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AQUEDUCT BARN NOTES

Edited NYRA Press Staff Release – Dublin Fjord Stables, Racepoint Stables, Kevin D. Hilbert and Thomas E. O’Keefe’s multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Drafted, who turned 9-years-old with the New Year, earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure for his gutsy nose score in the $150,000 Gravesend on Friday at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained by David Duggan, the grey son of Field Commission will now turn his attention to a title defense in the Grade 3 Toboggan on January 28 at the Big A.

Drafted closed out his 8-year-old campaign in dramatic fashion, flying from last-of-5 in the six-furlong Gravesend to nip the stakes-winning Laurel Park shipper Little Vic by a nose at the wire under a well-timed ride from Luis Rodriguez Castro. He defeated a short but talented field that included graded stakes-winner Morello and multiple stakes-placed Three Two Zone after the original field of 12 was reduced to a quintet of runners due to scratches.

“Even though it scratched down to a short field, there were some key runners in there,” said Duggan. “Morello is solid and Little Vic is solid, so it wasn’t like they were getting rid of the dead weight. Obviously, we were worried about the pace, but we got a decent enough pace. He showed up.”

The Gravesend was the fourth stakes victory of the year for Drafted, who also notched graded scores in the aforementioned Toboggan and the Grade 3 Runhappy at Belmont Park, as well as the Mr. Prospector at Monmouth Park.

Duggan said Drafted has shown heart throughout the year despite a handful of tough races when fifth in both the Grade 1 Carter Handicap at the Big A and the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga Race Course.

“He’s come back just fine and we just play the hand we’re dealt,” said Duggan. “We over-faced a little in two or three of his races this year, but there wasn’t a whole lot of options. You always worry how that affects the older horses, but it didn’t affect him.”

Drafted first arrived in Duggan’s care in late 2020, shipping in from the barn of trainer Doug Watson after competing in Dubai, U.A.E. from December 2017 to February 2020. Upon Drafted’s arrival, Arturo Parada, a longtime groom for Duggan, was tasked with caring for the seasoned gelding. Parada, who formerly worked for trainer Nick Zito, came to work for Duggan 17 years ago when he decided to stay in New York instead of moving to Florida.

While Parada cares for a handful of Duggan’s trainees, he said Drafted holds a special place in his heart.

“He’s super,” said Parada. “When I come in the morning, he’s very nice and he’s very quiet. I take care of five horses, but this one I spend more time with. He’s nine, but he doesn’t act it. He’s perfect.”

Parada said some fine tuning and patience has allowed Drafted to reach his full potential this year.  

“Oh my goodness,” said Parada, with a laugh. “When this horse came here, he didn’t want his blanket and was scared of everything, so I spent a lot of time working with him. He didn’t like the bridle we were using, but we switched the bridle and he’s so much better now.”

Duggan, who manages his stable with his life, Lara, said Parada has not only become a key part of his training operation, but of his family as well.

“He just showed up one morning and was fantastic,” Duggan said, with a laugh. “He’s like our adopted son. He’s been as good and reliable as Drafted.”

Impressive maiden winner Fireline targets spring return; Search Results gearing up for 2023 campaign

Juddmonte’s Kentucky homebred filly Fireline, who won impressively at second asking on November 4 at Aqueduct Racetrack, will aim for a return to the races sometime this spring after a minor setback on the heels of her dominant 13 1/2-length score going one-mile over the main track.

The daughter of Arrogate battled with Avant through the first half-mile before taking the advantage with ease at the top of the lane and galloping home geared down under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano. The effort garnered a 71 Beyer Speed Figure.

“She had a minor setback after that race, so we needed to stop on her,” said Brown. “But I’m very hopeful to have her back in my barn soon.”

Brown said Fireline will not be ready for a return in the $250,000 Busher Invitational on March 4 at the Big A, but said the filly will “absolutely” target the high profile stakes later in the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park, such as the Grade 1 Acorn in mid-June.

“I hope she’s good enough for a race like the Acorn or something like that,” said Brown. “Those are very special races, so we’ll see. The Busher is a little soon and I think we’ll have to wait a little longer than that, or I would have said absolutely to that.”

Brown also noted that multiple graded stakes-winner and 2021 Grade 1 Acorn victress Search Results will race again this year. Owned by Klaravich Stables, the 5-year-old daughter of Flatter was last seen finishing a well-beaten sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff on November 5 at Keeneland, capping off a campaign that included graded scores in the Grade 2 Ruffian at Belmont and Grade 3 Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park.

“She’s coming back and we’ll run her this year, so that’s exciting,” said Brown. “We’ll see [where she returns].”

***

Rice takes two Big A fall meet titles; Arctic Arrogance works for Jerome

Linda Rice enjoyed a tremendous fall meet at Aqueduct, leading the way in both the trainers standings [20 wins] and owners standings [10 wins]. Rice, who posted a training record of 93-20-23-13, secured the eighth training title of her career and first since the 2020 Aqueduct winter meet.

As leading owner at the 29-day fall meet, Rice secured a record of 33-10-6-2, earning $342,562 in purses with a win percentage of 30.30 and in-the-money rate of 54.55 percent.

“My staff has done a great job,” Rice said. “I have people that have worked for me for 25 years. They are dedicated, terrific people, and they’re like family to me. I can’t overstate their efforts in this. It’s pretty exciting and a great end to the year.”

Rice said her barn grew stronger over the course of the year after a difficult 2021 Big A fall meet in which she won just two races. However, the stable picked up steam through the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park, finishing in a tie for fifth with 15 wins ahead of a strong effort at Saratoga where she finished sixth with 14 wins. The stable recorded 18 wins at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet to finish second behind Chad Brown.

“We had a tough winter last year at Aqueduct and struggled through that a little bit. In the summer, things were starting to come together,” Rice said. “But we finished second behind Chad at the fall meet, so things had really started to pick up.”

Rice, who currently oversees a string of 70 horses, said part of her success has been a sharpened focus on the claiming game.

“Over the last five years, it’s been so difficult to buy horses at the sales at value prices,” Rice said. “I love to buy weanlings, yearlings and 2-year-olds but you go the sales and you get outbid a lot, especially with partnerships and investors pooling their money. It makes it difficult to buy what you want.

“So, I decided to do more claiming for my clients that have limited budgets and I think that’s worked really well for them,” continued Rice. “We’ve had a lot of great claims this year. We’ve had failures, too, but you just have to recognize when you have a claim that’s marginal at best and discuss it with your client and move on. You just have to be realistic.”

Among Rice’s most successful claims is Cloud Nine Stable’s graded-stakes placed New York-bred Betsy Blue, who was haltered for $50,000 out of an optional-claiming score in March 2021 at the Big A just one start after being claimed for $25,000 from a state-bred maiden win.

Through 17 starts for Rice, the now 5-year-old Tonalist mare has posted a record of 7-6-2, including a third in the Grade 3 Go for Wand on December 3 here before returning on one week’s rest to take the $120,000 Garland of Roses.

“She was a seven-way shake for $25,000 and we wheeled back and got her for $50,000 and she’s just been a super-nice filly to have in the barn,” Rice said. “She shows up every time and has made over $600,000 now. You hope to have more claims like that.”

Rice said Betsy Blue, bred by Blue Devil Racing Stable, is on target for the $100,000 Interborough on January 21 at the Big A with an eye on another graded attempt in the Grade 3, $250,000 Barbara Fritchie on February 18 at Laurel Park.

Another strong claim for Rice is Sheriff Bianco, a now 5-year-old New York-bred Speightster gelding that she haltered for $30,000 out of a winning effort on July 9 on the Belmont turf.

Bred by SF Bloodstock, the improving bay had competed almost exclusively on turf for his former conditioner Wesley Ward and subsequently posted a pair of third-place efforts for Rice on the Saratoga turf in state-bred allowance tilts. His career path changed when taking an off-the-turf state-bred allowance by 11 3/4-lengths in October at Belmont at the Big A over a sloppy and sealed main track.

Sheriff Bianco has since made three successive six-furlong dirt starts at Aqueduct – each garnering matching career-best 94 Beyer Speed Figures – including a state-bred optional-claiming win on November 17 and an open-company allowance score over muddy and sealed going on December 17. He finished a game second here Friday in an open optional-claiming tilt.

“Those type of claims don’t happen every day, but you look at a horse like Sheriff Bianco, who we claimed for $30,000. On the turf that’s what he was worth, but the next thing you know, he’s become a really nice dirt horse for us this fall,” Rice said. “They’re not all going to work out, but I’ve gone to doing more claiming because the sales have become so expensive.”

Rice will also have her eye on the Kentucky Derby point standings this year as she prepares Chester and Mary Broman’s New York homebred Arctic Arrogance for a start in Saturday’s one-mile $150,000 Jerome, which offers 10-4-3-2-1 qualifying points to the top-five finishers.

By Frosted and out of the Uncle Mo mare Modest Maven, Arctic Arrogance made his first three starts in state-bred company, graduating in his September 5 debut in a six-furlong sprint at the Spa over muddy and sealed going ahead of a pacesetting second in the seven-furlong Bertram F. Bongard on September 29 at Belmont at the Big A.

He exited that effort to win the one-turn mile Sleepy Hollow in gate-to-wire fashion on October 30 at Belmont at the Big A before battling to a game runner-up effort to Dubyuhnell when stretched out to nine furlongs on December 3 here in the Grade 2 Remsen, garnering four Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

“We really didn’t think of him as a Derby horse going into this fall. Mr. Broman and I said let’s just see how far we make it,” recalled Rice. “He ran really well in the Remsen. We were delighted with that effort. So, let’s see how far we get and maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

Arctic Arrogance has breezed back twice, including a five-eighths effort Saturday in 1:03 flat over the Belmont dirt training track.

“The track had been really slow and cuppy, so I delayed his breeze two days waiting for a better track,” Rice said. “The track was pretty heavy, but he worked beautifully.”

Rice will look to maintain her winning hand into 2023 at the Big A on a nine-race New Year’s Day card with six horses entered before scratches, including recent $40,000 claim Amundson [Race 8], who has already posted a win and a second from two starts.

“Onward and upward,” Rice said.

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