G1 Jaipur within realm of possibility for Nothing Better
by NYRA Press Office
- G1 Jaipur within realm of possibility for Nothing Better
- Clement searching for Big A stakes success with Big Everest and Malavath
- Citizen K earns 93 BSF for Thursday allowance score; Stonewall Star ready for graded test in Keeneland’s G2 Beaumont
- Post times announced for the Belmont Park spring/summer meet
- Aqueduct Racetrack spring meet Week 4 stakes probables
Following a three-quarter length victory against a salty allowance optional claiming group on Thursday at Aqueduct Racetrack, Colts Neck Stables’ stakes-winner Nothing Better could return to New York later this summer for the Grade 1, $400,000 Jaipur on June 10 at Belmont Park, according to trainer Jorge Duarte, Jr.
Nothing Better, a 6-year-old gelded son of Munnings, made his first start since a narrow runner-up effort as the lukewarm favorite in the December 24 Janus at Gulfstream Park, which came following a local stakes win in the Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship in November.
Thursday’s test saw Nothing Better face a loaded field which included graded-stakes winners Slipstream and Coinage as well as graded-stakes placed Thin White Duke. Piloted by Manny Franco, Nothing Better broke on top and was challenged down the backstretch by multiple stakes-placed Into the Sunrise before maintaining his command through the stretch drive and fending off a late rallying Straight Answer to complete the six furlongs in an outer turf course-record time of 1:06.80. The victory garnered a 95 Beyer Speed Figure.
“He had a real good race yesterday. It could have been a stake the way the field shaped up,” Duarte, Jr. commented. “A lot of those same horses were in the Aqueduct Turf Sprint. It was a nice starting point for a lot of these horses. Some of them will go in different directions, but hopefully we stay in New York. The Jaipur would be a nice race for him, but we’ll see if we can get a race in between. I’ll talk to [Colts Neck Stable owner] Richard Santulli and do the best for the horse.”
The aforementioned start in between could take place in the Grade 2 Twin Spires Turf Sprint on Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs, according to Duarte, Jr.
“It depends on how he comes out of the race. He came back to the test barn and cooled out super-fast. As long as his energy level is good, we’ll nominate to Churchill,” Duarte, Jr. said.
Duarte, Jr. said he wasn’t completely surprised by the swift final time.
“It seemed like a lot of the maiden races were running pretty flashy,” Duarte, Jr. said. “They keep the turf course covered and everything firms up and it’s easy on the horses to travel. In that kind of field, you would expect them to go that fast.”
Never worse than third in 11 starts dating back to July 2021, Nothing Better has won over four different ovals, including a debut win over the Parx main track. He also owns multiple victories over the Monmouth Park turf as well as at Laurel Park.
“He’s been very consistent as his form shows. He’s a very easy horse to train and be around,” Duarte, Jr. said. “He keeps thriving through racing, especially when he has that nice firm turf like he had yesterday. I’m very happy with the performance.”
Duarte had contemplated an international endeavor with Nothing Better in February in the Group 3 1351 Turf Sprint at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Saudi Arabia, which was won by Bathrat Leon.
“He’s an easy shipper. I even considered after the Aqueduct Turf Sprint sending him to Saudi Arabia,” Duarte, Jr. said. “The only downside was that the race is 1350 meters which is almost seven-eighths. You might get some of those horses cutting back in there. He’s a good shipper, so I’m not scared to ship him anywhere.”
Although Thursday’s race was Nothing Better’s first start in over three months, Duarte, Jr. said the horse was still on a consistent training schedule.
“It wasn’t much of a layoff. He ran at the end of December in Florida. Technically, it was more of a freshening because he didn’t really lose much training,” Duarte, Jr. said. “He came back to Colts Neck for the month of January and February and he started working again. He had about a month off out in our field, and he was right back at it in February. He didn’t lose much fitness.”
Bred in Kentucky by Don Alberto Corporation, Nothing Better is out of the Duke of Marmalade mare One True Love, who is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Folk Opera.
Clement searching for Big A stakes success with Big Everest and Malavath
Trainer Christophe Clement has already won a trio of stakes at Gulfstream Park this year, but will look to open his 2023 stakes account at Aqueduct this weekend with Big Everest in Saturday’s $100,000 Danger’s Hour and with new acquisition Malavath in Sunday’s $100,000 Plenty of Grace.
Big Everest, a 5-year-old The Gurkha gelding owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Steven Rocco and William Branch, is listed as the 4-5 morning-line favorite in the one-mile inner-turf test for older horses.
Big Everest won 4-of-5 starts last year, culminating with a frontrunning half-length victory in the one-mile Artie Schiller here in November which was contested over a yielding turf course.
While Big Everest won his seasonal debut last year, besting a first-level allowance field by two lengths in June at Belmont, Clement is cautiously optimistic about repeating the feat.
“He's an overachiever and he's getting better and better as he's getting older,” Clement said. “Unfortunately, now we're having to start him back with better company, but that's the way it is, the more they win the tougher it becomes.”
Big Everest has trained regularly over the Belmont dirt training track, including a five-eighths effort in 1:02.66 on March 31.
“He's training well. I just hope I have him tight enough,” Clement said. “He looks well and he's training well. It's not an easy race.”
Clement said he is hopeful that Manny Franco can work out a clean trip from post 3 in the six-horse field.
“There's plenty of pace in the race and he's one of them. As long as he's forward, we're happy with that,” said Clement, who will also be chasing stakes success out of town on Saturday when he sends out Pizza Bianca in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland and Summer Cause in the Federico Tesio at Laurel Park.
Big Everest has banked $329,840 through a record of 10-5-1-1. He is out of the graded-stakes placed Whywhywhy mare Long Face, who is a half-sister to graded-stakes winner True Quality.
Moyglare Stud Farm purchased Malavath in December for €3.2m at Arqana's Breeding Stock Sale. The 4-year-old Mehmas chestnut captured the 2021 Group 2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte at Chantilly and last year’s Group 3 Prix Imprudence at Deauville for her former conditioner Francis-Henri Graffard.
Malavath was a deep-closing factor in a pair of Breeders’ Cup appearances, including a fifth-place finish in last year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland and a close runner-up effort to Pizza Bianca in the 2021 Grade 1 Juvenile Fillies Turf that provided Clement his first Breeders’ Cup win.
Clement said he was impressed by Malavath’s effort against the boys in the Mile.
“I thought it was very good. She raced against the best colts and she got beat, but it was a very good performance,” Clement said of the filly, who has trained extensively at Payson Park in Florida. “She's doing great. She's trained well and I'm excited to start her. She came here a week ago and she's done very well since she came in.”
Clement said he will leave race strategy in the capable hands of Jose Ortiz, who will pilot the late-running Malavath from the inside post.
“There’s not much I change about that [racing style], Jose will ride and he will have to figure it out,” Clement said.
Malavath, out of the New Approach mare Fidaaha, boasts a record of 11-3-3-1 for purse earnings of $526,261. Her full-brother Knight, winner of last year’s Group 3 Horris Hill at Newbury, is undefeated in two starts.
Multiple graded-stakes winning New York-bred City Man worked three-eighths in 39.25 seconds this morning over the Belmont dirt training track in his first breeze since an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational on January 28 at Gulfstream Park.
Owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Peter Searles and Patty Searles, the 6-year-old son of Mucho Macho Man won 5-of-8 starts last year, including scores in the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple at the Spa, and the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale at Gulfstream Park. He also enjoyed success at the Big A, taking the open-company Danger's Hour last April along with state-bred scores in the Ashley T. Cole and Mohawk at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
Bred by Moonstar Farm, City Man boasts a record of 27-9-5-3 for purse earnings of $987,120. He was purchased for $185,000 at the 2019 OBS April Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training where he was consigned by Off the Hook.
Citizen K earns 93 BSF for Thursday allowance score; Stonewall Star ready for graded test in Keeneland’s G2 Beaumont
Barry Schwartz’s New York homebred Citizen K returned triumphantly from a seven-month layoff to post an easy six-length victory in Thursday’s fifth race, a 1 1/16-mile first-level state-bred allowance, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Horacio De Paz, the 5-year-old son of Mizzen Mast led each step of the way under Manny Franco to take a five-length advantage at the stretch call and widen his margin to six lengths at the wire, stopping the clock in 1:40.43. The effort was awarded a career-best 93 Beyer Speed Figure.
“Is that what he got? Wow,” De Paz said of the number. “He came back good and was a bit tired, but that’s expected coming off the layoff. It was a good, honest effort.”
Citizen K has relished a stretch out in distance since trying turf routing for the first time in July, a move that has seen him adjust his running style to be more forwardly placed rather than the rallying tactics he used earlier in his career when sprinting. He had a productive 2-for-4 on-the-board record last year, including a closing victory in an April turf sprint at Belmont Park to break his maiden at sixth asking off a six-month respite.
“He had won off the layoff last year, so he’s a horse that does well freshening up,” De Paz said. “He’s a good work horse and he had a really good season last year. We laid him up for the winter and everything went to plan. He stayed very consistent through everything. We just kind of let the riders put him where he’s comfortable and the pace is much easier for him to establish himself in the longer races.”
Schwartz and De Paz will have more to look forward to this weekend when Citizen K’s half-sister, Stonewall Star, makes her graded stakes debut in Sunday’s seven-furlong Grade 2, $400,000 Beaumont at Keeneland. The New York-bred daughter of Flatter enters from an 11-length romp facing open company in the Wide Country going the Beaumont distance on February 18 at Laurel Park.
De Paz said the filly’s latest effort, which was her first victory at seven furlongs, gives him confidence heading into Sunday.
“She’s been doing great and has settled in down here at Keeneland,” said De Paz. “Hopefully, she maintains her form and it would be great to have a New York-bred do well here. She’s a gutsy filly and she answered the questions last time about racing against open company and being able to get seven-eighths. I think she’s just continuing to develop more and more and develop into herself. Her fitness is at a level where she’s enjoying herself out there.”
Stonewall Star, who is named after her owner’s breeding operation, Stonewall Farm, brings a seasoned record to a Beaumont field that is led by the Brad Cox-trained Key of Life, the even-money morning-line favorite who won the Purple Martin at Oaklawn Park last out. Stonewall Star has raced over four different surfaces, including a trip to Finger Lakes Racetrack in October to finish a valiant third against males in the New York Breeders’ Futurity.
De Paz said the bay filly’s well-traveled resume is one of her best attributes.
“Obviously Brad Cox is the one to beat and he’s a tough guy to beat, but she’s battle-tested. We ran her against boys, we’ve run her at different racetracks,” said De Paz. “Out of the group of horses I brought down here, she’s one that’s a little more tested. Hopefully the pace isn’t too crazy and hopefully she’ll handle the slop if we get rain.”
Stonewall Star will emerge from post 3 in rein to Luis Saez with a morning-line odds of 3-1.
The Beaumont will be the third graded stakes in nine days that De Paz has contested at the Lexington oval. He saddled Be Your Best to a seventh-place finish in the one-mile Grade 2 Appalachian and Noble Emotion to an eighth-place finish in the 5 1/2-furlong Grade 2 Shakertown, both on April 8.
Michael J. Ryan’s Be Your Best made her first start since a ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in November. She tracked in fourth through the first three points of call under Luis Saez before making a mild bid in the turn and weakening down the lane. The daughter of Muhaarar went 2-for-2 at Saratoga Race Course last year, including a win in the P.G. Johnson in September.
Michael Ryan and Sarah Sutherland’s Noble Emotion was sent to post at odds of 76-1 in the Shakertown and saved ground on the inside down the backstretch after being checked shortly after the start of the race. He swung four-wide in the turn and ran evenly down the stretch to finish 3 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Caravel.
De Paz noted that both horses emerged from their efforts in good order and that he is hopeful the two will benefit from their starts fitness wise.
“Be Your Best tried around the turn and showed she wants to compete with those horses. We’ll regroup back at Belmont, find some races there, and then get her ready for Saratoga where she’s undefeated,” De Paz said. “I was very happy with the effort from Noble Emotion. It was an ambitious spot with him and he got checked pretty severely a sixteenth into the race and tried to make a run. He didn’t get beat by much and he didn’t embarrass himself. At least we got started with them and they got these races underneath them.”
A rising star in De Paz’s barn could be Roger Cimbora, Jr.’s New York homebred Twenty Six Black, who returned from a nine-month respite to graduate at second asking on April 7 at the Big A. The son of War Dancer pounced from 1 1/2 lengths off the pace in the six-furlong turf sprint under Manny Franco and flew home late to nab Electric Stuff at the wire. He was awarded a 72 Beyer for the effort.
De Paz said the effort met the expectations he has held for the colt since he debuted in July at Saratoga.
“When he came in last year, he showed a lot of maturity and then I partnered him up with Be Your Best for his workouts,” said De Paz. “He kept up with her and I really liked that. He had a lot of class to him. The time off helped him mature even more.”
Out of the First Dude mare Brazo de Oro, Twenty Six Black is from the family of graded stakes winners Popular and Contested Bid. His other start was a third-place finish in his July debut, giving him a perfect in-the-money record with $49,060 in total purse earnings.
Post times announced for the Belmont Park spring/summer meet
The 40-day Belmont Park spring/summer meet will open on Thursday, May 4 and continue through Sunday, July 9, featuring 54 stakes races worth $15.57 million in total purses.
Live racing will generally be conducted Thursday-Sunday throughout the spring/summer meet with a post time of 1 p.m. Eastern. Twilight racing cards will be offered each Thursday beginning May 11 through June 22 with a post time of 3:05 p.m. Post time on Kentucky Derby day, May 6, will be 12:20 p.m., while the May 20 Preakness Day card will kick off at 12:30 p.m.
The 40-day Belmont spring/summer meet is highlighted by the 155th running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday, June 10. Live coverage of the Belmont Stakes will be televised on FOX. The prestigious meet will include 12 Grade 1 races, with nine of those contests scheduled during the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival from Thursday, June 8 through Saturday, June 10.
For additional information on the 2023 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival and details on hospitality offerings, ticket packages and pricing, visit BelmontStakes.com.
Aqueduct Racetrack spring meet Week 4 stakes probables
Saturday, April 22
$200K NYSSS Times Square
Probable: Dr. Kraft (Chris Englehart), East Coast Girl (Kelly Breen), Lifetime of Chance (Mark Casse), Playingwithmatches (Mark Hennig)
Probable: Belouni (Chad Brown), Grand Giomar Step (Brown)
Sunday, April 23
$200K NYSSS Park Avenue
Probable: Clover Street (Hennig), Honest Banker (Rob Atras), Hypnocurrency (James Bentley Begg), Les Bon Temps (Linda Rice), Little Linzee (Domenick Schettino), Midtown Lights (Brad Cox)