Edited NYRA Staff Release – Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stables’ three-time Grade 1-winning millionaire Mind Control had to overcome adversity to win the final start of his career, but his superiority reigned supreme in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The 6-year-old bay horse, with Hall of Famer John Velazquez up, displayed his signature grit when confronted by Get Her Number, winner of the 2020 Grade 1 American Pharoah, to his outside while also fending off an inside rally from Grade 1 Florida Derby-winner White Abarrio in the stretch drive. With his ears pinned back, Mind Control would not be denied and came out a head on top, completing the one-turn mile in 1:35.53.
The triumph provided Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher with a record-extending sixth Cigar Mile win. Among his previous Cigar Mile heroes are Mind Control’s sire Stay Thirsty, who captured this event in 2012 in the final start of his career. The last father-son duo to win the Cigar Mile were inaugural 1988 winner Forty Niner, who produced 1996 winner Gold Fever.
“I was so proud of him yesterday. That was a phenomenal performance,” Pletcher said. “It’s just great to see him have a victory like that in his final career start. He deserved to go out that way.”
Red Oak Stable racing manager Rick Sacco echoed Pletcher’s sentiments.
“We’re elated, he’s such a cool horse to be around and it’s such a thrill to be associated with the horse,” Sacco said.
Mind Control was initially trained by Gregg Sacco, capturing Saratoga Race Course’s Grade 1 Hopeful during his juvenile season in 2018 and Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial the following year. He was transferred to Pletcher’s barn last summer and made a winning debut in the Grade 2 John A. Nerud in July 2021 by a head over Belmont Park specialist Firenze Fire.
Last September, he made his first two-turn start in nearly three years in the Parx Dirt Mile, defeating Grade 1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap winner Silver State and registering a career-best 104 Beyer. He matched that figure this year with a hard-fought triumph over Grade 1-winning multimillionaire Hot Rod Charlie in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park.
While bittersweet, the sendoff was a fitting one for Mind Control, who had to overcome sloppy and sealed track conditions in his final test. He was soundly beaten in his previous two starts over a track rated “sloppy.”
“It’s not only great for him to go out on a win, but for him to do it in the style that defines his character and fight off challenges from the Florida Derby winner on the inside, the American Pharoah winner on the outside,” Pletcher said. “Three Grade 1-winners battling it out across the track. He showed that signature move of his where he puts his head in front and won’t be denied.”
Sacco described Mind Control’s final career start as, “almost like a movie ending.”
“It’s incredible stuff,” Sacco said. “We’re very proud of the horse, the team and everything that he means to us. It was fitting and it was awesome that Johnny came in to ride. We’re delighted and over the moon. I just want to congratulate Todd and the wonderful job my brother, Gregg, did early on in his career. It was all kind of a fitting end to a really, really cool horse’s career.
“Everyone says that. Whether it’s Todd, who calls him a warrior, or Amelia Green, who gets on him every day,” Sacco added. “He has a special place in everyone’s heart because of what he’s done over such a long career.”
With the Cigar Mile now in the rearview mirror, Sacco said discussions will continue on where Mind Control will stand at stud.
“The feedback over the last two months was how good this horse has been doing. I wanted to play this hand and wait until we ran,” Sacco said. “The way it played out was fitting for us, but I wanted to wait until after he ran. That was my gut feeling and that I didn’t want to have conversations until after this race. We skipped the Breeders’ Cup by design, and we wanted to wait until after this race and now I feel like we can have the right type of conversation that we need to have now.”
Red Oak Stable, owned by Stephen Brunetti, has campaigned talented Grade 1-winners Sweet Return and Unbridled Mo as well as dual stakes-winner and New York stallion King for a Day.
“He ranks as Number One,” Sacco said of Mind Control. “He’s won graded stakes every year from 2-to-6, three Grade 1s. He’s won the most money we’ve ever had with a horse. He’s the best horse we’ve ever had for sure.”
While not in attendance, the ownership group watched the Cigar Mile on a plane ride from St. Barthelemy to Miami.
“We celebrated Stephen Brunetti’s birthday this weekend in St. Barts and we were on a plane flying back to Miami when the race was being run,” Sacco said. “We had a bottle of champagne, and we weren’t going to crack it open. But if he won, we were going to do it. Stephen Brunetti was on the plane with one of his college friends and his wife, so it was extraordinary to win on the flight over. And we did open up that bottle of champagne immediately.”
G2 Demoiselle-winner Julia Shining to ship to Palm Beach Downs Monday
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher could take a familiar trail to the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks with Stonestreet Stables’ homebred Julia Shining, who earned 10 qualifying points toward the prestigious event with a late-rallying win in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle at Aqueduct Racetrack.
There were some anxious moments during the nine-furlong test for 2-year-old fillies, but Julia Shining’s class prevailed in the end as she made a seven-wide move in the stretch under Luis Saez, coming from well off the pace to win her stakes debut by a neck over maiden Affirmative Lady. The victory, which earned a 70 Beyer Speed Figure, was reminiscent of her Champion full-sister Malathaat, who won the 2020 Demoiselle in similar fashion. Both Julia Shining and Malathaat are by Curlin and out of Grade 1-winner Dreaming of Julia.
“There are some similarities for sure. Luis commented that she idled a little bit when she put her head in front. That was a characteristic that Malathaat had as well,” Pletcher said.
Julia Shining is scheduled to ship to Pletcher’s primary winter division at Palm Beach Downs in South Florida on Monday. While no plans have been confirmed for her next start, Pletcher said he is considering the $150,000 Suncoast on February 11 at Tampa Bay Downs [20-8-6-4-2 qualifying points] and the Grade 1 Ashland in April at Keeneland [100-40-30-20-10 qualifying points]. He took the same path with 2021 Demoiselle winner Nest, who finished second in the Kentucky Oaks en route to scores in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and Grade 1 Alabama this summer at Saratoga.
“We’ll ship her down to Palm Beach Downs [on Monday],” Pletcher said. “We’ll lay out a game plan. I need to talk about it with Barbara Banke and the Stonestreet people, but I’m kind of thinking about a similar path as Nest had with the Suncoast as a possibility maybe leading into the Ashland after that. Plenty of time to sort that out.”
Julia Shining also overcome adversity to win her October debut at Keeneland, traveling wide and making up considerable ground.
“I think that’s been a reflection of just how talented she is. She’s still putting things together; she’s still learning to accept the kickback,” Pletcher said. “Until she becomes a little more seasoned, we might have to sacrifice some ground loss to keep her in the clear, but for her to win those two races shows how much natural talent there is there.”
Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable and Gainesway Stable’s Wit shipped to Del Mar for a third-place finish in Saturday’s Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.
“I think he didn’t quite get the trip we were hoping for, but he was still closing in the end. He certainly showed he’s capable,” Pletcher said.
Pletcher said Wit will ship to Palm Beach Downs on Thursday and could rest up for a summer campaign. He did not rule out the Grade 1, $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational on January 28 at Gulfstream Park.
“We’ll get him to Palm Beach Downs and assess where we are,” Pletcher said. “I suppose the two choices are to give him a little freshening and point for a summer campaign or we could consider the Pegasus. We’ll get him home, see how he took the race and come up with a plan from there.”
Never worse than fourth in 10 lifetime stats, Wit owns Grade 3 scores in last year’s Sanford at Saratoga and this year’s Bay Shore at the Big A. He showed an affinity for turf this summer at Saratoga with a runner-up effort in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame and a victory in the restricted Better Talk Now.
St. Elias Stable’s multiple Grade 1-placed Dr Post, a 5-year-old son of Quality Road, has breezed consistently in South Florida, most recently working five furlongs in 1:00.96 at Gulfstream Park.
“He’s nearing a return. He’s doing well, came back in good shape so far,” Pletcher said.
Reid, Jr. and Ortiz, Jr. combine to make history with Dr B in G3 Go for Wand
Cash is King and LC Racing’s Dr B made the grade with a terrific frontrunning performance in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Go for Wand, a one-turn mile for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Butch Reid, Jr., the 4-year-old Liam’s Map bay splashed her way to a 4 1/2-length score over graded-stakes placed New York-bred Bank Sting to provide jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. with a record 77th stakes win in a single North American season.
Dr B, who garnered a career-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure, covered the distance over a sloppy and sealed main track in 1:35.18, besting the 1:35.53 posted by Mind Control one race later in the featured Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets.
“I knew it was a fast race when she ran faster than the Cigar Mile. She’s amazing,” said Reid, Jr. “She speed-popped ’em. I think Irad had that in mind. I saw him giving her a good warmup and I thought he had something on his mind and he did – and he was right.”
Reid, Jr. and Ortiz, Jr. teamed up on November 21 at Mahoning Valley to win the Youngstown Oaks with Disco Ebo to provide the rider with his 76th stakes win of the season, tying the record of the late Garrett Gomez.
The Parx-based conditioner has enjoyed past success with the three-time Eclipse Award-winner for Outstanding Jockey with Ortiz, Jr. guiding Poseidon’s Warrior to a 36-1 upset score at Saratoga in the 2012 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap to give the trainer his first Grade 1 win.
“I got my first Grade 1-winner with Irad and it was his second Grade 1 at the time,” Reid, Jr. said. “To be able to tie and break this record for him is a really neat thing.”
Reid Jr. said Dr B has exited her stellar effort in good order and could target the Grade 3, $250,000 Barbara Fritchie on February 18 at Laurel Park.
“She’s sound and happy, but good and tired. She’ll get a nice rest off that big race before we plot our next step with her,” Reid, Jr. said. “With the kind of numbers she’s throwing out there now, we’ll be looking for some big game. I think the Barbara Fritchie is a possibility. There’s a lot of other spots, so I’ll get together with the owners and talk about a strategy.”
Pine Brook Farm’s Foggy Night finished sixth in the Grade 2 Demoiselle on the Cigar Mile undercard after enduring a troubled trip under Paco Lopez. The Khozan chestnut, runner-up in the Tempted in November here, was in search of a forward trip out of post 3 but Reid, Jr. said she was hampered by the eventual pacesetter, Tribal Queen, who dictated terms from the outermost post 7.
“Going into the first turn, she really got sawed off. The horse from the outside came all the way over to the rail and I thought it was an abrupt move,” Reid, Jr. said. “It took the racetrack away from her and Paco had to take a little hold on her. She kind of threw her head and jumped up and down for a little bit.
“It really cost her position and I believe it took away from her finishing,” added Reid, Jr. “I believe she would have been on the lead had all that not happened and it might have been a different outcome. Paco made his move on the turn and she made the lead very briefly, but once he saw she wasn’t getting there he didn’t abuse her which I really appreciate.”
Reid, Jr. said Foggy Night exited the race in good order and is likely to return to New York and take another shot in a Kentucky Oaks prep.
“She’ll be hanging out up here with us this winter, so she will undoubtedly end up back in New York at some point,” said Reid, Jr. “We haven’t lost any faith in her, she’s a real nice filly and I don’t think the mile and an eighth is a problem.”
Eloquist, last-out winner of the nine-furlong Discovery on November 27 here, is likely to return to the Big A for the nine-furlong $150,000 Queens County on New Year’s Eve and could be joined by graded-stakes winner Ridin With Biden. Both horses are owned by Cash is King and LC Racing.
Eloquist, a sophomore son of Nyquist, won a pair of optional-claimers ahead of his gate-to-wire score under Lopez in the Discovery, besting multiple stakes winner Barese by a nose in a hard-fought affair over a muddy and sealed main track.
“He was a little tired afterwards with shipping and racing, but he ran the race of his life last week,” Reid, Jr. said. “I’m real happy with how he came out of it, nice and sound. He’s galloping every day and showing a little bounce in his step.”
Reid, Jr. said LC Racing, Cash is King and Gary Barber’s multiple graded-stakes placed Morning Matcha has earned some time off following her rallying third-place effort in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Comely on November 25 at the Big A.
“She had a really rough trip in there, but I was happy with her effort,” Reid, Jr. said. “She’ll be heading down to Barry Eisaman’s place in Ocala. She’s been going steady for well over a year since last Saratoga. She hasn’t missed a dance and has done us proud every time she’s run. She deserves a good two, three months in the sunshine and munching on some grass, and that’s what she’s going to get.”
The 3-year-old Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Central Banker, purchased for $18,000 at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale, boasts a record of 17-4-5-5 for purse earnings of $653,390. She captured the Main Line in March at Parx and earned graded placings when third in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks in July and a solid runner-up try in the Grade 1 Cotilion in September at Parx.
Reid, Jr. has enjoyed a solid run of form in the past month in Big A stakes, posting a record of 5-2-1-1. He could look to improve on that record on Saturday with Cash is King and LC Racing’s multiple stakes-winner Disco Ebo in the $120,000 Garland of Roses at six furlongs for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.
The Weigelia sophomore has won her last two starts, including an optional-claiming sprint in October at Penn National ahead of her aforementioned Youngstown Oaks score on November 21.
“I haven’t confirmed that yet, but it’s not out of the question. It’s a little quicker back than I wanted, but she’s training very well and very happy,” Reid, Jr. said. “We’ll see how she is the next couple of days and decide if we’re going to enter on Wednesday or not.”
Reid, Jr. said he is really appreciative of his successful recent run in the Empire State.
“It’s a tough place to win races, but I’m fortunate to have quality horses with good owners, who give me the opportunity to compete in these kind of races,” Reid, Jr. said. “I’m glad for everyone involved. My assistants and the grooms and hot walkers have all done a sensational job. A lot has to go right to have that kind of success and we’ve been very fortunate that it’s worked out.”
Dubyuhnell awarded 90BSF for G2 Remsen score
West Paces Racing and Stonestreet Stables’ Dubyuhnell began his journey down the road to the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on a high note with a hard-fought victory in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen at Aqueduct Racetrack for trainer Danny Gargan.
Dubyuhnell earned the winner’s share of the 10-4-3-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points awarded to the top-five finishers, placing him in fifth on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
“He’s a really talented horse and I know yesterday they gave him a big number,” said Gargan. “He’s a horse who is going to get better with time. He’s developing and maturing and he’s still playing around out there. He was flickering his ears back and forth and he’s still got a lot left in there; with time he’ll give more and more. If he gets much faster, he’ll be really fast.”
The Good Magic bay was fourth on debut in a seven-furlong sprint in September at Saratoga Race Course and arrived at the nine-furlong Remsen from a maiden win going one-mile over a sloppy and sealed Big A on October 2, the same track condition he faced in the Remsen when stretching out to two turns for the first time.
“It’s a progression. We ran him seven-eighths and then a mile and now a mile and an eighth,” said Gargan. “We were looking for a route race when we ran him seven-eighths but it’s limited with what races go. We were lucky enough we got a race in him and then he came back and broke his maiden. Things sometimes work out and it all fell into place for him.”
That experience helped Dubyuhnell come out on the winning end of a dramatic stretch duel with the New York-bred Arctic Arrogance yesterday, stalking just behind the Linda Rice trainee before the pair opened up seven lengths on the field at the stretch call and went stride for stride until Dubyuhnell inched clear under left-handed encouragement from Jose Ortiz. A determined Dubyuhnell scored the half-length victory in a final time of 1:50.88.
“They went three quarters in 1:12 and when you’re going a mile and an eighth at Aqueduct, that’s a pretty fast pace,” said Gargan. “I was pretty confident down the stretch because you could tell when Jose hits him left-handed, he takes off more. I said to Jose, ‘You really weren’t going after him much.’ He said, ‘There was no one coming and I knew I could beat the horse on the inside.’ He rode him with a lot of confidence and that was good to see for a 2-year-old.
“He’ll get a mile and a quarter,” added Gargan. “He doesn’t have to go much further to get the mile and a quarter. Going a mile and an eighth and at the end of it having more than the other horses is pretty exciting to see.”
Gargan said Dubyuhnell will head to Florida to continue his training with his eye on a potential return to Aqueduct for a start in the Grade 3 Withers in February and/or the Grade 2 Wood Memorial in April.
“We’ll see how things go this winter and then map out a plan for him for the spring,” said Gargan. “We’ll probably run two or three times this winter and maybe come back for the Withers and if not, the Wood, because we know he likes the track. Those are definitely options, and he could also run at Gulfstream one time. Mo Donegal ran once at Gulfstream and came back for the Wood, so he could do something like that.”
Dubyuhnell is out of the multiple graded stakes-winning Forest Wildcat mare Wild Gams, who was named the 2008 New Jersey-bred Horse of the Year and was purchased for $1 million by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings that same year. In addition to Dubyuhnell, she has produced multiple graded stakes-winner Cazadero, graded stakes-placed Almost Famous and stakes-winner Mt. Brave.
G2 Remsen runner-up Arctic Arrogance points to Jerome
Chester and Mary Broman’s New York homebred Arctic Arrogance, who finished a game second to Dubyuhnell in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen at Aqueduct Racetrack, will target either the Jerome in January or the Grade 3 Withers in February at the Big A for his next start.
“He came back good and we’ll get him back to the track in a few days. I was very happy with the race,” said trainer Linda Rice. “I was considering waiting for the Jerome, but I said, ‘You know what, we better go now.’ We’ll either run in the Jerome or the Withers [next]; I’ve got to see how he comes out of the race.”
The one-mile Jerome offers 10-4-3-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, while the nine-furlong Withers provides 20-8-6-4-2 points.
Arctic Arrogance, who earned four qualifying points towards a start in the Kentucky Derby for his performance, made his open-company debut off a prominent victory in the state-bred Sleepy Hollow on October 30 at Belmont at the Big A. There, he set the tempo and was challenged by Starquist at the half-mile call, but pulled away easily from his rivals at the top of the stretch to win by 4 1/2 lengths.
He showed similar frontrunning tactics in the Remsen and was pressured by Dubyuhnell throughout as the pair put seven lengths between them and the rest of the field at the top of the stretch. The two put on a show down the lane and battled gamely to the wire, but Dubyuhnell gained the advantage nearing the finish and bested Arctic Arrogance by a half-length.
Rice said she is proud the gray son of Frosted’s performance throughout the year.
“Four starts is enough for a 2-year-old and it’s been a terrific campaign for him,” said Rice. “To have him run second at a mile and an eighth is fantastic.”
The Remsen was one of two graded placings on Saturday’s card for Rice, who also sent out Cloud Nine Stable’s New York-bred Betsy Blue to a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Go for Wand. The daughter of Tonalist entered from a close fourth-place effort in the Iroquois against fellow state-breds on October 30 at Belmont at the Big A and earned her first graded placing in her first try at that level.
The consistent Betsy Blue has hit the board in 14-of-16 starts for her connections since being haltered for $50,000 out of a winning effort last March at Aqueduct. She made her stakes debut a winning one in the seven-furlong state-bred Bouwerie last May at Belmont Park, dominating her five rivals by 5 1/4 lengths. Since then, she has posted four more victories at allowance level across the three NYRA tracks.
“Betsy is a love,” said Rice. “We’ve had her a couple years and I just wanted to get a chance to get a graded placing for her and secure a broodmare future for her because we love her.”
Rice said Betsy Blue could target the Grade 3, $250,000 Barbara Fritchie on February 18 at Laurel Park next.
“I don’t know exactly where I’m going to go, but I kind of am looking at the Barbara Fritchie in the long term,” said Rice. “Maybe we would run once or twice before then. She’s just been amazing.”