The Horse Race Insider is a privately owned magazine. All copyrights reserved. “Bet with your head, not over it.”

The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

AQUEDUCT BARN NOTES

Edited NYRA Staff Notes –As an owner and breeder who invests in fillies at auction, Jon Clay of Alpha Delta Stables has his sights set on one day winning the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. On Saturday, Clay hopes his impressive maiden winner Occult will take him one step closer to his lofty goal when the Into Mischief dark bay makes her stakes debut in the $100,000 Busanda at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The Busanda, a nine-furlong test for sophomore fillies, is a qualifying event for the May 5 Kentucky Oaks and offers the top-five finishers points based on a 20-8-6-4-2 scale.

Trained by Chad Brown, Occult enters the Busanda off a sharp maiden score going a one-turn mile on December 18 at the Big A. After bumping with a rival at the break, she settled in fourth position before tipping out into the clear in deep backstretch. Occult matched strides with pacesetting favorite My Betsy around the far turn before drawing off to a 4 1/4-length score, registering a field-best 72 Beyer Speed Figure. The winning effort was a second-out graduation for Occult, who finished a distant fourth on debut to eventual stakes-placed Padma.

“We’re very optimistic that she can continue to move forward. We’re excited about the race tomorrow and hopefully we can hit the board,” said Clay.

Clay has bred a number of quality runners, including multiple Grade 1-winner Vekoma as well as Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner and 2022 Eclipse Award finalist Elite Power. He currently owns a band of about 20 broodmares that are boarded at both Mill Ridge Farm and Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky. The quality group of mares includes multiple Grade 1-placed Point of Honor, graded-stakes winner Jacaranda – a half-sister to prominent sire Constitution, as well as Vekoma’s three-time winning half-sister Bloody Point.

Clay said he is hopeful that Occult will one day be a shining addition to his broodmare band, citing her top-class pedigree. Bought for $625,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, she is out of the graded stakes-winning Empire Maker mare Magical Feeling.

“That’s what I look for when I buy fillies. I always look for pedigree,” Clay said. “That’s really important since I’m a commercial breeder. My program is if I buy at auction, I buy fillies. So, I look at winning the Kentucky Oaks as my equivalent of winning the Kentucky Derby. Getting to the Oaks is the most important thing for me. Hopefully, she can get some black type in here and join my broodmare band one day.”

Clay said he looks beyond the immediate family when buying fillies at auction, and dives deep into their maternal bloodlines. Occult’s third dam, Good Mood, is also the second dam of Golden Ticket, who dead-heated for first in the 2012 Grade 1 Travers. Additionally, Good Mood is the fourth dam of Grade 1-winning filly Dream Tree.

“I really like to look for fillies that have a good depth of pedigree,” Clay said. “That’s what attracted me to her. Into Mischief is a great and very well proven stallion and I don’t have a lot of Into Mischiefs, so I thought I would give it a go. I was interested in looking for a two-turn horse and hopefully she’ll be able to get the distance and move on from there. There’s 20 Oaks points up for grabs for the winner. That would go a long way in terms of getting in the starting gate in May.”

Clay came close to achieving his dream when his Brown-trained homebred Lewis Bay finished third in the 2016 Oaks, beaten three lengths by the victorious Cathryn Sophia. Lewis Bay, a five-time graded stakes-winning daughter of Bernardini, retired with $1,166,560 in earnings and is now part of Clay’s broodmare band.

“It was exciting to be there and hopefully Occult will keep moving forward and we can accrue some points,” Clay said. “But I don’t dream that far ahead, I just take it race by race and not worry about what’s a month or two months down the road. I just want her to have a good race and come out of it healthy. That’s the way I approach my racing.”

Clay garnered success last fall with homebred Raging Sea, who finished third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on November 4 at Keeneland. The Curlin filly will not make the Kentucky Oaks according to Clay, who said she will turn her attention to targeting prestigious races over the summer at Saratoga Race Course.

“She had to have a bone chip removed so she’ll miss the Oaks,” Clay said. “But hopefully, we’ll get her back so she can run later this season and hit all the good races at Saratoga. That was a disappointment but it’s great to have Occult step up in her place.”

Occult, who was tabbed the 7-5 morning line, will break from post 2 under Dylan Davis.

***

Stonewall Star ready for return to state-bred company in Franklin Square

Barry Schwartz’s New York homebred Stonewall Star will look to regain winning form for trainer Horacio De Paz in the $100,000 Franklin Square, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for state-bred sophomore fillies, on January 22 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The bay daughter of Flatter was last seen finishing a pacesetting third in the seven-furlong Gin Talking against open company on December 30 at Laurel Park where she was defeated 1 3/4 lengths by Malibu Moonshine. It was her first start beyond six-furlongs in her fifth lifetime outing after scoring a stakes victory two starts back in the state-bred Key Cents on November 20 at the Big A. 

“She’s been in pretty good form after each race,” said De Paz. “I think she’ll like the cutback and going back against state-bred company. She’s already won at Aqueduct, so she likes the track.”

Stonewall Star, who has never finished off-the-board, was an impressive winner at second asking in a key state-bred maiden special weight in September at Belmont at the Big A, defeating nine rivals that included next-out winners Disruption and Three Unions, along with Silver Skillet, who finished third in the Maid of the Mist in her next start.

Stonewall Star followed with a gutsy third-place finish against state-bred male rivals in the New York Breeders’ Futurity in October at Finger Lakes Racetrack, finishing one length behind the victorious Acoustic Ave and close runner-up Andiamo a Firenze.

“That was a really nice, big, strong effort against the boys,” said De Paz. “I think she’s a talented filly and she’ll continue to develop as she gets older. She’s maintained very good form and she’ll breeze this weekend. She’s doing good.”

De Paz will also look to start Aveen Campion’s Flight to Shanghai in the seven-furlong $100,000 Interborough on January 21 at the Big A off a prominent fourth-place effort in the one-mile Grade 3 Go for Wand on December 3 where she faced nine rivals.

The 5-year-old daughter of Shanghai Bobby made her first start for her connections in the Go for Wand after being haltered for $40,000 out of a game optional claiming effort in October at Laurel where she crossed the finish line sixth but was elevated to fifth, defeated 3 1/2 lengths after tracking in fourth throughout. The bay mare has made 12 of her last 13 starts at distances of one mile or greater, but De Paz said a cutback to sprinting may help her earn her first trip to the winner’s circle since September 2021.

“I think the cutback will be good and it will be a smaller field,” said De Paz. “Originally, we thought the Go for Wand was going to be a small field and I think everybody had the same idea. It turned out everyone was in the race.”

Flight to Shanghai has worked twice over the Belmont training track since her Go for Wand effort, most recently covering a half-mile in 51.28 seconds on January 7.

“It was an easy breeze by herself and I didn’t want to ask her too much. She’s been very honest, forward and consistent,” said De Paz. “Her breezes have been good – just light maintenance breezes. She’s a smaller mare, but she’s maintaining fitness really well.”

Friday’s card at Aqueduct will see the debut of De Paz trainee Pinstripepizzo in Race 6, a six-furlong state-bred maiden special weight for sophomore fillies. Owned by Club Sixty Five Racing, the bay daughter of City of Light sold for $200,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Preferred New York-bred Yearling Sale. She is out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Spicy Temper – a half-sister to multiple stakes-winner Rebranded – and is from the immediate family of dual-surface multiple graded stakes-winner Mshawish.

Pinstripepizzo, who was bred by Repole Stable, has worked extensively over Belmont’s dirt training track leading up to her debut, her latest effort a half-mile breeze in 50.63 on January 7.

“We bought her before the City of Lights started running and we thought she might be a little better on the turf, but she’s been training good,” said De Paz. “I’m hoping she debuts well to get a good starting race that moves her forward. I think she might want to go longer, but at this point, it’s good to get her started.”

Kendrick Carmouche has been tasked with the ride from the outermost post 9 at morning

Week 4 Stakes Probables

Saturday, January 21

$100K Interborough

Probable: Betsy Blue (Linda Rice), Flight to Shanghai (Horacio De Paz), Piece of My Heart (Rice)

Sunday, January 22

$100K Franklin Square (NYB)

Probable: Banterra (Steve Asmussen), Les Bon Temps (Rice), Little Linzee (Domenick Schettino), Lockbox (Ralph D’Alessandro), Stonewall Star (De Paz)

Possible: Honest Banker (Rob Atras), Queens Masterpiece (H. James Bond)

Facebook Share
Twitter Share
LinkedIn Share
Email
Print

⚠ Before you comment

Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *