Chad Brown holds strong hand in weekend stakes as turf racing returns at the Big A
Apr 19, 2024
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Chad Brown holds strong hand in weekend stakes as turf racing returns at the Big A

by NYRA Press Ofiice

  • Chad Brown holds strong hand in weekend stakes as turf racing returns at the Big A
  • Castle Chaos under consideration for G1 Met Mile
  • De Paz debuts well-bred Just One More in first turf race of year
  • Excelsior-winner Laughing Boy set for Keeneland’s G3 Ben Ali
  • Grade 1-placed Pioneering Spirit contests Danger’s Hour; Ain’t Broke eyes G2 Ruffian
  • Sunset Louise possible lone speed in $150K Plenty of Grace
  • Graded stakes-winner Runninsonofagun pointing to May return

Four-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Chad Brown will send out five horses across two turf stakes as grass racing returns to New York this weekend, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Brown is currently second in the trainer standings at the Big A spring meet with a record of 22-9-4-2, winning at a 41 percent clip for purse earnings of $608,505. He will send out the trio of Masen [post 1, Trevor McCarthy, 5-1 ML], Spirit of St Louis [post 3, Manny Franco, 8-5 ML] and Equitize [post 5, Javier Castellano, 9-2 ML] in Saturday’s Listed $150,000 Danger’s Hour, a one-mile inner turf test for older horses.

Klaravich Stables’ 4-year-old Equitize, a $606,137 purchase from Book 1 at the 2021 Tattersalls October Yearling Sale, is by Kingman and out of the New Approach mare Waldlied, who is a half-sister to multiple Group 1-winner Waldgeist – the 2019 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner.

Equitize has won 2-of-3 starts – both over the Tampa Bay Downs turf - led by a debut score last March traveling 1 1/16-miles and a last-out allowance score in February when setting a course record of 1:32.91 for one mile over the firm going. His winning efforts were wrapped around a seventh-place finish in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Hill Prince here in November.

Equitize was entered for the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile on April 12 at Keeneland before being scratched and re-routed to the Danger’s Hour.

“I entered him in the Maker's Mark at Keeneland, but it came up tough,” said Brown. “He ran super [last out]. I like him at the mile distance now that I've cut him back. He's in good form. We've always had high hopes for the horse and this sort of trip should suit him.

“We paid plenty for him,” added Brown. “He's been a little bit of a work in progress - slow to come around and had some minor issues, but he's doing great now and ready for a proper campaign.”

Juddmonte’s British homebred Masen, a 6-year-old Kingman gelding, nearly made an auspicious debut for Brown in the 2022 Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland when nosed out of victory by Shirl’s Speight.

He would travel to Belmont Park to win his next two starts, taking the Seek Again and Grade 3 Poker in prominent fashion ahead of a third-place finish to the victorious Casa Creed in that year’s Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga Race Course.

Masen ran just twice last year, topped by a pacesetting third in the Artie Schiller here in November, and he made his seasonal debut with a troubled fourth in a one-mile optional-claimer in January at Gulfstream Park where he was rank and checked into the first turn.

“Sometimes he's uncooperative with the jockey which is disappointing because in the morning he's not nearly that difficult,” Brown said. “I like the way he's been doing. He's been nice and relaxed in the mornings and I'm optimistic he'll be able to carry that into the afternoon and be cooperative on Saturday.

“His very first start with us he got beat a nose in a Grade 1,” added Brown. “I had high hopes for him but he lost his way a little bit, so I'm hoping to get him back on track.”

Masen is out of the Smart Strike mare Continental Drift, a daughter of Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner and 2005 Eclipse Award Champion Turf Mare Intercontinental. Intercontinental is one of five Grade or Group 1 winners out of influential broodmare Hasili.

Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb and Richard Schermerhorn’s New York-bred Spirit of St Louis has won his last two outings here, both in state-bred stakes company at the Big A with returning rider Manny Franco aboard.

The 5-year-old Medaglia d’Oro gelding finished second to City Man in his stakes debut in the state-bred West Point presented by Trustco Bank in August at the Spa but successfully completed his campaign with October victories in the nine-furlong Ashley T. Cole and 1 1/16-mile Mohawk.

A five-win 2023 campaign for Spirit of St Louis included a deep-closing state-bred allowance win after being taken up at the break in June at Belmont Park along with prominent efforts to win his debut last February here and a comfortable state-bred allowance score in July at the Spa.

“I'm very pleased with that horse. He's doing super,” Brown said. “He's versatile. If there's no pace, he can lay close. If there's a good pace - he's got left at the gate before and come - he's a very consistent horse. We gave him a little freshening and he's doing good.”

Bred by Chester Broman & Mary R. Broman, Spirit of St Louis, out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Khancord Kid, is a full-brother to Grade 1-winner Bar of Gold, who upset the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at 66-1.

Brown will send out Group 3-winner Midnight Mile and New York-bred stakes-winner Marvelous Maude as he looks to secure a record-extending sixth win in Sunday’s Listed $150,000 Plenty of Grace, a one-mile inner turf test for older fillies and mares at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Midnight Mile [post 1, Trevor McCarthy, 2-1 ML], previously trained by Richard Fahey, won the 2022 Group 3 Oh So Sharp ahead of a fourth-place finish in that year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland. She will make her debut for Brown after a series of preps at Payson Park Training Center in Florida.

Marvelous Maude [post 6, Manny Franco, 5-2 ML] was last seen winning the one-mile Mount Vernon against fellow state-breds in May at Belmont Park in her only start of 2023. The 6-year-old Slumber dark bay has trained forwardly at Payson Park for her return from a nearly 11-month layoff.

The bustling Brown barn will send out nine horses across four races Saturday, including the return of Grade 1-winner Blazing Sevens and stakes winner Artorius, who both last raced on July 21 at the Spa. The returning duo will square off in Race 7, a one-turn mile optional claiming event for older horses on the main track with Blazing Sevens [post 5, Manny Franco] listed as the 4-5 morning-line favorite over 2-1 second choice Artorius [post 3, Trevor McCarthy].


Castle Chaos under consideration for G1 Met Mile

Castle Chaos has endured narrow defeats in graded stakes in two of his last three outings, including a neck loss to Post Time in the seven-furlong Grade 2 Carter presented by NYRA Bets on April 6, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained and co-owned by Robert Falcone, Jr. with Sanford J. Goldfarb and Nice Guys Stables, the 6-year-old Palace Malice gelding was nosed out of victory by Tumbarumba in the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper in January at Gulfstream Park.

“He's doing great. I feel more bad for him [than myself],” Falcone, Jr. said, with a laugh. “He's a really nice horse and lost a couple of tough ones, but he came out of it great.”

The Kentucky-bred Castle Chaos, who finished third in the Grade 2 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets in December here, was haltered for $75,000 from a close runner-up effort on debut in September 2021 at Saratoga and now boasts a career ledger of 16-3-5-4 for purse earnings of $370,160.

Falcone, Jr. said that while the one-mile Grade 3, $175,000 Westchester on May 3 at the Big A is a possibility, he is looking to map out a path to the Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘N’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day June 8 at Saratoga Race Course. The one-mile test for 3-year-olds and up to be contested from the Wilson Chute provides a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Del Mar.

“I'm not sure [about the Westchester] - the timing hurts us a little bit to run him back there and then try him back in the Met Mile,” Falcone, Jr. said. “I'm not sure if we'll try the Westchester or if we'll wait for the Met Mile or wait for a ‘3X’ and then go to the Met.”

Lake Abanakee, a 3-year-old New York-bred daughter of Central Banker, earned a 65 Beyer Speed Figure for her winning debut in a six-furlong state-bred maiden special weight on Saturday at the Big A.

Owned by Falcone, Jr. in partnership with Beast Mode Racing and Michael Nentwig, the $25,000 OBS 2023 Winter Mixed Sale purchase tracked in third position under Dylan Davis before chasing to the lead through the turn and edging clear to a 2 3/4-length score over Mulkey, a $450,000 daughter of Gun Runner.

Falcone, Jr. said he was expecting a good effort on debut.

“She trained real straightforward. I told Dylan in the paddock that I trained her behind horses taking dirt and she was fine,” Falcone, Jr. said. “I bought her for a quarter and I was up against a $450,000 Gun Runner so you're not sure what that horse will bring to the table. I definitely thought she was working better than what I purchased her for, so that all worked out in our favor.”

Lake Abanakee, a half-sister to stakes-placed Gimmedamoney, is out of the winning Hook And Ladder mare Sabael, who is a half-sister to multiple stakes-winner Beautiful America.

John Grossi’s Racing Corp. and Adelphi Racing Club’s She’s Wicked Smart will return in Race 7 on Saturday at Keeneland, a seven-furlong maiden special weight for sophomore fillies.

The Runhappy dark bay finished a game third in her lone start on Travers Day August 26 at Saratoga Race Course when just 2 3/4-lengths back of next-out Grade 1 Frizette winner Just F Y I. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Just F Y I would go on to win the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies en route to Eclipse Award-honors as Champion 2-Year-Old Filly.

“She always did everything right,” said Falcone, Jr. of She’s Wicked Smart. “She breezed good and has a real good demeanor. She's intelligent and I expected her to run good, but that was a loaded field on Travers Day and she ended up stacking up with them.”

She’s Wicked Smart has put together five works over the Belmont dirt training track since March 9, including a half-mile in 48.01 seconds on April 6.

“We gave her the time off - a little baby stuff, nothing major,” Falcone, Jr. said. “I wish I had one more work into her going seven-eighths off the layoff. She's training good, so hopefully she doesn't come up short.”

She’s Wicked Smart, listed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in a field of nine, will exit post 3 under Luis Saez.

A half-sister to graded stakes-winner Adios Charlie and multiple stakes-placed Streakin’ Mohican, She’s Wicked Smart is out of the stakes-winning Northern Afleet mare Teak Totem - a full-sister to dual Grade 1-winner Teaks North and a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winner Wooden Phone.

Falcone, Jr., who is current tied for fifth in the trainer standings at the Big A spring meet with a record of 12-3-3-2 for purse earnings of $191,845, will send out graded stakes-placed Spirit And Glory in Sunday’s Listed $150,000 Plenty of Grace here. Spirit And Glory [post 3, Jose Lezcano] is listed at 7-2 on the morning line.


De Paz debuts well-bred Just One More in first turf race of year

Saturday’s fifth race at Aqueduct Racetrack will open the curtain on both turf season and the career of the well-bred Just One More, a sophomore full-sister to multiple graded stakes-winner Voodoo Song, in the 1 1/16-mile outer turf maiden for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.

Trained by Horacio De Paz, Just One More is by English Channel and out of the stakes-winning Unbridled’s Song mare Mystic Chant, who, in addition to Grade 1 Fourstardave-winner Voodoo Song, has produced the De Paz-trained stakes-placed Singapore Trader and six-figure earner Worth a Shot. Just One More, a New York homebred for Barry Schwartz, is the 12th named foal from her dam, and is already showing signs of precocity, according to De Paz.

“She’s very forward, and very similar to Worth a Shot – very forward horses, and she’s pretty much ready to get started,” said De Paz. “We just need to get her into a race. She’s got a personality to her and wants to overdo things a little bit, so we figured this is a good time to let her get started and let her develop.”

Just One More has worked steadily over the Belmont Park dirt training track, including a sharp half-mile in 48.68 seconds on April 13. De Paz said he has been pleased with what the chestnut has shown in the mornings.

“It was good,” said De Paz. “She’s usually not that fast working in the mornings, but it seems her works have gotten better now that the track isn’t as deep as it was over the winter.”

Jose Lezcano will look to engineer a winning trip from post 3 [6-1] in the field of nine that is led by even-money morning-line favorite Grayosh [post 1, Manny Franco] for four-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Chad Brown.

Flanagan Racing’s daughter of Yoshida looks to rebound after an unlucky outing on March 3 at Gulfstream Park where she clipped heels at the start and lost her rider. She finished a rallying third on debut in January traveling Saturday’s distance at the South Florida oval.

Brown will also send out CHP Racing’s Chantilly Road [post 5, Dylan Davis] off a local fourth-place effort going one-mile on the dirt in February. The $390,000 OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase is by Quality Road and out of the winning Bernardini mare Party of Interest, making her a half-sister to graded stakes-winner Five Star General.

The field will also include the well-bred Colorful Lady [post 2, Kendrick Carmouche], whose third dam is Hall of Famer Winning Colors, for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher; and Classic Cara [post 7, Luis Rivera, Jr.], a half-sister to dual Hong Kong Group 3-winner Harbour Master, for trainer Mitch Friedman.

Turf action continues Saturday in Race 8, the Listed $150,000 Danger’s Hour, and in Race 9, a six-furlong outer turf allowance for New York-bred fillies and mares 3-years-old and up. In the latter, De Paz will send out Gary Barber and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Dusk for her sophomore debut and first start since graduating at third asking in October here.

The Bolt d’Oro dark bay was given a prominent ride by Manny Franco in the six-furlong turf sprint and skipped clear to a 2 3/4-length score against fellow state-breds. The effort was awarded a 61 Beyer Speed Figure and came after two fourth-place finishes in off-the-turf events.

“She’s doing good and we laid her off for turf season,” said De Paz. “She had a good winter break and has grown a little bit. It was troubling last year because we kept entering for the turf and the races kept coming off, and when we finally got on it, it was the end of the season. This is a good spot to get her started. She’ll sit close and is a good gate horse, but we have to see how the race shapes up.”

Bred by Spruce Lane, Becker, Copper Beech, Empire, PBG, Hidden Brook, and Ward, Dusk was a $135,000 purchase at the OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training. She is out of the Sky Mesa mare Bourbon Endowment, a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winner Laura’s Light, dual graded stakes-placed Barry Lee, and stakes-winner Play Action Pass.

Dusk will be ridden by Kendrick Carmouche from post 8 with a morning-line assessment of 6-1.

The competitive 12-horse field will also feature morning-line favorite Beach Cruiser [post 1, Manny Franco], a half-sister to stakes-winner Silver Skillet, for trainer Christophe Clement; and Latest Edition [post 11, Eric Cancel], a half-sister to stakes-winner Crawdaddy, for trainer Tom Morley.

On Friday’s work tab for De Paz was Grade 2-placed Stonewall Star, who posted her second work since capturing the state-bred Biogio’s Rose on March 24 here. She covered a half-mile in 49.21 seconds over the Belmont dirt training track.

“It was very good,” said De Paz. “We’re still contemplating a spot, but we will probably come back in a ‘two-other-than’ going a mile next month. We were happy with her last effort and how she came out of it.”

The Barry Schwartz homebred daughter of Flatter had finished an uncharacteristic sixth in her two starts this year, a perplexing departure from her sophomore form when capturing the state-bred Franklin Square here and the open-company Wide Country at Laurel Park ahead of a prominent third in the Grade 2 Beaumont at Keeneland.

“She’s always a filly who tries and she had good form last year,” said De Paz. “Hopefully, we can continue on with her. We’ll just find mile races here with New York-bred company and see what there is to offer for her.”

Also on the Belmont work tab for De Paz was graded stakes-winner Promiseher America, who has not raced since finishing seventh in the Cathryn Sophia in August at Parx Racing. Previously trained by Ray Handal, the daughter of American Pharoah won the Grade 3 Gazelle last year at the Big A ahead of an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. She has breezed four times for De Paz dating to March 30, and covered a half-mile in 49.63 seconds this morning.

“She breezed really well and I’m just trying to get to know her right now,” De Paz said. “She’s very forward and obviously had good form last year. She’s a classy filly.”

On the West Coast, De Paz has Michael J. Ryan’s multiple graded stakes-placed Be Your Best readying for the nine-furlong Grade 3 Modesty on the May 3 Kentucky Oaks undercard at Churchill Downs.

The Irish-bred Muhaarar 4-year-old has been at Santa Anita Park since November when she finished a close eighth against males in the Grade 2 Twilight Derby. She followed with a pacesetting runner-up effort to multiple graded stakes-winner Anisette in the Grade 1 American Oaks in December and an even fourth in the one-mile Grade 2 Buena Vista when making her seasonal bow on March 3 over good footing.

“We just ran in there to see how she would handle it, and she’s not really a mile horse,” De Paz said of the Buena Vista. “The turf had a little give to it, and she doesn’t really like that. She’s very competitive and has been running in tough races. She tries every time.”

De Paz said Be Your Best has relished her time in California.

“Turf season has been a little challenging with the rain they’ve had, but she likes the firm turf and ran well on Breeders’ Cup Day and then ran well in the next race to get beat by the best filly out there at the time,” said De Paz.

Bred by Ryan’s St. Croix Bloodstock, Be Your Best won Saratoga Race Course’s P.G. Johnson as a juvenile and went on to finish third in the Grade 2 Miss Grillo over the Aqueduct green. In addition to her effort in the American Oaks, her sophomore campaign also included a runner-up effort to Anisette in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks, as well as a narrow defeat to Prerequisite in the Grade 2 Wonder Again at Belmont.


Excelsior-winner Laughing Boy set for Keeneland’s G3 Ben Ali

Larry Roman and trainer David Jacobson’s Laughing Boy, last out-winner of the nine-furlong Listed Excelsior on March 30 at Aqueduct Racetrack, now seeks a graded score in Saturday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Ben Ali, a 1 3/16-miles test for older horses, at Keeneland.

The 6-year-old Distorted Humor chestnut paved the way for the eight-horse Excelsior field before being passed by dual Grade 3-winner Messier in the far turn. He gamely attempted to re-rally in the stretch when impeded by the Jose Gomez-piloted Messier, who crossed the line first. After a jockey’s objection by Samuel Camacho, Jr., Laughing Boy was elevated to first at odds of 54-1.

Since the career-best 92 Beyer Speed Figure effort, Laughing Boy has breezed three-furlongs twice over the Belmont Park dirt training track, including most recently in 38.05 seconds on April 17.

“I had to call Larry after the work-out. He was just phenomenal. He’s doing so good,” said Jacobson. “I’ve never had to work him with company. He’s a good-feeling and good-working horse.”

Jacobson and Roman, native-New Yorkers who won Thursday’s fourth race at Aqueduct with South Street, could not contain their excitement for Saturday’s trip to Keeneland versus a classy field that features Grade 2-winner Kingsbarns.

“The horses don’t know their odds. We have raw speed. He is going to get out of the gate. I don’t know if Kingsbarns is going to decide to go [for the lead] or not, but if he does, we will give him a push,” said Roman. “I’ve been a handicapper since I was 16-years-old, and on paper, our horse has more speed than anyone else.”

“I wish he was maybe 54-1 [again], but speed is good there right now. I’ve been watching the races,” Jacobson added, with a laugh.

Jacobson said, in addition to his early pace, he was encouraged that Laughing Boy won at Keeneland’s 1 3/16-miles distance in a 2021 optional-claimer.

“We like the stretch out. He won at that distance at Keeneland earlier in his career, and we’re looking forward to a really good race from him,” said Jacobson.

Laughing Boy, tabbed at a 15-1 morning line from post 5, will carry 118 pounds with Reylu Gutierrez aboard, four pounds less than in his last outing.

“Kingsbarns is probably going to be a 4-5 favorite - I don’t like that he got in with 118 pounds, he won a Grade 2, he should have 122 pounds or more. I don’t know how he fits that, but we’ll do what we can,” said Roman. “We are also dropping four pounds, we were 122 here and are 118 there. We are going to give it a shot.

“If I were him [Kingsbarns], I wouldn’t be going head-to-head with a 15-1 shot, I’d try to sit off and blow by, but it is not going to be that easy,” Roman added.

Out of the winning Congrats mare Applauding, Laughing Boy, a $47,000 purchase at the 2023 Fasig-Tipton Horses of Racing Age July Sale, boasts a lifetime record of 31-4-4-5 with $369,988 in earnings.


Grade 1-placed Pioneering Spirit contests Danger’s Hour; Ain’t Broke eyes G2 Ruffian

A. Bianco Holding Limited’s Grade 1-placed Pioneering Spirit is set to return from a more than five-month layoff in Saturday’s Listed $150,000 Danger’s Hour, a one-mile inner turf test for older horses, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The 5-year-old American Pharoah gelding made his presence known last summer, winning four straight after being moved to the grass by trainer Linda Rice two starts after being haltered for $40,000 out of a fourth place effort at one-mile here in March.

Pioneering Spirit finished third in the 12-furlong Grade 1 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course and returned one week later to capture the 1 1/16-mile Listed Bernard Baruch on Closing Day of the Spa meet, earning a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure.

“He’s coming off a layoff but I thought this was a race worth looking at,” said Rice. “We had a great year last year, the win in the Bernard Baruch and his third in the Sword Dancer, just a terrific year. We are hoping he comes back well and fits in with the NYRA stakes program.”

Pioneering Spirit entered the Sword Dancer off a victory in a 1 3/8-mile second-level optional claimer July 27 at Saratoga. He previously won a pair of allowances 20 days apart going nine and 10 furlongs in June at Belmont Park.

“He’s pretty tactical,” said Rice. “He might like it better if it is one mile and a sixteenth or maybe a little farther, but he’s pretty tactical, so we’ll see.”

Pioneering Spirit, tabbed at a morning line of 4-1, will exit post 6 in rein to Jose Lezcano.

The Danger’s Hour, slated as Race 8 on Saturday’s nine-race card, kicks off turf stakes action on the NYRA circuit for the calendar year. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.

Rice has been actively claiming horses at Keeneland’s spring meet, haltering eight horses during the first 10 days of racing for a total of $420,000. The boutique meet ends in one week, spanning from April 5 to Friday, April 26.

Rice’s claims include: Grade 1-placed Kneedeepinsnow [4/18, $40,000]; stakes-placed Secret Rules [4/18, $40,000]; Certified Loverboy [4/18, $50,000]; Blenheim Baby [4/17, $30,000]; Yo Daddy [4/14, $50,000]; Blown Cover [4/14, $50,000]; St. Benedicts Prep [4/13, $80,000]; and Wicked Again [4/12, $80,000].

Ronald Stewart’s Ain’t Broke was second beaten a half-length last out in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Distaff here on April 6. The 5-year-old Dialed In mare was 3 1/2-lengths back in last-of-5 after the opening quarter-mile but taken to the front shortly after by rider Eric Cancel before being caught in the stretch by the victorious Shidabhuti.

Rice said Ain’t Broke may point towards the Grade 2, $200,000 Ruffian, a one-turn mile for older fillies and mares on May 4 at Aqueduct.

“I thought she might’ve moved a little soon [in the Distaff], but she ran well,” said Rice. “She could be running back in the Ruffian.”

Aint Broke entered the Distaff off a five-length victory going a one-turn mile versus local optional-claiming company on February 25. She also won at the distance by 5 1/2-lengths here on November 26, first off-the-claim for Rice after being haltered for $75,000 out of a win in September at Churchill Downs.


Sunset Louise possible lone speed in $150K Plenty of Grace

Vincent Stanzione’s stakes-placed New York-bred Sunset Louise is entered to make her turf debut in Sunday’s Listed $150,000 Plenty of Grace, a one-mile inner turf test for older fillies and mares, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained by Bruce Levine, the 5-year-old Tonalist mare boasts a record of 12-5-2-0 for purse earnings of $346,150, including three straight gate-to-wire scores last year on the NYRA circuit. She was last seen finishing fifth in the nine-furlong state-bred Empire Distaff on October 29 here.

Although Sunset Louise is potentially lone speed in a compact but talented field for Sunday’s Plenty of Grace, Levine said he will also enter the chestnut mare back on Saturday for a Friday allowance event here on the dirt.

“If the other race doesn't go, we'll try her [in the Plenty of Grace],” Levine said. “She does have a little turf pedigree in the family. We might as well try her early in the year and find out if she likes the grass.”

The 5-year-old Tonalist mare, out of the graded stakes-placed Exchange Rate mare Ash Zee, is a half-sister to two-time turf winner Zee Drop, by Lemon Drop Kid, who is Grade 2-placed on turf. Sunset Louise’s older full-brother High Tone is also a two-time winner on turf.

Sunset Louise has breezed seven times over the Belmont Park dirt training track dating to February 27 in preparation for her return, including a five-eighths effort in 1:01.21 Sunday.

“We took the winter off with her and freshened her up a little bit,” Levine said. “She's come back good. She's been working good. I'm real happy with her.”

Sunset Louise [post 2, Kendrick Carmouche] is the 15-1 longest shot on the morning line but Levine feels she has the profile to dictate terms should she take to the green.

“I'd probably send her for sure - that's her game,” Levine said.

McRich Stables’ New York-bred Light Man, a 4-year-old Central Banker gelding, is expected to make his next start sprinting in state-bred allowance company.

Light Man impressed on debut in July 2022 at the Spa by taking a state-bred maiden sprint in gate-to-wire fashion to garner a career-best 76 Beyer Speed Figure. He didn’t see action in the afternoon again until January when second in a six-furlong state-bred allowance at Aqueduct.

The $30,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Preferred New York-bred Yearling Sale purchase followed last out with a frontrunning head score here over next-out winner Clever Forever, earning a 70 Beyer for his game victory in the one-turn mile state-bred allowance.

“He's had his issues and a lot of time off, but right now he's going good,” Levine said. “I know he won going a mile, but it didn't impress me. I think his sprint races are better and I might try him on the grass short, too.”

Light Man posted a bullet half-mile breeze in 46.63 Saturday over the Belmont dirt training track – best of 174 efforts at the distance – that was meant to be a solo work.

“It was designed that way but then he got company. He got a couple horses in front of him and that gave him a target and he got really aggressive,” Levine said.

Light Man, out of the stakes-winning Freud mare So N So, is a half-sibling to multiple stakes-winner Absatootly.


Graded stakes-winner Runninsonofagun pointing to May return

Karen Zimmerman’s graded stakes-winner Runninsonofagun, who has not raced in one year, returned to the work tab in late March and most recently covered a half-mile in 50.70 seconds Tuesday over the Belmont Park dirt training track.

“So far, so good,” said trainer John Toscano, Jr. “He was in-hand and came off the track dancing. He’s getting close to a race, probably in May at this point.”

The now 5-year-old son of Gun Runner posted a strong sophomore campaign in 2022 when hitting the board in six graded stakes, topped by a breakthrough victory in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler by a nose at Aqueduct. He then finished a gutsy second in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap to close out a season that included a Grade 1 placing when third in the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial that August at Saratoga Race Course.

The talented gelding made two starts as a 4-year-old, finishing second in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap last March ahead of an uncharacteristic last-of-6 finish in a six-furlong optional claiming tilt one year ago.

Toscano, Jr. said Runninsonofagun, who has hit the board in 12-of-14 lifetime starts, had a clear excuse.

“He had a minor injury and then had surgery to correct it, and he’s doing well,” said Toscano, Jr. “It doesn’t bother him now, so that’s a good sign. He’s on the muscle.”

Runninsonofagun has proven the claim of a lifetime for Toscano, Jr., who haltered the bay for $40,000 out of a second-out graduation in December 2021 here. He has gone on to bank over $400,000 for his current connections and is the third highest-earning trainee Toscano, Jr. has conditioned in his 45-year career.

“He’s the whole stable basically,” said Toscano, Jr. “He’s amazing. Every time we send him out there, he’s gotten us a check.”

Bred in Kentucky by Dattt Farm, Runninsonofagun is out of the dual stakes-placed Malibu Moon mare Golden Artemis. He is a half-brother to dual graded stakes-winner My Conquestadory, who won the 2013 Grade 1 Alcibiades and produced graded stakes-placed Bourbon War.

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