Jan 20, 2022
News Image
Chelsea Durand Photo

Battle Bling possible for Heavenly Prize; Tiz the Law siblings Angel Oak, Infeasible training well for Atras

by NYRA Press Office

  • Battle Bling possible for Heavenly Prize; Tiz the Law siblings Angel Oak, Infeasible training well for Atras
  • Why Why Paul Why ready to answer the call in $100K Jazil
  • Gamestonks stock rising ahead of $100K Busanda; Wondrwherecraigis likely to return in Fire Plug at Laurel
  • Gustavo Rodriguez takes early lead in Under 20s Claiming Challenge

Michael Dubb’s Battle Bling garnered a career-best 87 Beyer Speed Figure for her gritty neck victory over Miss Leslie in the nine-furlong Ladies on Sunday at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Battle Bling earned her first career stakes victory in the Ladies after being claimed for $62,500 by Dubb out of a second-place effort in December at the Big A.

Trainer Rob Atras said the 4-year-old daughter of Vancouver will likely target the $125,000 Heavenly Prize, a one-turn mile for older fillies and mares on March 5 at the Big A.

“She came out of the Ladies really well and we have her nominated to a few spots,” Atras said. “She’s a solid filly and does everything right. We are just kind of testing the waters and feeling things out. We would like to keep her here and maybe try the Heavenly Prize. She’s pretty versatile at a mile or a mile and an eighth, I think she’s shown it in her races. It was a great claim.”

The Ladies was the first nine-furlong victory for Battle Bling, who had previously won going one mile and 1 1/6 miles. The dark bay filly now boasts a record of 3-4-1 from 13 starts and earnings of $203,867.

Dubb earned another stakes victory this meet at Aqueduct with Atras, sending out Chateau to a 3 1/2-length win in the six-furlong Gravesend on December 19. The 7-year-old son of Flat Out drilled a half-mile Wednesday in 50.89 seconds over the Belmont dirt training track in his second work since his Gravesend victory. 

Atras said the dark bay is still on target to try and repeat in the six-furlong Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool for 4-year-olds and up at the Big A on March 5 with a potential start in the seven-furlong Grade 3, $150,000 Toboggan on January 29 as a prep.

“He worked a nice half and we don’t really have a set-in-stone plan for him yet but the Tom Fool is the goal,” Atras said. “He may have a prep but we’d like it to be [at six furlongs] and there’s not a ton of options for that. We would prefer not to ship but we’re still considering a few different options. The Toboggan isn’t completely ruled out, but we are on the fence.”

Chateau has also been nominated to the six-furlong Stonerside Sprint at Sam Houston Park on January 30.

Atras also trains a string of horses for Twin Creeks Racing Stables’, including two New York-bred half-siblings to Grade 1 Belmont and Travers winner Tiz the Law.

Angel Oak, a 4-year-old Mission Impazible filly out of the graded stakes winning Tiznow mare Tizfiz, is a recent addition to Atras’ barn and had her first work for her new conditioner on Wednesday.

The grey went an easy three furlongs in 38.89 over the Belmont dirt training track after shipping up to Belmont from WinStar Training Center in Kentucky.

“We don’t really have a timeline with her yet, but we’re hoping that she turns out nice,” Atras said. “She had a few setbacks over the last little bit and they had to stop on her a few times, but she’s doing really well right now.”

Previously conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, Angel Oak just arrived in Atras’ barn last week and has settled in well.

“We’re very excited about her making her debut,” said Randy Gullatt, manager of Twin Creek Racing Stables. “She had an easy breeze and is pretty far along in her training. She shouldn’t need many more works but the problem is the wintertime. It’s a difficult time of the year to get a horse started with the weather.

“She’s pretty quick and shown plenty of talent and I think she’ll show quite a bit of speed in her races,” Gullatt added. “We want to be careful with her and whenever she’s ready, she’s ready.”

Infeasible, Angel Oak’s 3-year-old full brother, made his debut sprinting six furlongs in a maiden special weight on December 18 at the Big A, finishing seventh in a field of 12 state-bred juveniles. 

“I really just wanted to get a race into him. He’s always carried a little more weight, so I wanted to tuck him up a little and give him some experience,” Atras said. “We definitely want to stretch him out in the near future and we’re looking at a mile state-bred maiden on the 28th.”

The grey gelding breezed three-eighths in 36.60 over the Belmont dirt training track on January 14, the fourth best of 49 works for the distance that day.

“He’s doing good too and I think he just needed more distance,” Gullatt said. “Hopefully we’ll get that soon.”

Twin Creeks Racing Stables also campaigns recent maiden winner Impressionist, another son of Mission Impazible who is potentially eyeing a step up to stakes company in his next start.

Impressionist was deserving of his name in his second career start, romping in a six-furlong maiden special weight on New Year’s Day by 8 1/2 lengths over the sloppy and sealed main track at the Big A.

They 3-year-old grey breezed three furlongs in 39.59 over the Belmont dirt training track on January 14 in his first work since his maiden score.

“He came out of that race good and I was actually going to breeze him today but I didn’t like how sloppy the track was,” Atras said. “Hopefully, we get a better track over the weekend and it dries up.”

Though Atras nominated Impressionist to the seven-furlong $100,000 Jimmy Winkfield on January 30, it is likely he’ll wait for the $100,000 Gander on February 12 to stretch out to a one-turn mile against fellow state-breds.

“I don’t think we’ll go [in the Jimmy Winkfield] and if we don’t think we have him ready for the Gander, we might just target a state-bred allowance with him,” Atras said. “I would like to keep him state-bred, but it depends on what we can do with him from now until them. The weather makes it tough to get in the workouts you need to see to stretch out a younger horse like that.”

Why Why Paul Why ready to answer the call in $100K Jazil

JKX Racing’s Why Why Paul Why brings a four-race win streak at Parx into Saturday's $100,000 Jazil, a nine-furlong test for older horses at the Big A.

He will be trainer Penny Pearce's first stakes starter at Aqueduct since Market Maven finished eighth in last year's Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino.

Why Why Paul Why was claimed for $30,000 out of a sixth-place finish in June at Churchill Downs and has subsequently posted a record of 6-5-1-0 for new connections.

The 5-year-old Archarcharch bay launched his streak on September 8 in an optional-claiming tilt and continued with a four-length score in an off-the-turf allowance on September 28. He then romped to a 7 1/4-length score in a one mile and 70 yard optional claimer ahead of a post-Christmas score last out on December 28 in the one mile and 70 yard Kris Kringle.

"He's really turned out to be an outstanding animal since he got here. One day, he went out there and got away and two-minute licked the day before the race and still won by four the next day," Pearce said.

Pearce said Why Why Paul Why will appreciate the stretch out in distance.

"He likes the two turns. He's just a racehorse. His type are very rare," Pearce said.

Out of the Whywhywhy mare Precious Beauty, Why Why Paul Why was bred in Kentucky by Patchen Wilkes Farm.

Listed at 9-2 on the morning-line, Kendrick Carmouche will pilot Why Why Paul Why from the inside post.

Gamestonks stock rising ahead of $100K Busanda; Wondrwherecraigis likely to return in Fire Plug at Laurel

Trainer Brittany Russell will send out the improving Gamestonks in Sunday's $100,000 Busanda, a nine-furlong test for sophomore fillies offering 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-four finishers.

The dark bay daughter of Blofeld made her first two starts in maiden claimers at Laurel Park, closing to finish eighth in her November 5 debut sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs ahead of a half-length score traveling 1 1/16-miles on November 26 over Jacrodra’s Devil, who exited that effort to win a maiden special weight in December at Charles Town. Jacrodra’s Devil is entered back in Friday’s seventh race at the Big A.

“I never thought she was a sprinter,” Russell said. “First time out it’s sometimes hard to get the right spot to go. She ran great when she broke her maiden. I don't know what she beat that day, but she did it the right way.”

Last out, Gamestonks romped to an 11 1/4-length score in a one-mile optional-claimer on January 5 at Parx.

“It was a great spot at Parx and she took her show on the road and did it the right way,” Russell said. “We would love to have run her in an allowance race, but she seems to want a route of ground and we're going to get that up there. Hopefully, she can get a piece of it.”

Bred in Maryland by JSM Equine, Gamestonks was purchased by owner Designated Hitters Racing for $13,000 at the 2021 OBS June 2-Year-Old and Horses of Racing Age Sale. Out of the Union Rags mare Union Way, Gamestonks has banked $38,295 through three starts.

Russell said the attractive Gamestonks has improved with racing.

“She's balanced and has some leg to her. She's quite a pretty filly and has really matured,” Russell said. “Through each race you can notice a change in her physically, and she actually has quite an athletic look to her now.” 

Trevor McCarthy will pilot Gamestonks.

“She's done everything right,” Russell said. “Hopefully, she can keep going the right way.”

Michael Dubb, The Elkstone Group, Madaket Stables and Michael J. Caruso’s Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap winner Wondrwherecraigis scratched out of the $100,000 Gravesend in December at the Big A with a foot infection.

The 5-year-old Munnings gelding has since posted a series of works at Laurel Park, including a five-eighths effort in 1:01 flat on January 14 over the Laurel Park main track.

“He's doing great. He's been dodging snowflakes, but his health seems to be back to where we need it,” Russell said.

The consistent Wondrwherecraigis, who boasts a record of 10-6-1-1 with purse earnings of $347,640, earned a career-best 104 Beyer for his gate-to-wire score last out in the seven-furlong Bold Ruler which was contested over a sloppy and sealed main track on October 31.

Russell said Wondrwherecraigis, who is nominated to the seven-furlong Grade 3, $150,000 Toboggan on January 29 at the Big A, is likely to make his next start in the six-furlong $100,000 Fire Plug which was re-scheduled to January 29 at Laurel.

“We're leaning towards the Laurel race because it’s three-quarters,” Russell said. “He hasn't run since he was up there at the end of October, so we're trying to keep it simple and keep him home.”

Russell said she is hoping Wondrwherecraigis will continue to develop in 2022.

“He's a big, strong horse and he seems to be improving,” Russell said. “As long as we can keep him healthy and he continues to take to training like we're giving it to him, I'd like to hope for bigger and better.”

Gustavo Rodriguez takes early lead in Under 20s Claiming Challenge

Trainer Gustavo Rodriguez has accumulated 26 points through January 13 to lead the way in the Under 20s Claiming Challenge at the Big A winter/spring meets, which is open to local trainers with 20 or fewer horses nationwide.

Rodriguez, who has earned two wins this meet with Noble Thought on December 9 and American Gentleman on January 8, most recently earned five points when Good Culture put in a determined late run to be runner-up in a one-mile $40,000 claimer on January 16.

“The owner [Novak Stable] was very happy with it,” Rodriguez said of Good Culture’s effort. “A lot of owners just want to win, so it’s nice when they’re happy to finish second and third too.”

Rodriguez went out on his own last year after working as an assistant to his brother, Rudy Rodriguez. Since his first start on June 27 last year, Rodriguez has won eight races and currently cares for a string of 15 horses.

“It’s been a lot of hard work and I could have started a little earlier, but it is what it is,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been around horses for a long time. My owners really pushed me to go out on my own and I said, ‘You know what, I have to do it.’”

The Under 20’s Claiming Challenge, launched in 2018, began December 9, Opening Day of the Aqueduct winter and will come to a close at the conclusion of the 15-day Big A spring meet, on Sunday, April 24.

The top-eight trainers in the contest will share a prize pool of $80,000, with the winner receiving $16,000. Stall allotments for the Aqueduct winter meet, along with those at the Saratoga and the Belmont fall meets, are used to determine eligible trainers.

A total of 26 trainers signed up for the Under 20s Claiming Challenge in which conditioners earn points based on their horses' performances in all winners' claiming races on the main track at Aqueduct from December 9 through the end of the Big A spring meet.

Not all horses will be eligible for the contest, and only roster horses can earn points. A trainer may replace a claimed horse who was on their roster with another claimed horse. After a horse is claimed, it will be added to the trainer's roster only at the trainer's request.

Horses in for a tag in an allowance optional claiming race will qualify for contest points. Points are not earned in maiden, allowance, starter allowance or stakes races.

Contest Point Structure:

Dirt Races - All claiming races for winners, including horses in for an optional tag:

1st Place - 6 points

2nd Place - 5 points

3rd Place - 4 points

4th Place - 3 points

5th Place - 2 points

Turf Races - All turf claiming races for winners, including horses in for an optional tag:

1st Place - 5 points

2nd Place - 4 points

3rd Place - 3 points

4th Place - 2 points

5th Place - 1 points

Trainer Bonuses:

The top-eight trainers in the contest will share in a prize pool of $80,000:

1st Place - $16,000

2nd Place - $14,000

3rd Place - $12,000

4th Place - $11,000

5th Place - $9,000

6th Place - $7,000

7th Place - $6,000

8th Place - $5,000

Under 20s Claiming Challenge 2021-2022 Aqueduct Winter Meet

Unofficial Standings through 1/13/22

1.           Rodriguez, Gustavo      26

2.           Simmonds, Michael      23

3.           Barrera, Oscar III          20

4.           DiPrima, Gregory          13

5.           Clarke, Dylan                12

6.           McAllen, John               11

7.           Barker, Eddie                10

8.           Trites, A Land                9

9.           Avila, A.C                       8

9.           Jones, Eduardo             8

Past winners of the Under 20s Claiming Challenge:

2021 Belmont spring/summer – Mertkan Kantarmaci

2020-21 Aqueduct winter – Mertkan Kantarmaci

2019-20 Aqueduct winter – Eddie Barker/Mertkan Kantarmaci (tie)

2019 Belmont spring/summer – Mertkan Kantarmaci

2018-19 Aqueduct winter – Mertkan Kantarmaci

2018 Belmont spring/summer – Eddie Barker

For more information, please visit

All News Stakes Advance Stakes Recap Headlines Notes Features

More Notes