Dr Disco will try to regroup after a disappointing last-place finish in his first graded stakes try, the Grade 3 Toboggan at Aqueduct two weeks ago. Leaving from the rail in the February 4 Toboggan, Dr Disco was caught inside all the way around.
Two starts back, Dr Disco easily won an inner track optional claimer at the Hollie Hughes distance, rating off the pacesetters before drawing clear to hit the wire 2 ¼ lengths in front. Brown said he expected Dr Disco to be close to the pace in Monday’s race.
“I’m kind of thinking we’ll get back to more of how he used to be, and try to get him in the race early,” said Brown. “Two weeks is a little close, but he didn’t do a lot of running [in the Toboggan] and he’s been great since, so we’ll take a shot.”
Dr Disco drew post position 6 and was made the 9-5 morning-line favorite. New York’s leading jockey, Ramon Dominguez, was named to ride.
“I think he’s always a little bit better if he’s outside because he never breaks real sharp,” Brown noted. “A lot of times if he’s down inside and he breaks a step slow, then he’ll get shuffled back a little bit and get himself in trouble. If he’s outside, he can break a step slow and still be able to get to the lead, or at least get good position.”
Brown will also send out last year’s Hollie Hughes winner, Be Bullish, to defend his title. A 7-year-old son of Pure Prize, Brown claimed the gelding for $50,000 on behalf of LaMarca Stable in his most recent start, a one-length victory sprinting 5 ½ furlongs over the inner on January 25.
“We just claimed him and he’s been great since the claim,” said Brown. “Just very solid, especially for a horse who runs as hard as he does and is his age. You wouldn’t think he’s as old as he is. He sits more off the pace, so this could be good for him. If Dr Disco doesn’t go on with it, hopefully Be Bullish will be coming at the end.
David Cohen has the call aboard Be Bullish, who drew the rail as the 3-1 morning-line second choice
Making his 4-year-old debut in the Hollie Hughes is Our Blue Streaks Stable’s speedy Bug Juice, who closed out his sophomore campaign with a front-running 3 ½-length score in a six-furlong optional claimer over the inner track on December 15. Prior to that, the Mingun gelding finished last of four in the Le Bagoter stakes under the lights at Penn National on November 23.
“He’s doing good, but there’s a lot of speed in the race, which will make it tough,” said trainer Bruce Levine. “I don’t know why he didn’t run that night at Penn, he just didn’t run. Outside of that, I think we were just taking him back, and he doesn’t like it. His best races were on the lead and when we sent him to the lead last time, he kind of ran back to where he was. We’re definitely going to go. Win, lose, or draw, we’re leaving.”
C.C. Lopez will ride Bug Juice, tabbed at 10-1 on the morning line, from post 4.
Also likely to figure on the front end are Head Heart Hoof and Freudian Dilemma. Head Heart Hoof exits a pair of runner-up finishes in six-furlong optional claimers at Aqueduct. The first of those losses, on December 30, was to Freudian Dilemma, who led from gate to wire and won by 2 ¼ lengths. In his next outing, Freudian Dilemma finished second after setting the pace in a muddy, seven-furlong allowance at Parx Racing on January 24.
Law Enforcement, second to Dr Disco in the Vodka overnight stakes at Aqueduct on December 4 and Ground Force, fifth in an allowance optional claimer here on December 30, complete the field.