Print this Page Bookmark and Share

Aqueduct Racetrack Notes - Mar. 28, 2013

By NYRA Press Office | 03/28/2013 02:16 PM ET
PHOTO/Courtney Heeney


  • Undefeated 3-year-olds Verrazano and Vyjack head probables for the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial on April 6
  • Fields taking shape for G2 Gazelle, G1 Carter, G3 Bay Shore and G2 Ruffian on Wood undercard
  • Calvin Borel to ride Always in a Tiz in Wood
  • Improving Mr Palmer looks to be The King of the Wood
  • Hushion hoping for big 2013 from Puerto Rican import My Wandy’s Girl


Undefeated 3-year-olds Verrazano and Vyjack are expected to head the field for the 89th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial on April 6, Aqueduct Racetrack’s final major prep for the May 4 Kentucky Derby.

Unraced as a 2-year-old, Verrazano won his first two starts at Gulfstream Park by a combined margin of 24 lengths, and heads into the 1 1 /8-mile Wood off a commanding three-length victory on March 9 in the Grade 2 Tampa Derby. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Let’s Go Stable color-bearer will again have the services of Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the Wood.

Vyjack will be seeking his fifth consecutive victory at Aqueduct for Pick Six Racing. At age 2, the Into Mischief gelding broke his maiden on November 10 and took the Traskwood overnight stakes on December 9.

He then launched his 3-year-old campaign with a hard-fought victory around two turns in the Grade 2 Jerome. Most recently he was an impressive winner of the Grade 3 Gotham, rallying from 10th at the top of the stretch and onto a 2 ¼-length win over West Hills Giant.

In addition to those unbeaten sophomores, the Wood is expected to attract the Gotham runner-up and third-place finisher Elnaawi; Mr Palmer, winner of the Private Terms stakes at Laurel Park on March 9; Normandy Invasion, most recently fifth in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds; Always in a Tiz, fifth in Oaklawn’s Grade 3 Southwest, and maiden winners Freedom Child and Quinzieme Monarque.

Indy’s Illusion, beaten a neck on March 10 in a Gulfstream Park optional claimer at the 1 1/8-mile Wood distance, is possible for the race.

Sophomore fillies also will contest a route of ground next Saturday in the Grade 2, $250,000 Gazelle. Expected to head that group is Princess of Sylmar, winner of four straight including a seven-length romp in the Busher on February 2. She is likely to be challenged by Close Hatches, undefeated in two starts; Let Me Entertain U, neck winner of the Beru overnight stakes on March 3 at Aqueduct; Manuka Honey, winner of the Suncoast stakes on March 9 at Tampa Bay Downs; Private Ensign, third in the Grade 2 Davona Dale on February 23 at Gulfstream Park; and maiden winner Watrugonnadorosie. Walkwithapurpose, winner of three straight stakes at Laurel Park, was listed as possible.

The Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap, one of two seven-furlong stakes on the card, could draw the first three finishers from the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap in Discreet Dancer, Swagger Jack, and Fort Loudon. Other probables include the runner-up and fourth-place finishers from Aqueduct Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap, Saturday’s Charm and Consortium; along with Brigand, who was disqualified from second to fifth in last month’s Grade 3 General George Handicap at Laurel Park. Candyman E, Sahara Sky, and Winslow Homer were listed as possible.

The Grade 3, $250,000 Bay Shore, also at seven furlongs, is expected to attract Maleeh, winner of Aqueduct’s Fred “Cappy” Capossela, along with Grade 3 Swale winner Clearly Now, Grade 2 Hutcheson winner Honorable Dillon, and Glowing Ember, Retreive, Salutos Amigos, Silver Morgan, and Summer Exclusive.

My Wandy’s Girl heads a preliminary list of probables for the Grade 2, $250,000 Ruffian Handicap at one mile. Funnys Approval and Ciao Bella were listed as possible for the race.

Trainer Dominick Schettino today confirmed that Calvin Borel will be aboard MeB Racing Stables’ Always in a Tiz in the $1 million Wood Memorial. The 3-year-old Tiznow colt enters the 1 1/8-mile Wood off a fifth-place finish over a sloppy 1 1/16 miles on February 18 in the Grade 3 Southwest at Oaklawn Park and posted a five-furlong breeze in 1:03.35 on the Belmont Park training track on Thursday.

“Anthony Bonomo, Jr., who is the racing manager for MeB Stables, and I discussed it before making the decision,” said Schettino of the move to Borel, whose last appearance at Aqueduct came in 2010, when he was second on Jackson Bend in the Wood Memorial and second on Hurricane Ike in the Bay Shore. “He knows how to win the big races and he knows how to win the Derby.”

The 47-year-old Borel, who scored his 5,000th career victory on March 7 at Oaklawn Park, has won three of the past six Derbies: in 2007 with Street Sense, in 2009 with 50-1 shot Mine That Bird and in 2010 with Super Saver.

Always in a Tiz, a $175,000 yearling purchase at the Fasig-Tipton sales at Saratoga in 2011, broke his maiden on September 3 at the Spa, finished second to Vyjack in the Traskwood overnight stakes on December 9 at Aqueduct and third by a neck on January 21 in Oaklawn’s Smarty Jones stakes.

Schettino also said that Escapefromreality, second in the Withers and ninth in the Grade 3 Gotham, would make his next start in the Times Square division of the New York Stallion Series on May 5 at Belmont Park.

After failing to distinguish himself in his first four starts, Michael Lauffer and Gregory McDonald’s Mr Palmer has improved vastly since joining Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s New York string and will enter the Wood Memorial on a two-race winning streak.

Soundly beaten in four starts in Kentucky, Mr Palmer finished second by three-quarters of a length in his New York debut, a maiden special weight on Aqueduct’s inner track on December 15. He made an early move along the backstretch when he broke his maiden by a neck on February 17 at the Big A, then employed an outside charge from the back of the pack to win Laurel Park’s Private Terms by 3 ½ lengths on March 9.

“I didn’t see him for two months, and he’s changed from when he first arrived from Churchill,” said Leana Willaford, assistant to Mott. “He’s mentally and physically matured a lot. He’s an attractive horse and a good mover, and as it turned out he’s going to be [a good horse]. He’s made a steady progression almost every start. Some horses just take a little longer.”

Junior Alvarado has ridden Mr Palmer in his past three starts and will have the assignment once again the Wood. Willaford said Alvarado’s patient riding style suits Mr Palmer well.

“Whatever the reasons are, [Mr Palmer] has a tendency to be a little flat footed [at the start],” said Willaford. “Your best move is to let him get himself together and make a run like what Junior did with him last time. He ended up seven wide the other day, but he understands it takes a little to get the horse running. He has to get comfortable with himself, and he takes a little bit of riding. With those types you don’t want to be tapping on the breaks.”

Trainer Michael Hushion has high expectations for Puerto Rican import My Wandy’s Girl, who is set to make her next start in the Grade 2, $250,000 Ruffian Handicap on the Wood Memorial undercard.

On Thursday, My Wandy’s Girl breezed five furlongs on Belmont’s training track in 1:02.57.

“The hope is she’s a serious filly, and I think she is, so I think it will be nothing but the top races from here,” said Hushion, who trains the 4-year-old for Guillermo Berrios. “I’m not going plan any farther than this race; I don’t know whether she’ll need four weeks or eight weeks after this race. I’ll let the horse do the talking.”

From late January through August, My Wandy’s Girl won eight straight races, including three stakes, in Puerto Rico before she was sent to Hushion’s barn in New York. For Hushion she has won the Pentelis overnight stakes, finished third in the Grade 1 Gazelle, and missed by three-quarters of a length when second in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap in February at Laurel. The versatile runner has won at distances ranging from five furlongs to 1 1/8 miles, and Hushion thinks the stretch out from seven furlongs in the Fritchie to one mile in the Gazelle won’t be problematic. 

“She kind of stayed on steady in the race at Laurel, and the gallop outs are very good parts of her works,” said Hushion. “More importantly, the more distance, the better. I hope everybody can see what she is: a real nice filly.”