out his 3-year-old campaign with a fifth behind Jersey Town in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap.
In 2011, he made only one other start besides the Whitney, defeating Rail Trip in a swiftly run overnight stakes in June at Belmont.
“We had him about halfway back last spring,” said Kimmel of Chester and Mary Broman’s homebred son of Friends Lake. “I had him up to about a half a mile fit, and the area which has been a problem, which is the medial branch of the inside suspensory branch, just started to get a little warm. So we tried to be as conservative as possible. We gave him a little extra time. He ended getting a foot problem at the farm and what I thought would be one or two months turned into three months. But since he’s been here he’s been pretty much consistent. He showed up late at the Saratoga meet and he was mad because he didn’t get to go into his big corner stall.”
Since his return from Ocala, Friend Or Foe has worked 10 times, most recently a three-furlong blowout on Wednesday in 37.66 over the training track.
“At the farm he was in the [aqua-therapy machine] daily, and when he came back he had a pretty good foundation in him,” said Kimmel. “It was a matter of getting an extra level of conditioning through his breezes. He’s had four or five five-eighths breezes coming into this thing.
“Hopefully he can rebound and have a pretty good campaign,” he added. “The handicap division has never been very deep. If we can get him back, we’ll take him down to Florida and hopefully have a good campaign. If he can stay healthy, there’s no reason he can’t compete at the top tier in the handicap division.”