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Aqueduct Racetrack Notes - February 21

By NYRA Press Office | 02/21/2014 03:41 PM ET
In Trouble
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

  • G2 Futurity winner In Trouble to make 2014 debut in G3 Gotham
  • Moonlight Song could become Baker's first graded stakes starter in G3 Tom Fool
  • Pletcher could have trio in Gotham; Teem Pauline on target for G2 Top Flight
  • Fields taking shape for Gotham Day stakes

Set to make his 3-year-old debut on March 1 in the Grade 3, $500,000 Gotham is Team D Stable's In Trouble, who was 2-for-2 as a juvenile including a 2 ¼-length victory in the Grade 2 Futurity in September at Belmont Park.

The 1 1/16-mile Gotham will be the Tiz Wonderful colt's first start beyond six furlongs, having broken his maiden going 5 ½ furlongs on August 10 at Saratoga Race Course.

"I don't know [about the distance], but I feel good about trying it," said trainer Tony Dutrow. "He's excellent; he's really, really happy. I feel the horse is ready to give us what he's got Saturday."

In Trouble has been based this winter at Palm Meadows Training Center, where he breezed five furlongs in 1:02.75 on Friday morning.

Surfing U S A, second last time out to Top Billing in a first-level optional claimer at Gulfstream Park, heads a trio of possible contenders from trainer Todd Pletcher for the 1 1/16-mile Gotham. Also under consideration for the race are Master Lightning, most recently fourth in the Miracle Wood at Laurel Park, and possibly Harpoon, beaten a nose in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis on February 1 at Tampa Bay Downs.

"Surfing U S A probably got a little tired going long for the first time," said Pletcher of the Roman Ruler colt, beaten 2 ¾ lengths by Top Billing in the 1 1/16-mile race. "Aside from finishing second, we were pleased with his effort. Hopefully he will move forward in his second race going two turns."

Master Lightning, who closed out his juvenile campaign with a victory in an optional claimer at the Big A, opened 2014 with a seventh-place finish in the Grade 2 Jerome, and then improved his position slightly to finish 10 ¾ lengths back in the Miracle Wood.

"He put himself in an impossible position early on," said Pletcher. "We feel he's better than that race and should get another chance."

The trainer said he had not yet made a decision on where Harpoon, 1-4-0 from five starts, would next run but said the Gotham was under consideration.

Pletcher also will send out multiple stakes winner Teen Pauline and Royal Lahaina in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap next Saturday.

"She's really found herself going two turns," said Pletcher of Teen Pauline, who opened her 4-year-old campaign with a victory in the Affectionately.

Charlton Baker has trained since 1998 and has won 1,268 races from 5,555 starts but has never been represented in a graded stakes. That could change on March 1 as Baker hopes he'll have Moonlight Song ready for the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap.

Moonlight Song, a 7-year-old half-brother to 2009 Grade 3 Excelsior victor Giant Moon, would be stepping up in class off a 1 ½-length triumph in the Gold and Roses overnight stakes for New York-breds on January 16 at Aqueduct. In his final two 2013 starts, the Albert Fried homebred was second against state-breds in the Hudson Handicap in October at Belmont and won an open optional claimer by two lengths in December at Aqueduct.

"He's 50/50 to run [in the Tom Fool]," said Baker, who competes at Aqueduct Racetrack in the winter and splits his horses between NYRA's tracks and Finger Lakes Racetrack the rest of the year. "I need to get another work into him. It'd be nice if I could do that."

Since winning on January 16, Moonlight Song has turned in one workout, a four-furlong breeze in 48.03 seconds over the Belmont training track on February 10.

"He's a 7-year-old who is lightly raced and is in his best form right now," said Baker. "We've been spacing his races, and that seems to have helped."

Moonlight Song has raced on or within one length of the early leader in his past five starts, but Baker thinks the son of Unbridled's Song would benefit if he came from farther off the pace in the Tom Fool.

"He runs his best when he sits two or three lengths off," said Baker. "He has speed, but when he uses it he doesn't finish as strongly."

A trio of graded stakes will highlight the card on Saturday, March 1, comprised of the Grade 3, $500,000 Gotham for 3-year-olds doing 1 1/16 miles, the Grade 2, $200,000 Top Flight Handicap at 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares, and the Grade 2, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap for sprinters.

Likely for the Gotham, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, are Treadway Racing Stable's New York-bred Deceived, an 8 ¼-length winner of an optional claimer last time out; Extrasexyhippzster, winner of two consecutive stakes including the Don Rickles on December 21 at the Big A; Grade 2 Nashua runner-up Financial Mogul, most recently sixth in the Grade 2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park; Grade 2 Futurity winner In Trouble, making his 3-year-old debut; Grade 3 Withers runner-up Uncle Sigh, and the Todd Pletcher-trained pair of Surfing U S A, second in an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park, and Master Lightning, fourth in the Miracle Wood behind winner Extrasexyhippzster at Laurel Park last time out.

Coup de Grace, Cousin Stephen, Empire Dreams and Harpoon are possible.

Reunited for the Top Flight will be Ladies Handicap winner Teen Pauline and third-place finisher Centring, along with Royal Lahaina, who was fifth in that race. Other possible starters include Ladies runner-up Flash Forward, Flores Island, who will be making her stakes debut, and last year's winner, Summer Applause.

Grade 1 winner Strapping Groom, a 6 ½-length winner of theGravesand Handicap on December 21, is expected to head the field for the Tom Fool. Also likely for the race are Candyman E and Dads Caps, who finished first and second, respectively, in the Grade 3 Toboggan and the Spooky Mulder in their last two meetings, along with third-place Toboggan finisher Non Stop; Jake N Elwood, making his 2014 debut; and Moonlight Song, a half-brother to Giant Moon who took the Gold and Roses stakes for New York-breds last time out. Hackleton, most recently victorious in an optional claimer, is possible.