G2 Wood Memorial in play for Thousand Words
by NYRA Press Office
- David Wolff Wins Aqueduct Gotham Challenge
- Come Dancing remains on track for 2020 campaign
- Titan's Will looks for giant performance in Sunday's Damon Runyon
- Clement keeping focus on day to day ahead of milestone
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert typically has an influx of legitimate prospects for the Kentucky Derby, and this year appears to be no exception.
The five-time winner of the 'Run for the Roses' will be taking a divide-and-conquer approach to the final preps for the Kentucky Derby and could send dual graded-stakes winner Thousand Words to Aqueduct Racetrack for the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino. The nine-furlong test, which offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers, is slated for April 4.
Owned by B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift Farm in partnership with Dennis Albaugh's Albaugh Family Stable, the bay son of Pioneerof the Nile was handed his first loss when fourth in the Grade 2 San Felipe on March 7 at Santa Anita last out, which was won by stablemate Authentic.
Currently ninth on the leaderboard with 25 qualifying points, Thousand Words broke his maiden in October at Santa Anita before stretching out to two turns to win the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity on December 7 and the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis on February 1, earning ten points apiece from both stakes wins.
"Bob has so many prospects and he needs to separate them," said Albaugh Family Stables' racing manager Jason Loutsch. "He said after the San Felipe that Authentic would stay there. We may need more points and it makes sense that the Wood and Bluegrass [on April 4 at Keeneland] are the two options. Bob's had great success in New York, so that's definitely on our radar."
Baffert has won the Wood Memorial with Congaree (2001) and Bob and John (2006), both of whom were owned by the late Bob McNair's Stonerside Farm.
Thousand Words is the first horse that Baffert has trained for Albaugh, and Loutsch sung high praises regarding his experience with the storied conditioner.
"He's a true horseman and he's a businessman," Loutsch said. "I've been thoroughly impressed with his operations. His communication with his owners has been fantastic. It seems like the second the horse crosses the finish line, he's calling or texting his owners."
Thousand Words was a $1 million acquisition from the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was consigned by Brookdale Sales. Bred in Florida by Hardacre Farm, Thousand Words is out of the three-time graded stakes winning Pomeroy broodmare Pomeroys Pistol.
"He was just gorgeous. The pedigree was fantastic. His appearance met all our criteria," Loutsch said. "When we bought him, Spendthrift asked if we cared if we sent him to the west coast. Spendthrift likes to spread their horses out a bit. The first two races went according to plan. We have full confidence that he'll bounce back in his next race."
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David Wolff Wins Aqueduct Gotham Challenge
David Wolff, of Matawan, New Jersey, transformed his starting live bankroll of $250 into a final total of $2,805 to finish best of 225 entries in winning Saturday's Aqueduct Gotham Challenge at the Big A.
Wolff pocketed his live bankroll total, plus received a cash bonus to finish with a total of $12,372.50 and his choice of a seat to the 2020 Belmont Stakes Betting Challenge or one of two available seats to the 2021 National Handicap Championship in Las Vegas.
The Aqueduct Gotham Challenge covered races from Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs, with entrants competing on track and online via NYRA Bets. Wolff, who was on track, said his focus was mostly on the Big A for his huge day.
"I enjoy these contests very much and I like coming out to the track," said Wolff. "I mostly focused on races at Aqueduct and was able to be successful catching a couple of long priced winners. Aqueduct has always been one of my favorite tracks growing up, so it was nice to get a win here."
With Wolff opting to choose a seat to the 2020 Belmont Stakes Betting Challenge, the remaining NHC seats went to Laura Richman, who finished in second with a final total of $6,009.50; and Al Nufrio in third, with a final total of 4,595.50, plus the lone remaining NHC contest seat.
For more information on the Gotham Challenge and future handicapping contests please visit NYRA.com/challenge.
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Come Dancing remains on track for 2020 campaign
Trainer Carlos Martin expressed excitement in having Blue Devil Racing's Grade 1-winning millionaire Come Dancing in training for another season.
The 6-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon, out of graded stakes winner Tizahit, is currently at Ocala Stud in central Florida. While a return date to Martin's barn remains unknown, the trainer said the talented mare could face Grade 1 company in her seasonal bow. Last season, she won four graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Ballerina on August 24 at Saratoga Race Course.
"We still haven't decided exactly which direction we're going to head in yet," Martin said. "I have to speak to [owner] Marc Holliday again. We wanted to give her a little more time down there and have her a little fitter before she came back this year. We'll do things a little differently. I may get her ready for a Grade 1 right off the bat."
Last year, Come Dancing made her seasonal debut a winning one in taking the Grade 3 Distaff Handicap at the Big A.
Martin mentioned the Grade 1, $500,000 Derby City Distaff [formerly known as the Humana Distaff] on May 2 at Churchill Downs as a possible 2020 debut for Come Dancing, who also will be nominated to the Grade 1, $300,000 Madison at Keeneland on April 4.
"It may be a bit rushed, but we're going to nominate her," Martin said of the Madison.
Come Dancing, whose last start was a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita, was second beaten 3 ½ lengths to eventual 2019 Champion Older Filly Midnight Bisou in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park.
Martin said he is hopeful for another successful year with Come Dancing.
"You never know when you put them back in training how things are going to go, especially at six years old," Martin said. "She's been so lightly raced, and I think we've done a good job managing her. She's only run 14 times, so if she's sound, healthy and doing well, it should be interesting."
Martin said he also has an unnamed 2-year-old full-brother to Come Dancing that will join his stable later in the year.
"He's a beautifully framed horse," Martin said. "He still needs to grow up a bit, but he's a nice colt."
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Titan's Will looks for giant performance in Sunday's Damon Runyon
Titan's Will enters his stakes debut off two consecutive wins and will make the jump in class as part of a seven-horse field in Sunday's $100,000 Damon Runyon for New York-bred sophomores at Aqueduct.
Owned by Zilla Racing Stable and Acqua Nova Stable, Titan's Will has registered consecutive victories at one mile at the Big A, including edging fellow Damon Runyon contender Prince of Pharoahs by a head last out on February 21.
"I think he's going to be tough. He's just getting better and better ever since I've gotten him," trainer Orlando Noda said. "I think from here on out, it's up and up."
The Damon Runyon is contested at seven furlongs, and while Titan's Will has never won a main-track sprint in five appearances [0-1-1], the Congrats colt, Noda said he's been improving, finishing in the money in all three of his sophomore starts.
"I would have preferred more distance, but that's the race for him and that's where he fits for the conditions of New York-bred 3-year-olds," Noda said. "I think we should be there in the end."
Noda started training on his own last year and will be looking for his first career stakes win. Before going out on his own Noda worked multiple jobs, including as a groom for trainer Mark Casse in 2017.
Titan's Will can give Noda that milestone but has to break well from drawing the outside post. He is listed as the longest shot on the morning line at 12-1 odds, with jockey Luis Rodriguez Castro in the irons.
"I think that's great. We're in the clear and we don't have to rush out the gate like if we had one of the inside posts," Noda said. "Wherever he breaks, he can sit and close down like he has."
NYRA-circuit mainstay T Loves a Fight shows no signs of slowing in his 6-year-old campaign, which started with a second-place finish against fellow New York-breds in the Say Florida Sandy on January 11 at Aqueduct.
After running sixth against open company in the Grade 3 Toboggan off a quick seven-day turnaround on January 18 over the same track, T Loves a Fight returned to the worktab on Sunday with a three-furlong blowout in 38.59 seconds over the Belmont Park training track.
Noda said he is targeting NYRA's Claiming Crown Day on Saturday, March 28, which will offer 10 starter stakes for New York-breds.
"I think that is where is next appearance should be," Noda said. "He's a horse that has heart, and you can't train that. Early in my career, being that I don't have a lot of first-time starters, it helps to have a mature horse. If you get them back to class and feeling good, I think they can run big races as long as you place them where they can win."
T Loves a Fight has twice finished second in stakes for Noda, giving him his best-ever finish as a trainer, and could give the conditioner his first stakes trip to the winner's circle.
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Clement keeping focus on day to day ahead of milestone
Longtime NYRA circuit conditioner Christophe Clement, who entered Friday just five away from 2,000 career wins, said he isn't concentrating on when he'll reach the feat. Clement has entries at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs this weekend, and said he is focusing on maintaining the successful habits instilled since first obtaining his trainer's license in 1991 at Belmont Park.
"It would be great if the 2,000th win could happen at Aqueduct in the first week of April, but we'll celebrate wherever it happens when it happens," said Clement. "I don't really like to focus on numbers, but to try to maintain to continue to do the same things that has led me and everyone I work with as a team toward this achievement."
Born in Paris into a successful racing family in which his father and grandfather were also trainers, Clement worked with his brother Nicolas who also a conditioner in his native France before immigrating to the United States. He followed in their footsteps becoming one of the most respected trainers in the country campaigning multiple graded stakes-winners Gio Ponti, Funny Moon and Tonalist.