By Jon Forbes | 05/21/2010 03:02 PM ET
Ghostzapper and Smok’n Frolic won major races in New York during their racing careers, and their son 3-year-old son now has the opportunity to create his own legacy. Named Hunters Bay, the regally-bred colt became the 11th horse featured in the New York Watch series, which shines the spotlight on promising colts and fillies that have recently cleared the maiden and allowance ranks at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, or Saratoga Race Course.
Fifth in his debut after breaking slowly at Gulfstream Park on April 10, Hunters Bay was ready to roll today at Belmont Park in his second start. Away alertly this time, he set fractions of :23.14 and :45.57 while receiving pace pressure from Loquacious, began to open on the field at the top of the stretch, and drew clear under a brisk hand ride to score by 8 ½ lengths.
“We thought stretching him out would be the key and hoped he’d break a little better,” said Hunters Bay’s trainer Todd Pletcher, who conditioned Smokn’ Frolic during her racing days. “He was definitely more professional second time out. He comes from a pedigree that makes it look like he’ll improve going longer. This is a big step forward, and hopefully he continues to improve. He could have a future.”
Hunters Bay, the 9-2 fifth choice in the field of six, covered the 1 1/16th-mile distance in a snappy 1:41.08. While Pletcher noted how he thought the track was playing on the quick side, winning Jockey John Velazquez was awed nonetheless.
“They were cooking out there,” said Velazquez. “Today was the first time I had seen him, and while he’s still a little green and has a few things to learn, I was impressed.”
Hunters Bay is owned by Frank Stronach, who bred the colt in Kentucky through his Adena Springs operation. Stronach also campaigned his sire Ghostzapper, the 2004 Horse of the Year who dominated the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap here at Belmont in his career finale.
Smok’n Frolic won six graded stakes in her career – including four here in New York – and earned over $1.53 million while racing for owner Dogwood Stable before she was sold as a broodmare prospect at the 2004 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. There she was acquired for $1.25 million by Stronach, who subsequently sold her to Shadai Farm for $750,000 four years later when she was carrying a full brother to Hunters Bay.
Many of the industry’s brightest stars embarked upon their careers at the NYRA tracks, including a number of recent Triple Crown race winners. Big Brown, Jazil, Birdstone, Funny Cide, and Empire Maker are all among the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes victors that kick-started their careers at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, or Saratoga.
The list also includes a brilliant triumvirate of fillies that broke their maidens at Aqueduct. Flashing, Little Belle, and Music Note all registered their first victories at the Big A before going on to win major Grade 1 races within the last two years.