Mar 5, 2020
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Aqueduct Racetrack Notes 3.5.20

by NYRA Press Office

  • Panthera Onca can improve in Busher; Cox updates on Answer In, British Idiom, Arklow and Hieronymus
  • Flap Jack hopes to score another stakes upset in G3 Gotham
  • G1 Belmont Stakes-winner Sir Winston using Florida trip to prep for G1 Dubai World Cup
  • Sciacca hoping to build on strong meet with Sicilia Mike in G3 Tom Fool
  • Godolphin's well-bred Brassy to make career debut for Albertrani 

Trainer Brad Cox will be represented by the improving Panthera Onca in Saturday's $250,000 Busher Invitational at the Big A for sophomore fillies, a Kentucky Oaks qualifying race offering 50-20-10-5 points to the top-four finishers.

Saturday's four-stakes card at the Big A will be anchored by the Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham, a Kentucky Derby prep race providing 50-20-10-5 qualifying points to the top-four finishers, and is bolstered by the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool for 4-years-old and up and the $125,000 Stymie for 4-year-olds and up.

Panthera Onca, a Super Saver bay out of the graded-stakes winning Carson City mare Molta Vita, made her first three starts for trainer Timothy Kreiser before being purchased by Narola and joining the Cox barn to finish second in the Ruthless on January 20 at the Big A.

Panthera Onca set a pressured paced in the seven-furlong Ruthless and held second by a nose over Miss Marissa. Cox said he is hopeful the well-bred Panthera Onca will continue to improve.

"She seems to be getting better with experience, and she's trained well out of her last start," said Cox.

Panthera Onca graduated at first asking in a six-furlong maiden sprint in October at Penn National before a pair of optional-claiming starts at Laurel Park. Cox said the Laurel experience should be beneficial for Panthera Onca in Saturday's one-turn mile.

"She's run out of the chute before at Laurel, so I think she'll handle the one-turn mile," said Cox. "It's a bit of a step up on Saturday, but I think she'll be competitive."

Cox, the third-leading trainer in North America last year with more than $2.8-million in purse earnings, is well-represented in the sophomore Classics with Eclipse Award champion 2-year-old filly British Idiom and graded-stakes placed Kentucky Derby hopeful Answer In.

Owned by Michael Dubb, The Elkstone Group, Madaket Stables and Bethlehem Stables, British Idiom graduated impressively in August at Saratoga ahead of Grade 1 wins in the Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita.

The Flashback chestnut finished second in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds in her seasonal debut and is under consideration for the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 21 or the Grade 1 Ashland set for April 4 at Keeneland.

"She's continued to train well and will breeze again on Saturday. We're looking at the Fair Grounds Oaks or the Ashland at Keeneland," said Cox.

Answer In, owned by Robert LaPenta and Madaket Stables, launched his career at Churchill Downs where he won at second asking in a seven-furlong maiden sprint. He completed his juvenile campaign with a runner-up effort in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park.

After finishing third in the Grade 3 Southwest at Oaklawn Park in his seasonal debut, Answer In came back to breeze a sharp half-mile in 48.60 seconds at the Hot Springs, Arkansas oval.

Cox said he is considering a number of options for the Dialed In gelding including the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on April 4 at Aqueduct. The 1 1/8 event is the final local Derby prep offering the top four finishers 100-40-20-10 points.

"He's doing well," said Cox. "He's been back to the work tab since the Southwest and we're looking at a few options for him including the Bluegrass (April 4 at Keeneland), the Rebel (March 14 at Oaklawn) and the Wood is something we'd look at as well."

Cox will again have a significant presence on the Belmont turf this spring with veteran Grade 1 winner Arklow and promising sophomore Hieronymus.

Donegal Racing, Joseph Bulger and Peter Coneway's Arklow endured three narrow losses in graded stakes on the NYRA circuit last year before earning his first Grade 1 win in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational in October at Belmont. The hard-trying 6-year-old son of Arch finished second, by a neck, in both the Grade 1 Man o' War and Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup at the 2019 Belmont spring meet. He then rallied for third, defeated a half-length, in the Grade 2 Bowling Green at Saratoga in July.

In the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, Arklow prevailed in a three-horse photo finish by a half-length over Channel Maker, who was a head better than Sadler's Joy in third.

"That was a fantastic moment. I was at Keeneland that day and watching on my phone while in the paddock saddling another horse," recalled Cox. "It was a big accomplishment and the horse is definitely worthy of a Grade 1 win given his history of knocking on the door in those types of races. He gives a big effort every time and we're proud he was able to knock that off."

Cox said Arklow will look to go one better in this year's Grade 1, $700,000 Man o' War slated for May 9 over 1 3/8-miles of Belmont turf.

"That's our short term goal. We'll try to get one more race into him before the Man o' War which is our goal for this spring," said Cox.

Godolphin homebred Hieronymus, by Girolamo and out of the stakes winning Pleasantly Perfect mare Pamona Ball, is in the midst of a three-race win streak at Fair Grounds. The improving chestnut earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure in winning the Randy P. Romero Memorial by 9 3/4-lengths on February 1 and garnered a 91 Beyer for three-quarter length score in the Black Gold on February 29.

"He's nice. He's really picked it up the last few races and his figures are improving in these last two stakes victories," said Cox. "He's come out of it in good shape and we're really pleased with him over the winter. We're hoping he'll continue to improve this spring and graduate to graded stakes company."

While opportunities in the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland on April 3 and the Grade 2 American Turf on May 2 at Churchill Downs loom as next-out spots, Cox said NYRA's Turf Triple series, which kicks off with the Grade 1 $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational on July 11 is a long-term goal.

"It's definitely a consideration. When those races come up, he'll be nominated as long as he's doing well," said Cox.

Flap Jack hopes to score another stakes upset in G3 Gotham

Trainer Jack Sisterson will bring stakes winner Flap Jack off a six-month layoff in Saturday's Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham.

Owned by Brad Kelley's Calumet Farm, the sophomore son of Oxbow has recorded three starts all over different surfaces. He last raced when breaking his maiden against stakes company in the Arlington-Washington Futurity over Arlington Park's all-weather surface.

Coming out of the gate, Flap Jack lightly clashed with a foe to his outside, was tucked in along the rail, floated out four wide just past the quarter-pole and found a new gear, drawing off to win by four lengths at 17-1.

Flap Jack has been training forwardly at Fair Grounds this winter and most recently recorded a half-mile breeze in 49.20 seconds on February 29.

"The one turn mile is perfect. We ran Oxy Lady up there in the Tempted awhile back, who's an Oxbow as well, and she handled the one-turn mile," Sisterson said. "He's been breezing very well at Fair Grounds and he's sharp right now. The fitness is somewhat of a question mark, but I think he'll run great. The talent is there, and we want to give him a good experience."

Flap Jack's lone one-mile experience took place two starts back over the turf at Arlington Park going two turns. Breaking from the outside post, Flap Jack tracked a leisurely pace in second and fought gamely down the stretch to maintain his position, finishing ahead of subsequent stakes-winner Pixelate.

"He's done everything that we've asked of him. He went two turns at Arlington last year and got beat by a horse that went out and got an easy lead, but he galloped out great," Sisterson said. "He has speed and can be positioned early. Off the layoff, it's be a bit silly of us to try and make the lead. If we use ourselves too early, he'll end up getting too tired. Hopefully, the speed comes back to us at the end."

Jockey Declan Carroll, who rode at Aqueduct during the first half of the winter meet, will have the call aboard Flap Jack from post 9.

A Kentucky homebred, Flap Jack is out of the Tapit broodmare Synkros and comes from the same family as 2005 Kentucky Oaks winner Summerly.

Belmont Stakes-winner Sir Winston using Florida trip to prep for G1 Dubai World Cup

Belmont Stakes-winner Sir Winston continues to train well ahead of the Group 1, $12 million Dubai World Cup, trainer Mark Casse said, as the 4-year-old son of Awesome Again is stabled at the Florida-based Palm Meadows Training Center.

Wednesday saw Tracy Farmer's Sir Winston breeze five furlongs in 1:02 flat on the dirt track, marking his third work since winning an optional claimer by 2 ¼ lengths on January 31 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The winner of the 2019 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, which he accomplished at 10-1 odds to give Casse his first career American Classic victory, had previously been stabled at Belmont Park. But with the Dubai World Cup and its expected humid conditions slated for March 28, Casse said he wanted to ship his charge to a warmer climate to get acclimated ahead of his trip to the United Arab Emirates.

"He worked well. A C-plus work for Sir Winston is an A for anybody else. He's just not that much of a workhorse," Casse said. "One of the reasons why I brought him here and one of the reasons why I didn't run him in the Bernardini is I just thought it was more important that he got to some warmer weather."

Casse eschewed running Sir Winston in the 1 5/16-mile $100,000 Bernardini on February 29 at the Big A as he set his sights on the 10-furlong Dubai World Cup. That race, headlining a day of six Group 1 contests and three Groups 2s at Meydan Racecourse, has seen Mucho Gusto and Tacitus, the fourth-and-fifth-place finishers in the $20 million Saudi World Cup on February 29, staying overseas in preparation to come back in the Dubai World Cup.

Sir Winston did not race for more than sixth months after his "Test of the Champion" score before returning with a disappointing turf effort, running 12th in the Woodchopper on December 28 at Gulfstream Park. Returning to dirt for his 4-year-old bow, Sir Winston rallied from last of seventh to win the one-turn mile, earning a 93 Beyer.

Gary Barber and Michael Sebastian's Untitled will be looking to earn stakes blacktype for the first time and also accrue Kentucky Derby qualifying points in Saturday's Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham at Aqueduct.

Untitled, who won his debut in his only juvenile appearance on December 14 at Gulfstream Park, ran fourth in stepping up to stakes company in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Swale on February 1 on the same track. Casse stretched out the Khozan colt for his next start, where he responded by running second to Gouverneur Morris [the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders' Futurity runner-up in October] at one mile and 40 yards on February 14.

Untitled shipped to New York on Wednesday ahead of the Gotham, where he drew post 10 in the 11-horse field. He is listed as the 4-1 second choice on the morning line. Mischevious Alex is the 3-1 favorite.

After running all three of his previous starts in the Sunshine State, Untitled will try to find similar success on the Big A's main track.

"It's so hard to say, but so far, he's handled Gulfstream and Tampa. He's a pretty good horse, so he shouldn't have trouble handling anything," Casse said. "He ran well last time and got beat by a good horse. A mile is perfect for him."

Sciacca hoping to build on strong meet with Sicilia Mike in G3 Tom Fool

Currently tied for seventh place in the Big A winter meet trainer standings with nine victories, conditioner Gary Sciacca will look to capture his first graded stakes win since 2002 when he when he saddles New York-bred Sicilia Mike in Saturday's Grade 3 Tom Fool.

The son of Girolamo, claimed in 2017 for Sciacca, has made 48 career starts with five wins, 16 second place finishes, and nine thirds. Sicilia Mike wrapped up his 2019 campaign with a New York-bred allowance victory on December 30, and kicked off his 6-year-old season on February 8, capturing an open company allowance race recording a 90 Beyer.

Encouraged with his training since that effort, Sciacca is opting towards a start in the Grade 3 Tom Fool even though he has also cross entered Sicilia Mike in an open-company allowance race at Aqueduct on Friday.

"His last two efforts were very good," said Sciacca. "I'd have to say I'm leaning towards running him in the Tom Fool. He'll need the right setup. He's a closer, but he's doing very well at the moment, so that's the direction I'm leaning towards as of today."

Sciacca notched a stakes victory earlier in the winter meet when Eddie F's Racing's 3-year-old New York-bred Chowda captured the Gander on February 16. The veteran conditioner said the Emcee colt would next target the $100,000 Damon Runyon for state-breds on Saturday, March 15.

Chowda graduated at third asking in November at the Big A, but followed up with a disappointing sixth-place finish on an off track in the NYSSS Great White Way. He captured a first-level state-bred allowance on January 17 before winning the Gander.

"He's continuing to do great," said Sciacca. "He really came out of his last effort well. Next we'll target the Damon Runyon on March 15. The New York-bred stakes program is a great program and really enables us to target races every month."

Ed Fazzone, who races under the nom de course Eddie F's Racing, also owns the popular Eddie F's New England Seafood in Saratoga Springs, New York. They'll look to continue a winning recipe with Chowda's 2-year-old full brother Lobsta,who Sciacca reports is currently being legged up in Virginia and should be ready to make his debut sometime this spring.

"His full brother Lobsta is another runner we're looking forward to later this year," added Sciacca. "He's currently in Virginia but should be with us in about a month and hopefully he can make his debut sometime in May. It's exciting, especially the way Chowda has run so far. Hopefully, Lobsta can follow his path."

Godolphin's well-bred Brassy to make career debut for Albertrani

Trainer Tom Albertrani, who conditions horses for Godolphin, is no stranger to having well-bred horses in his barn. In Race 4 on Saturday at the Big A, the veteran conditioner will debut sophomore filly Brassy, who boasts a highly-regarded pedigree, in a six-furlong maiden sprint.

The bay filly by champion producing sire Medaglia d'Oro is out of the A.P. Indy broodmare Cheeky Charm, who is a half-sister to prominent sire Sky Mesa and multiple stakes winner Golden Velvet. All three are out of the multiple graded stakes winner Caress.

"She's been working quite well and it looks as though she has a great deal of talent," Albertrani said. "My horses don't usually work as fast as her, but she does it all on her own which is very pleasing to see."

Brassy posted a bullet half-mile breeze in 48 flat on February 24 on the Belmont dirt training track in preparation for her career debut.

"All of her works have been on dirt and she's given indications that she should handle it just fine," Albertrani said.

Albertrani could target Woodslane Farm's Sadler's Joy towards a start in the Grade 1, $700,000 Man o' War on May 9 at Belmont Park. The son of Kitten's Joy was a troubled third in the Grade 3 Mac Diarmada at Gulfstream Park last out following a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at the South Florida oval in January.

At the end of last year, Albertrani discussed the possibility of sending the 7-year-old horse to Dubai.

"We've changed direction with him earlier this year," Albertrani said. "We ran in the Pegasus and ran back in the Mac Diarmada and figured we could come back for the Man o' War. He's been pretty hard luck. He got wiped out at the start of the Pegasus and in his last start he got stopped on the turn. He still tries hard every time and runs well."

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