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Aqueduct Racetrack Notes - November 1

By NYRA Press Office | 11/01/2013 04:58 PM ET
Saratoga Snacks
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

  • Saratoga Snacks remains under consideration for G1 Cigar Mile
  • Field taking shape for G3 Long Island 'Cap
  • Toscano hopes to keep success going at Big A
  • Trakus to be unveiled at Aqueduct later in the meet

Trainer Gary Sciacca reported that Bill Parcells' Saratoga Snacks has emerged from his victory in the Empire Classic on October 19 at Belmont Park in good shape and is being considered for three stakes, including the Grade 1, $500,000 Cigar Mile Handicap on November 30 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

"He's getting ready to breeze [within the next few days]," said Sciacca of the 4-year-old New York-bred ridgling. "He'll go a half-mile or five-eighths. He's doing well. We're on track for something we don't know yet."

In addition to the Cigar Mile, Saratoga Snacks could make his next start in the Swatara on November 27 at Penn National or in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on November 29 at Churchill Downs.

Regardless of which race Sciacca and Parcells select, it will be Saratoga Snacks' first race against open company since he won an allowance in September 2012 at Belmont. He has made five starts against New York-breds since then, winning the 2012 Alex M. Robb at Aqueduct and the Shy Groom overnight stakes in June at Belmont in addition to his 2013 Empire Classic triumph. He was second in the 2012 Empire Classic.

"Last year he ran in the Alex M. Robb, which is later on [in December]," said Sciacca. "I'll probably give him a break during the winter, just freshen him up and get him ready April 1

Next Saturday's Grade 3 Long Island Handicap will feature a group of well-traveled fillies and mares for the first graded turf stakes of the Aqueduct fall meet.


Among those expected for the 1 ½-mile race, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, is the H. Graham Motion-trained Strathnaver, most recently victorious in the Lady Baltimore at Laurel Park on September 21. The 4-year-old Oasis Dream filly, who began her career in England, won her first two American starts, including the Grade 3 Bewitch at Keeneland Race Course in April. Motion is also considering the Long Island for Inimitable Romanee, 0-2-3 in six starts this year.

Likely as well are Left a Message and Angel Terrace, second and third, respectively, in the Dowager at Keeneland last time out; Anjaz, coming off a second in the Waya in August at Saratoga Race Course; White Rose, seventh in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational last time out, and the Christophe Clement-trained pair of Tabreed, making her graded stakes debut on the heels of an allowance win at Keeneland, and Aigue Marine, third in last year's Long Island in her stateside debut.

Coming off his most successful meet at Belmont Park, where he finished tied for eighth in the trainer standings with eight winners, John Toscano, Jr. is hoping to keep the momentum going as racing gets underway at the Big A.

"We're on the rise, and hopefully we can continue," said Toscano, who currently has 20 horses in training.

Long a fixture in New York, where he first began training in 1970 at the age of 26, Toscano's best-known runner is probably Sinister G, winner of the Grade 2 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland Race Course in 2004. This year, he's saddled several stakes starters, including Keep Me Informed, fourth in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap, but most of his success has come in claiming races. Overall, his runners are 18-10-21 from 139 starts on the NYRA circuit with earnings of $869,424.

"Two of my primary owners [Bran Jam Stable and White Wabbit Wacing] are expanding," said Toscano. "This year has been exciting. It's exciting when you're doing well, not so much when you're not. We operate basically a claiming stable, most of our acquisitions are claims, although occasionally, we buy a two-year-old. It's a business, and we try to run it like a business."

A family business. All three of Toscano's sons are involved in racing: Paul, a former jockey, works as an exercise rider for the barn; Robert, a stage hand on Broadway, is an owner and, John, III works as a mutuel supervisor at NYRA and helps out in the morning as well.

While some years have been leaner than others, Toscano says he's never thought about retiring.

"What's the sense," he said. "I'm here seven days a week, 5:30 or 6 o'clock. It keeps the blood flowing, keeps you young. What else would I be doing?"

Following initial testing, Trakus will become operational at Aqueduct Racetrack later in the meet.

Trakus made its debut in September at Belmont Park and also will be used at Saratoga Race Course. The system allows viewers to follow the precise position of each horse throughout a race via colored "chicklets" at the bottom of the television screen and collects data such as the total number of feet traveled by a horse and its average speed during a race.

To make Trakus work, a tiny transponder is placed in the saddletowel of each horse. The transponder sends a signal to antennas around the racetrack to generate, via computer, a digital image that is shown on the bottom of the television screen corresponding to the saddletowel colors. The chicklets move in real-time, showing the actual position of the horses relative to the pack.