Blindwillie McTell looks to avoid the 'Statesboro Blues' in Sunday's Rego Park
by Brian Bohl
Jerold Zaro's Blindwillie McTell will be going for his second consecutive stakes win as the most accomplished entrant in an 11-horse field for the fifth running of the $100,000 Rego Park for New York-bred 3-year-olds on Sunday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trainer Linda Rice saw the Posse gelding hold off Rego Park competitor Thorny Tale to win the six-furlong New York Stallion Series Great White Way by 2 ½ lengths over a sloppy and sealed Big A track on December 16. As the only stakes winner in the 6 ½-furlong Rego Park, Blindwille McTell enters his 3-year-old campaign with momentum and a return engagement with jockey Dylan Davis, drawing post 2.
"His first race was a good effort, and he ran more professionally in his second start," Rice said. "That race was in the mud, so hopefully he can compete as well on a dry track. He'll be fine at [the distance]."
Andrew Rosen and Barry Schwartz's Just Right will step up in class after two solid efforts against optional claimers at Aqueduct, staying just off the pace before finishing strong for a two-length win on November 11 and finishing second behind Le General on December 9 last out, earning a personal-best 79 Beyer Speed Figure.
The Todd Pletcher trainee is the field's most experienced entrant, with a 2-2-0 record in six career starts, and will be cutting back in distance, drawing post 9 with Jose Lezcano aboard.
Funny Guy, owned by Gatsas Stables, R.A. Hill Stable and Swick Stable, will make his stakes debut after breaking his maiden at second asking on December 22 at Aqueduct when he edged The Big Lebanese by a neck at the Rego Park distance.
Trained by John Terranova, Funny Guy rebounded from a fourth-place finish in his debut on September 19 at Belmont to win over a muddy and sealed track last month. Jockey Rajiv Maragh, aboard for the win, will have the return call from post 3.
"This will be only his third start and I think he's an improving colt," Terranova said. "I don't think he's that fit yet, but hopefully he keeps moving forward off that last maiden-breaker. He's fast and he's quick and really moved up last time. Hopefully he continues that upward trend."
Donegal Racing's Tiergan will also make his first stakes appearance, drawing post 7 for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The son of Afleet Alex purchased for $170,000 at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale, won his debut on October 18. In his next outing, Tiergan was bumped at the start and finished 10th on October 28 at Churchill Downs going 1 1/16 miles and ran ninth at one mile over a sloppy and sealed Churchill track on November 24.
Cutting back in distance, Tiergan drew post 7 with Junior Alvarado set to ride.
Thorny Tale rallied for second behind Blindwillie McTell in the Great White Way, improving on a fourth-place effort in Notebook against fellow state-breds at the same six-furlong distance on November 25. Trained by George Weaver, Thorny Tale, a debut winner on October 20 at Belmont, will have the services of jockey Eric Cancel from post 6.
Rounding out the field is Strive for a Cure, third in the Sleepy Hollow on October 20 at Belmont, for trainer Dale Capuano out of post 8; Show Prince, making his first stakes start for trainer Gary Sciacca, drew post 5; Kazmania, for trainer Dimitrios Synnefias, will depart post 11; Bydawnsearlylight, making his first stakes appearance in his fifth start for trainer Tom Albertrani out of post 1; Kadens Courage, third in the Great White Way for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, out of post 4; and Bustin to Be Loved, making his first fourth stakes start for trainer Gary Contessa, from post 10.