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Edited NYRA Staff Release – Following a triumphant stakes debut in Saturday’s $100,000 Busanda at Aqueduct Racetrack, a qualifier for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, Alpha Delta Stables’ Occult will likely set her sights on the Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle on April 8 at the Big A. 

Trained by Chad Brown, Occult earned a career-best 78 Beyer Speed Figure for the nine-furlong Busanda where she also collected 20 points towards the Kentucky Oaks, catapulting her to second place on the leaderboard. The daughter of perennial leading North American sire Into Mischief trails only the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Wonder Wheel, who has amassed 40 points.

Occult received a tactical ride by Dylan Davis from second behind pacesetter Sweetest Princess entering the backstretch and was in command at the stretch call, drawing away to a 3 3/4-length victory over Gambling Girl and Affirmative Lady, a respective third and second in the Grade 2 Demoiselle here on December 3. She entered off a sharp 4 1/4-length maiden victory at second asking going a one-turn mile in December over the Big A main track.

“She was up against a couple runners that were in the Demoiselle. I was surprised that she went off the favorite,” said Jon Clay of Alpha Delta Stables. “She ran well and I think Dylan Davis did a great job of settling her just off the pace and she really ran her race. Her Beyer improved from her last race to this one, so it looks like she’s moving in the right direction. Being able to get the Oaks distance and to win by nearly four lengths, that definitely shows distance is not going to be an issue for her in the future.”

Clay expressed a desire to target the Gazelle, a race he won in 2016 with the Brown-trained Lewis Bay, who finished third in the Kentucky Oaks. The Gazelle is the final local Oaks qualifier, awarding a total of 100-40-30-20-10 points to the top-five finishers. Another viable option for Occult could be the Busher Invitational on March 4 [50-20-15-10-5], which is contested at a one-turn mile.

“I think we want to keep her in New York. She likes Aqueduct and down the road, the Gazelle would be the logical last prep,” Clay said. “I think Chad mentioned yesterday that he didn’t want to turn her back to a mile, but we still have a lot of time to figure that out. We’ll see how she trains over the next month and then make a plan from there. Our goal would be to run in the Gazelle if she stays healthy and she moves forward. I had luck running in the Gazelle with Lewis Bay. That was her last prep before going into the Oaks, so it’s a logical step to stay in New York.”

Clay said he plans on remaining cautiously optimistic.

“There’s still a lot of races to be run and a lot of good horses out there. Some of them may not have even started yet,” Clay said. “Wonder Wheel is a great horse and she’ll get going. There’s a lot of good horses out there, so we just need to worry about our own horse.”

Bred in Kentucky by Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds, Occult is out of the graded stakes-winning Empire Maker mare Magical Feeling, making her a half-sibling to multiple stakes winner Exulting and stakes-winner Magical. Occult was bought for $625,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.


Awesome Native remains undefeated through two starts for trainer Abreu

Farone Stables’ New York homebred Awesome Native made a victorious first start against winners in Saturday’s third race at Aqueduct Racetrack to remain undefeated through two lifetime starts for trainer Jorge Abreu.

Awesome Native, a 4-year-old son of Practical Joke, scored a dominant 6 1/4-length victory under the red-hot Manny Franco in a first-level allowance sprint against fellow state-breds. He stalked in third from 3 1/2 lengths off the pace under a patient Franco before going wide in the turn and unleashing an impressive turn of foot to complete the seven furlongs in 1:26.16 over the good main track.

The effort garnered an 82 Beyer Speed Figure, equaling his figure from his sharp debut score on December 15 sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs against state-breds in similar closing fashion under Franco.

“He came out of the race in good shape and he ate up good and walked good this morning,” said Abreu. “I have really liked this horse since Day One and he’s shown in the mornings that he’s got some talent.”

Abreu said the late-blooming colt has been well worth the wait and will look to a longer allowance for his next start.

“Manny had been breezing him and when he came back yesterday, he said, ‘The longer he goes, the better he gets,’” said Abreu. “I think I’ll go through his conditions and stretch him out to a mile and then put him in a stake. I don’t want to jump into a stake right away unless I really have to, but I don’t think that will be the case.”

Awesome Native’s dam, Bella Kateri, is a half-sister to fellow Farone Stables’ homebred King Angelo, who Abreu trains and sent out to a strong allowance victory on Friday at the Big A. Both Awesome Native and King Angelo hail from the family of graded stakes-winner and millionaire Restrainedvengence, as well as graded stakes-winner Bob’s Edge.

King Angelo has relished the switch from turf to dirt and has competed well against open company in his last two outings. The 6-year-old Lemon Drop Kid chestnut was a 5 3/4-length winner of Friday’s eighth race with a prominent trip under Franco in a 6 1/2-furlong first-level allowance, one start after a game runner-up effort in the same condition for his first start on dirt since July 2021.

“He really came around,” said Abreu. “I think he’s a better dirt horse than a turf horse because I think the turf has to be real firm and real fast for him to run good on it. He’s kind of a heavy horse, but he’s always been a good work horse in the mornings.”

King Angelo has made four starts for Abreu since moving from the care of conditioner Phil Serpe. He previously made 8-of-10 starts for Serpe over the grass, scoring three victories in state-bred company. In all, he boasts a career record of 14-4-3-4 with over $281,000 in earnings.

Abreu has enjoyed a successful beginning of the year so far at the Big A, winning 3-of-5 starts and hitting the board with another. His other victory came on January 6 with Gold Square’s New York-bred Quick Chaos, who graduated at fourth asking over a sloppy and sealed main track.

The 3-year-old son of Unified, who was bred by Cheryl Prudhomme and Dr. Michael Gallivan, was previously on-the-board in his first three outings when sprinting in stalking fashion against fellow state-breds. The bay colt put it all together with a stretch out in distance and a pacesetting trip under Franco to persevere by a half-length over Lifetime of Chance in a one-mile state-bred maiden special weight. The effort came on the heels of a distant second-place effort sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs in his first start back from a five-month layoff.

“That horse has always been a little bit of a tough guy,” said Abreu. “Johnny [Velazquez] rode him the first couple of times and he told me, ‘This horse wants to stretch out – he doesn’t want to do three-quarters.’ He ran third twice and then had a little bit of a hiccup. We sent him to the farm, brought him back, and he ran second going six and a half [furlongs]. Then the race came up at a mile, so it was a perfect setup. He grew up as a 3-year-old.”

Quick Chaos, who was purchased for $170,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-Bred Preferred Yearlings Sale, is out of the Mineshaft mare Rubicon. His second dam, Road to Mandalay, is a half-sister to multiple stakes-winner Bound and Soleil Rouge, the dam of graded stakes-winner Battle Bling.


Downtown Mischief garners 77BSF in debut score; Arctic Arrogance breezes for G3 Withers

Lady Sheila Stable’s New York-homebred Downtown Mischief registered a 77 Beyer Speed Figure for her impressive 7 3/4-length debut score in a six-furlong state-bred maiden special weight on Saturday, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained by Linda Rice, the Into Mischief sophomore broke alertly and tracked the hustling early speed of Weekend Rags before taking over in upper stretch and drawing clear in a final time of 1:12.53.

Downtown Mischief is out of the Speightstown mare Downtown Mama, who was purchased for $440,000 by Rice for Lady Sheila at the 2016 OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training. Downtown Mama won her first three starts, including a pair of allowance scores at Belmont Park.

“It was pretty exciting,” Rice said of the debut score for Downtown Mischief. “Sheila and I raced her mother together. She was a pretty nice filly but got injured. So, it’s nice to get a win with her first foal for Sheila.”

Rice said Downtown Mischief exited the win in good order and will hopefully echo the precocious early efforts of her dam.

“I hope this filly has a longer race career, but she has a lot of promise. We’ll go one race at a time,” Rice said.

Rice recently purchased a trio of horses privately for Lady Sheila Stable, including multiple stakes winner Les Bon Temps, who captured the Maid of the Mist and the $500,000 NYSSS Fifth Avenue in her last two starts here in the care of conditioner Mike Maker.

The sophomore daughter of Laoban is nominated to next Sunday’s $100,000 Franklin Square, a 6 1/2-furlong test for state-bred sophomore fillies, but could wait for the $100,000 Maddie May at one-mile here on February 19.

Also acquired for Lady Sheila Stables was Starry Midnight, a 3-year-old New York-bred daughter of Connect, who rallied to a head score in her November 27 debut for trainer Jorge Abreu.

Bred by Dr. James Randall McGlinn, she is out of the winning Street Cry mare Street Singer. Starry Midnight is also nominated to the Franklin Square.

“It’s a little short for her. I think she needs more distance, but it’s a consideration,” Rice said.

The third acquisition for Lady Sheila Stables is an unnamed juvenile filly by Gun Runner.

Rice leads all trainers at the Big A winter meet with six wins heading into Sunday’s card. She will send out graded-stakes placed New York-bred Betsy Blue and stakes-winning Florida-bred Piece of My Heart in Saturday’s $100,000 Interborough, a seven-furlong test for older fillies and mares.

Cloud Nine Stable’s Betsy Blue was claimed for $50,000 in March 2021 out of a winning effort at the Big A and has since won seven races for her current connections, including the 2021 Bouwerie against fellow state-breds at Belmont. She finished a distant third in the one-mile Grade 3 Go for Wand over a sloppy and sealed main track here on December 3 but returned one week later to take the six-furlong Garland of Roses versus open company.

“She’ll be two years with us in March. She’s just a gem,” Rice said.

Rice said she would love to try for more graded blacktype with Betsy Blue in the seven-furlong Grade 3, $150,000 Distaff Handicap on April 7 here.

“Definitely. That’s what we’ll be pointing for. A graded win for her would be huge,” Rice said.

Winning Move Stable’s Piece of My Heart, a 6-year-old Flat Out chestnut, was claimed for $62,500 in July at Saratoga and since posted a record of 5-1-3-0, including a last-out optional-claiming score on January 5 over a sloppy and sealed Big A main track.

Chester and Mary Broman’s graded-stakes placed New York-homebred Arctic Arrogance, with blinkers on, breezed a half-mile under Jose Lezcano in 50.47 seconds Sunday over the Belmont dirt training track in his first breeze since a runner-up effort in the Jerome on January 7 here.

The Frosted sophomore raced in second position throughout the one-turn mile Jerome, finishing a half-length back of West Coast-based shipper Lugan Knight.

Rice said she’s looking forward to stretching Arctic Arrogance back out to nine furlongs in the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers on February 4. The Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifier offers 20-8-6-4-2 points to the top-five finishers.

“He had a good workout this morning,” Rice said. “We missed a breeze coming into the Jerome over the holiday with bad weather. I thought he was a little heavy coming into the race, so I want to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen going into the Withers.”

Arctic Arrogance, who captured the one-turn mile Sleepy Hollow here against fellow state-breds on October 30, is currently ranked 10th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with eight points. He picked up four qualifying points for a runner-up effort to Dubyuhnell in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Remsen on December 3, which was contested over a sloppy and sealed Aqueduct main track.

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