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Aqueduct Racetrack Notes - March 28

By NYRA Press Office | 03/28/2014 03:49 PM ET
Uncle Sigh
PHOTO/Photo/Adam Coglianese

  • Contessa pleased with Uncle Sigh's progress toward G1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial
  • Impressive maiden winner Regent's House possible for G2 Gazelle
  • Fields coming together for TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial, G1 Carter, G2 Gazelle and G3 Bay Shore
  • Ortiz brothers, Jacobson, Drawing Away Stable top final inner track meet standings

Trainer Gary Contessa seemed pleased with what he saw physically and mentally on Friday morning after Grade 1, $1 million TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial hopeful Uncle Sigh had an easy gallop around Belmont Park's training track, his second day back after a six-furlong work in 1:15.12 on Tuesday.

"He's handled everything really well; he could care less," said Contessa of the bay son of Indian Charlie. "He's cool, calm and collected. He's got the right mental frame for all of this. Whether we make it or not to the show, if he does, mentally, he is on par. He'll look at 150,000 people and say, 'Eh, whatever.' That's such a huge asset."

Contessa said he would like to get one more breeze into Uncle Sigh prior to the Wood, either on Monday or Tuesday.

"Last week I wanted to work him Saturday, and it didn't work out," he said. "It looks like it'll be OK to work him Monday or Tuesday. That would be the game plan. He had a sensational work the other day. Galloped out a mile in 1:43; he could probably run off that. I don't feel like I'm under any pressure to say 'Oh, he absolutely has to work Monday.' If he doesn't work Monday, he'll work Tuesday, maybe an easy half-mile or something."

Owned by Wounded Warrior Stables, Uncle Sigh enters the 1 1/8-mile Wood off a pair of narrow losses to undefeated Samraat in the Grade 3 Withers and the Grade 3 Gotham, races Contessa likened to Rocky and Rocky II.

"Maybe this will be Rocky III," said Contessa.

Darley Stable's Regent's House, who won by 6 ½ lengths in her only start, is under consideration for the Grade 2 Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies on the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial undercard, according to Art Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

Regent's House, the first winner out of two-time champion and 2014 Hall of Fame candidate Ashado, debuted on March 9 in a six-furlong maiden race on the inner track. The Gazelle will be contested at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

"We want to see who goes in there," said Magnuson. "It's just a question of timing, but we definitely think she is that kind of filly. Is it the right thing to do right now?"

Regent's House is by Street Cry, making her a full-sister to Steele Road, the only other starter out of Ashado. Steele Road had two runner-up and one third-place finish in five starts. Ashado's only other foal of racing age is unraced.

Saturday, April 5 will be anchored by the Grade 1, $1 million TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial, Aqueduct Racetrack's major prep for the Kentucky Derby, to go along with three supporting graded stakes: the Grade 1, $500,000 Carter Handicap for sprinters, the Grade 2, $300,000 Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles, and the Grade 3, $300,000 Bay Shore for 3-year-old sprinters.

The Wood Memorial is likely to feature a rematch between New York-breds Samraat and Uncle Sigh, who finished first and second, respectively, in the Gotham and Withers. Social Inclusion, sensational winner of an allowance race in his last start at Gulfstream Park, is also expected to join the fray, along with Tonalist, a promising colt for Christophe Clement; Kristo, third in the Grade 2 San Felipe last out; Wicked Strong, fourth in an optional claimer when last on the track; Kid Cruz, winner of the Private Terms at Laurel Park in his most recent outing; Los Borrachos, who broke his maiden on March 8 at the Big A; and Effinex, 6 ¼-length winner of a New York-bred optional claimer on March 23.

Harpoon and Noble Moon are possible for the race.

The Carter Handicap appears to be light on horses but not on quality at this juncture with Grade 1 winners Sahara Sky and Strapping Groom headlining the field. Up-and-coming sprinters Central Banker and Clearly Now are also likely for the race, as well as 2012 Travers winner Golden Ticket.

Sweet Reason is likely to make her return to the graded stakes ranks in the Gazelle. The bay daughter of Street Sense - trained by Leah Gyarmati for Treadway Racing Stable - made her 3-year-old debut in an optional claimer on March 7 at the Big A, a race that was designed to be a prep for the Gazelle. Got Lucky and My Miss Sophia, a pair from the Todd Pletcher barn, are also probable for the race, as well as Bird Maker, most recently fourth in an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park; Regent's House, a convincing debut winner out of Ashado; Taris, sixth-place finisher in the Grade 3 Honeybee at Oaklawn Park last out; Vero Amore, runner-up in the Busher at the Big A two starts back; and Wraith, most recently third behind Sweet Reason.

The Bay Shore is expected to pit one of the best sprinters on the East Coast against one of the best from the West Coast in Havana and Kobe's Back. The latter has an edge in fitness having already run twice this year - including a win in the seven-furlong San Vicente - while the former will be making his first start of the year after a successful 2-year-old campaign that saw him take the Grade 1 Foxwoods Champagne at Belmont Park and finish second in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park. Also probable for the race are Financial Mogul, who will be turning back in distance after contesting the Grade 3 Gotham and Grade 2 Holy Bull; Loki's Vengeance, runner-up in the Fred "Cappy" Capossela last out; Oliver Zip, 4 ½-length winner of the Capossela last out; and Shivarelli, undefeated through two career starts, both at the Big A.

Danza and Long On Value are possible.

Aqueduct's 2013-14 inner track meet concluded on Monday with brothers Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Jose Ortiz 1-2 atop the jockey standings for the second straight year and trainer David Jacobson securing his second straight NYRA meet title.

Irad Ortiz comfortably beat his brother 83-63. Cornelio Velasquez was third with 55 wins. On March 1, Irad Ortiz won a pair of stakes when he took the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap with Teen Pauline and partnered with Jacobson to win the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap with Strapping Groom. Earlier in the meet, Ortiz guided Teen Pauline to stakes wins in the Affectionately and Ladies Handicap. Ortiz also won the Grade 2 Jerome with Noble Moon, Evening Attire with Long River, and Stymie with Farhaan. Last year, Irad edged Jose 79-76 during the inner track meet.

Jacobson, who in 2013 set a NYRA record for wins in a single year and won the Aqueduct fall title, continued his strong run by winning 59 races, 13 more than runner-up Rudy Rodriguez. Linda Rice was third with 20 wins. In addition to winning the Tom Fool, Jacobson sent out Strapping Groom to a victory in the Gravesend Handicap with Junior Alvarado aboard. Jacobson was the dominant force in the older sprinter division, also taking the Grade 3 Toboggan with Candyman E and Hollie Hughes with Be Bullish. In addition, Jacobson was the third-leading owner with 14 wins.

Drawing Away Stable, who owns Strapping Groom and Be Bullish in partnership with Jacobson, was the leading owner with 30 wins. Michael Dubb was second with 22 wins.