Dr. Hansen said the colt will fly to New York on February 29, the Wednesday before the Gotham, after turning in his final breeze at Gulfstream Park, possibly on Monday.
“His last breeze on Sunday was strong,” said Dr. Hansen, who owns the colt in partnership with Dr. Harvey Diamond’s Sky Chai Racing. “He actually ran another furlong, and we were pleased with that. It was actually a six-furlong work. He was running 12-second furlongs, and that’s his cruising speed. Since he put up a bullet last week, his next breeze will probably be slower.”
Hansen, who capped his unbeaten 2-year-old campaign with a nose victory in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, finished second, beaten five lengths by Algorithms, in the Grade 3 Holy Bull after stumbling at the break. The Gotham will be his second start of 2012.
“We had some bad luck last time, and people probably think we’re beatable,” said Dr.Hansen. “We were about 75 percent last time and were hoping for an easy spot, but we ran into a top horse in Algorithms. [Hansen] is doing well right now. We’re at about 85 or 90 percent. Obviously, we want to peak in May.”
Dr. Hansen added that trainer Michael Maker has been working on getting the son of Tapit to settle in his workouts and that the 1 1/16-mile Gotham, which is expected to draw a large field, will test the colt’s ability to race in traffic.
“It’d be nice to see a few horses come to his side early, and then have him lead by about three or four lengths at the quarter pole,” said Dr. Hansen.
Dr. Hansen revealed Hansen’s demeanor has changed since the Holy Bull, giving the owner confidence the colt will regain winning form.
“It’s going to be fun, and I think we have the horse to beat,” said Dr. Hansen. “You don’t want to go against the champion in his first start after a loss. He was really ticked off [after the Holy Bull].”
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Dual Grade 1 winner It’s Tricky returns to action next Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack in the Grade 2, $200,000 Top Flight Handicap. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for Godolphin Racing, the Mineshaft filly wintered in Florida and will be making her first start since a second-place finish to 3-Year-Old Filly champion Royal Delta in the Grade 1 Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs last November.
“She shipped up carrying great weight,” said McLaughlin’s assistant, Art Magnuson. “She looks really rested, and she’s been training well.”
It’s Tricky, who won an optional claimer and the Busher last winter over the Big A’s inner track, returned to training at Palm Meadows on December 31, most recently covering five furlongs in 1:01.89 on February 12. She will have her final serious move over Belmont Park’s training track Saturday morning.
Also scheduled to breeze Saturday morning is Godolphin’s Consortium, who is being pointed to the Gotham after a sixth-place finish in the Holy Bull, and Emcee, the 2-for-2 Godolphin color-bearer who will be making his stakes debut in the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap on the Gotham undercard.
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Trainer Todd Pletcher will have two of his many talented sophomores on display in the 1 1/16-mile Gotham: Dogwood Stable’s Raconteur and Zayat Stables’ Dan and Sheila. Dan and Sheila, a More Than Ready colt, exits an impressive effort in the Grade 3 LeComte at the Fair Grounds on January 21, in which he was three-wide around the first turn and rallied from 12th to finish fourth to Mr. Bowling in his second start.
“I thought he ran a very respectable race at the Fair Grounds,” said Pletcher’s assistant, Michael McCarthy. “Once Johnny [Velazquez] was able to wheel him outside, he was able to start picking up horses. He finished up strong, and galloped out well. Obviously some seasoning will do him some good.”
After going 0-for-5 as a 2-year-old, Raconteur broke his maiden over the Big A’s inner track on January 2 and four weeks later followed that up with a three-quarter-length victory in a one mile, 70-yard optional claimer.
“It’s taken him a little while to come around,” said McCarthy. “Obviously he’s put together some decent races back-to-back. It might be a little bit of a tall order at the moment, but I think he deserves a shot to be in there. We know he likes the racetrack; maybe he can come and mow them down late.”
Pletcher will also be represented in the Top Flight with Love and Pride, seven lengths the best in the Affectionately last time out, and in the Tom Fool with last year’s winner, Repole Stable’s Calibrachoa.
“Pace makes a big difference for her,” said McCarthy of Love and Pride. “You can see every time she can go :48 and change, with those 12-second eighths, she’s always right there at the end.”
Calibrachoa, who won three straight stakes after being claimed by Mike Repole for $40,000, exits a 2 ¼-length victory in the Grade 3 Toboggan on February 4, bringing his inner-track record to 4-for-4.
“The horse came out of his race remarkably well; he hasn’t missed a beat,” said McCarthy. “He likes the inner track and ran a bang-up race last time. With a horse like him, you can go over there confident he will bring his ‘A’ game.”
All four are scheduled to breeze Sunday morning, said McCarthy.
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Maan, unbeaten in two sprint starts, is likely to make his stakes and route debut in the Gotham, Tom Morley, trainer Eddie Kenneally’s Belmont Park-based assistant, said Friday.
Owned by Joseph W. Sutton, Maan debuted a 1 ½-length winner in July at Churchill Downs and was taken to Saratoga Race Course for a possible start in the Grade 2 Three Chimneys Saratoga Special before a growth spurt prompted Kenneally to give the juvenile time off.
“When we bought him, he was a real sharp-looking 2-year-old type of horse,” said Morley. “He broke his maiden at Churchill, and Eddie had the Saratoga Special in mind for him. We took him to Saratoga, and the horse grew and became a completely different animal. The best thing to do with him was to turn him out and give him a break. He suddenly looked like he was going to mature into a proper-looking horse, so Eddie decided to give him a little break. Eddie is not afraid of doing that with nice horses. He’s very, very patient, especially if he thinks they have a smart future in front of them.”
In his seasonal bow, a 6 ½-furlong optional claimer contested in the slop February 9 at Gulfstream Park, Maan left from post position 1 and rallied along the rail to prevail by a half-length.
“He ran a huge comeback race in Florida,” said Morley. “He did not get a clean trip at all from the inside post, but showed a lot of guts and a lot of class to win. We hope he can turn into a real nice horse.”
Morley said the Gotham is perfectly timed to stretch out Maan and try him in a graded stakes.
“I think the horse has the class,” said Morley. “He is a stakes horse, there’s no doubt about that. Will he stretch out? There’s only one way to find out. He certainly didn’t seem to be stopping at the end of his allowance win in Florida. It was a good indication that may not be just a nice sprinter. To be a real good horse, you not only have to have tactical speed but also the ability to stay. I don’t think a mile will be a problem for the horse, but after that I don’t think anybody knows.”
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Next Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Gotham, precursor to the Grade 1, $1 million Resorts World New York City Casino Wood Memorial on April 7, will likely feature more than a dozen classic-minded 3-year-olds headed by 2011’s juvenile champion Hansen, second to Algorithms in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream last time out. According to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, lining up to face the winner of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile are Consortium, seventh in the Holy Bull; Dan and Sheila, fourth in the Grade 3 LeComte at Fair Grounds on January 21; Done Talking, who came from last to finish fourth, beaten just a length, in the Grade 2 Remsen last fall; Jimmy Winkfield winner King and Crusader; My Adonis, third in the Holy Bull, and Tiger Walk, third in the Grade 3 Withers behind Alpha on February 4.
Also probable for the 1 1/16-mile race are Chief Energy, making his first start since August; the Graham Motion-trained Cop A Tude, making his stakes debut after a pair of victories at Laurel Park; Maan, who came off a seven-month layoff to score a hard-fought optional claiming victory at Gulfstream on February 9; the New York-bred Pretension, 2-3-0 from five starts including the Sweet Envoy overnight stakes last time out; Raconteur, winner of his two most recent starts, and recent maiden winner Stealcase.
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The Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool on the Gotham undercard is expected to attract Caleb’s Posse, the winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Grade 1 Foxwoods King’s Bishop who will be making his 2012 debut; last year’s winner, Calibrachoa, who is 4-for-4 over the Big A’s inner track; Capt. Candyman Can, the 2009 King’s Bishop winner who was most recently third in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Sprint Championship; the 2-for-2 Emcee, who will be stepping into graded stakes company for the first time after earning a 107 Beyer Speed Figure in a seven-furlong allowance at Gulfstream Park, and New York-bred hero Giant Ryan, whose victory in the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont capped a six-race win streak that came to an end in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Also possible for the six-furlong race are Apriority and Royal Currier, most recently seventh and third, respectively, in the Sunshine Millions Sprint.
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Joining It’s Tricky and Love and Pride in the Grade 2, $200,000 Top Flight next Saturday are likely to be Delightful Mary, 2-1-0 in her three most recent starts, including a second to Awesome Feather in the Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream Park last time out, and Juanita, third in the Tiffany Lass at the Fair Grounds on February 11. Bahia Beach and Bahama Bound, second and third to Love and Pride in the Affectionately, are possible for the 1 1/16-mile Top Flight.
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Five familiar faces are targeting the $85,000, 1 1/16-mile Corona Extra Kings Point for New York-breds on the Gotham undercard, including Stormy’s Majesty and Inherit the Gold, who were first and second in the Mr. G. J.G. overnight stakes on February 12; Socialsaul, runner-up to Inherit the Gold in the Haynesfield on January 22; Spa City Fever, 34-1 winner of the Alex M. Robb on December 31 and subsequently fourth and fifth in the Haynesfield and Mr. G. J.G., and Writingonthewall, an 8 ¾-length winner of a $30,000 claiming race on February 9.
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Two-time Eclipse Award winning rider Julien Leparoux has plans to move his tack to New York for the Belmont Park spring/summer meet which opens on April 27.
“He’s ready for a different challenge,” Leparoux’s longtime agent Steve Bass said by phone on Friday. “We were looking for a place where we could go and basically stay year-round – not have to pack up and move every few months. The purses don’t hurt either.”
Leparoux, who has been based in Kentucky, is currently riding at Gulfstream Park, where he was fourth in the standings with 33 winners going into Friday’s card. Bass indicated that Leparoux would likely continue to spend winters in Florida going forward. This year’s Gulfstream meet concludes on April 8, with Keeneland opening on April 6. Closing day at Keeneland is the same day Belmont Park opens, and Bass said Leparoux expected to be in New York on April 27.
“The plan right now is to start in New York on the first day of the meet, and come back to Kentucky for Derby and Oaks and all that,” Bass said.
Leparoux, who was named the nation’s top apprentice in 2006 and top jockey in 2009, began his riding career at Saratoga Race Course in 2005, notching his first victory aboard Eastern Guardian at the Spa on August 18 that year. In 2006, he won 28 races in Saratoga, setting a new record for victories by an apprentice rider and has competed successfully at the meet the past few years. In 2011, he rode 29 Spa winners, good for fourth in the standings behind John Velazquez, Javier Castellano, and Ramon Dominguez.