G2 Wood Memorial victory years in the making for Resilience
Apr 7, 2024
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G2 Wood Memorial victory years in the making for Resilience

by NYRA Press Office

  • G2 Wood Memorial victory years in the making for Resilience
  • Where’s My Ring from G3 Gazelle graduation to G1 Kentucky Oaks-contender
  • Gargan relishing two Kentucky Derby contenders in Dornoch, Society Man
  • Uncle Heavy could point to G3 Peter Pan; Maximus Meridius possible for Gold Fever
  • Super Chow to freshen up for Spa targets
  • Abnel Bocachica joins NYRA jockey colony
  • Aqueduct Racetrack spring meet Week 2 stakes probables

When Saturday’s Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino winner Resilience was a foal, he carried himself in the way that elite racehorses do; with a self-assured manner that showed he knew what was expected of a horse with his pedigree.

“I remember back when he was a foal, he would come out and look you in the eye like, ‘what’s up,’” said co-owner Emily Bushnell. “He’s just a confident dude and has just done everything right every step of the way. He’s very sure of himself, and I wish I had his confidence.”

That confidence was on full display Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack when the bay son of Into Mischief pounced from off the pace under Hall of Famer John Velazquez to stroll home a 2 1/4-length winner. In victory, he earned the maximum allotment of the 100-50-25-15-10 qualifying points available to the top-five finishers and secured a spot in the starting gate for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.

“I’m still just soaking it all in,” said Bushnell. “This horse means so much to my family and brings us all full circle.”

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and co-owned by Ric Waldman, Resilience found the winner’s circle yesterday on the heels of a game fourth-place effort in the Grade 2 Risen Star in February at Fair Grounds.

He donned blinkers for the first time in the Wood and rated two lengths off the pace set by Evening News, who marked splits of 23.45 seconds and 47.49 over the fast main track. Resilience was given his cue by Velazquez in the turn and responded with aplomb, ranging up four-wide to take command at the stretch call and power home in a final time of 1:50.28. He equaled a career-best 90 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.

Resilience was content Sunday morning at Mott’s Belmont Park barn, and munched on carrots after his nap around the 9:00 maintenance break. Leana Willaford, Mott’s Belmont-based assistant, reported that he and Elysian Meadows, who finished sixth in the Wood, are in fine fettle.

“Both horses are good,” said Willaford. “We’re very happy and we were hoping for Resilience’s performance. He’ll make his way over to Churchill sooner rather than later.”

The talented Resilience is the result of nearly three decades of dedication and hard work by Bushnell and her parents, Pam and Marty Wygod, who bred Resilience and his dam, Meadowsweet.

Marty Wygod got involved in the thoroughbred industry early in life, purchasing River Edge Farm in Buellton, California in the 1960s, where he stood top Golden State stallions such as Benchmark, Bertrando and Pirate’s Bounty.

“My dad grew up close to Belmont and just loved horses. He started hotwalking as a teenager and snuck out of school to go to the track,” said Bushnell. “He just really loves the horses and he loves the breeding aspect of it.”

Resilience’s story begins in 1996 when the Wygods purchased a Rahy filly for $250,000 at the Keeneland July Sale of Selected Yearlings. The filly was later named Tranquility Lake, and proved to be well worth her purchase price after a career that saw her bank over $1.6 million in earnings and capture seven graded stakes, including Grade 1s in the 1999 Gamely Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park and the 2000 Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita Park.

Tranquility Lake was selected from the sale by the late River Edge manager Russell Drake, who had also selected her multiple graded stakes-winning half-brother Benchmark as a weanling in 1991. Benchmark went on to become a cornerstone sire in California, and Tranquility Lake has left a lasting legacy of her own.

Tranquility Lake, whose multiple graded stakes-placed dam Winters’ Love is a half-sister to 1983 Belmont Stakes-winner Caveat, retired from racing in 2001, and saw immediate success as a broodmare when bred to Storm Cat for her first five foals.

The first foal was the multiple graded stakes-winning turfer After Market, followed by Group 2-winner Jalil, who was sold as a yearling to Godolphin for $9.7 million. The third Storm Cat foal, a colt named Inflection Point, did not race, and was followed by the multiple graded stakes-winning Mott trainee Courageous Cat.

It was through these breedings to Storm Cat that the Wygods were introduced to Waldman, the longtime stallion consultant at Overbrook Farm where Storm Cat stood. Now, more than 20 years later, the Wygod family and Waldman will have their first starter in the Kentucky Derby, and will do it together.

“It’s really special,” said Bushnell. “I’ve known Ric since I was a teenager and he loves the sport. He has a strong relationship with my dad, and they work well together. It’s a team approach, and I’m really excited to be on this journey with him.”

After her last Storm Cat foal, a colt named Recap in 2007, Tranquility Lake had two more colts by A.P. Indy and Candy Ride in 2009 and 2012, respectively, making each of her seven foals male.

“We had After Market, Jalil, Courageous Cat, and she just kept having colt after colt after colt,” Bushnell recalled. “Then, the last foal she had was a filly. The whole family was in one filly, and everyone was holding their breath with her to make sure she was OK and see what she was like as a racehorse.”

The filly was Meadowsweet, a dark bay by Smart Strike who raced six times and won twice, including a 2017 turf route at Del Mar where she bested graded stakes-winner Pacific Wind by a nose. Retired in 2018, Meadowsweet had her first foal, the Quality Road gelding Cloud Forest, in 2019, and was then bred to Into Mischief in 2020. The resulting foal is Resilience, who has already continued to build upon his family’s excellence in impressive fashion.

“It’s obviously a really good nick of a Smart Strike mare with Into Mischief, and the family has deep history on the turf as well. We could potentially have a great dirt horse, or a great turf horse, and that’s what we were looking for,” said Bushnell. “We had all the faith in the world in this mare and wanted to give her the best shot, and there’s no better shot than Into Mischief.”

Bushnell said a 2-year-old full-brother to Resilience is currently at Ciaran and Amy Dunne’s Wavertree Stables in Florida, and that Meadowsweet recently gave birth to an Into Mischief filly. She is expected to be bred to the four-time Champion General Sire again this year.

“We were so excited it was a filly this year,” Bushnell said, with a laugh.

Resilience’s existence is thanks to a friendship and partnership that has stood the test of time, as the Wygod family and Waldman are rewarded once again for their patience, expertise, and meticulous horsemanship. Saturday’s result was emotional for Bushnell, who said she is involved in all aspects of her family’s racing operation.

“We’re on the phone with each other all the time making decisions and we are all very involved,” said Bushnell. “I’m so excited to be carrying it on with my parents. I’ve been working with my dad in a professional capacity for about 15 years and I love being able to learn from him.”

With Resilience and his team on their way to Louisville, Bushnell said being able to go on the journey of a lifetime with her family and closest friends by her side is something she will cherish forever.

“It’s more than you can put into words,” said Bushnell. “I feel like I was so incredibly nervous yesterday, but now that he ran so well, he showed he has the quality that we all thought. Just to be included on this ride with him is a joy.”


Where’s My Ring from G3 Gazelle graduation to G1 Kentucky Oaks-contender

Michael McMillan’s Where’s My Ring clinched her spot in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 3 at Churchill Downs with a win in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Gazelle, a nine-furlong test for sophomore fillies, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained by Val Brinkerhoff, the Twirling Candy bay earned the maximum allotment of the 100-50-25-15-10 Kentucky Oaks points on offer to the top-five finishers, adding to 25 points earned for a last out second in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel on March 9 at Santa Anita Park.

Where’s My Ring, who entered as the field’s lone maiden, broke alertly from the inside post and saved ground in third under Jose Lezcano before pouncing in the stretch to draw off a 4 1/4-length winner. The effort was awarded a career-best 90 Beyer Speed Figure, continuing to show improvement in her third outing with blinkers.

“She hasn’t broke this great ever before. But we put blinkers on her and she’s shown a lot more speed to get herself into contention,” said Brinkerhoff. “The first time I ever broke her out of the gate, she broke the best ever but then not as good. Since adding the blinkers, they’ve really improved her.”

Brinkerhoff said the blinkers will stay on for the Oaks and that he feels confident having won at its nine-furlong distance, which he chose over 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Oaks preps including the Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks and Grade 2 Fantasy at Oaklawn Park.

“That is why I opted to come here, to get that extra distance,” Brinkerhoff said. “I always said, ‘Well, we’ve got the best maiden in the country, just a little bit of bad luck.’ It was the right move.”

Brinkerhoff said Lezcano will “absolutely” ride Where’s My Ring in the Kentucky Oaks after a perfectly-engineered trip that continued a strong start to his spring meet, including winning with 5-of-6 mounts Thursday.

He also confirmed Where’s My Ring, who battled illness early last summer, exited the race in good order and will ship to Churchill Downs after some days off in New York.

“She came out great,” Brinkerhoff said. “She ate everything. She was bouncing kind of like a rubber ball and after the jockey did say he had a lot of horse left, so that makes me feel good.

“In the summer, she had colic,” Brinkerhoff added. “We took her to a hospital and they put a catheter in her, she got an infection that turned out to be ulcers. It took two months to get rid of those but she’s catching up now. She’s doing it well.”

Out of the Tapit mare Mapit, Where’s My Ring, a $100,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, is now 8-1-3-1 with $202,620 in earnings.


Gargan relishing two Kentucky Derby contenders in Dornoch, Society Man

Trainer Danny Gargan is basking in the glow of having two trainees secure a place in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby after Dornoch and Society Man collected enough qualifying points with their respective performances on Saturday.

“Everybody is good, cooled out good, and no complaints today,” said Gargan.

West Paces Racing, R.A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, Two Eight Racing and Pine Racing Stables’ dual graded stakes-winner Dornoch earned 15 points for his fourth-place finish in yesterday’s Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland, where he rated off the pace for the first time since August and finished 6 1/2 lengths back of the victorious Sierra Leone.

“We tried something different to school him and he learned a lot,” said Gargan. “He got a little tired and we might have shipped him a little too on top of the race. We’ll just dust him off and bring him back and he’ll run a lot better next time. We’re proud of him.”

Dornoch earned an 88 Beyer Speed Figure for an effort that Gargan said was a good lesson as he prepares to take on a field of 19 rivals in the Derby, including the frontrunning Grade 1 Florida Derby-winner Fierceness.

“He got dirt [kickback] for the first time and got back in there,” said Gargan. “I don’t expect to have horses gunning it out of there in the Derby like they did yesterday, so hopefully him and Fierceness can break out of there and go a nice, relaxed pace. We’ll enjoy the Derby and hopefully he can lay up close and run big. We think we’ll bring a tougher, fitter horse who’s learned a lot to the Derby.”

Dornoch captured the Grade 2 Remsen by a nose over Sierra Leone in December at the Big A, a race that has seen half of the 10 starters go on to win stakes as sophomores.

Shortly before the Blue Grass, Gargan sent out 106-1 longshot Society Man, who he co-owns with West Paces Racing and GMP Stables, to a runner-up effort in the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Ridden by Luis Rivera, Jr., the chestnut gelding rallied from 4 1/2 lengths off the pace to take up second position at the stretch call and maintained his place to the wire, finishing 2 1/4 lengths back of the victorious Resilience. The effort awarded him with 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, enough to guarantee him a spot in the “Run for the Roses.”

“He’s a different kind of horse [from Dornoch] with a different running style,” said Gargan. “He ran a really game effort and is getting better with every race. It’s going to be fun to have two horses. We don’t get a lot of babies, and to have the kind of horses where two have qualified for the Derby is a miracle. We feel blessed and everyone is so excited.”

Society Man entered from a fourth-out graduation on March 9 at the Big A where he closed from 10 lengths back to win impressively by three lengths. He made his stakes debut as a maiden when off-the-board in the Grade 3 Withers in February.

“I ran him as a maiden in a stake, so I’ve always liked him quite a bit,” said Gargan. “I thought he would run 1-2-3 in the Withers, and I was kind of disappointed. He didn’t get a very good trip and got checked out of there. That was frustrating, but then he came back and looked really good breaking his maiden. He did it again yesterday.”

Gargan’s two Derby hopefuls are opposites in running style and will likely be on opposite ends of the pari-mutuel odds spectrum, but the veteran conditioner said he likes his chances with both of the talented sons of Good Magic.

“You never know. When you have horses who are gritty and tough, you might get lucky,” said Gargan. “It’s a fun ride, it’s great, and I’m extremely proud of all my help. It’s worth running both of them. You have to take a chance when you have it. They don’t look at the tote board.”


Uncle Heavy could point to G3 Peter Pan; Maximus Meridius possible for Gold Fever

Michael Millam and LC Racing’s Uncle Heavy overcame a troubled trip from the outermost post 12 to finish fifth in Saturday’s Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained by Butch Reid, Jr., the Social Inclusion bay picked up 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to bring his total to 30 after earning 20 points for the winner’s share of his Grade 3 Withers win in February here. He currently sits 25th in the standings for a spot in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby starting gate.

Uncle Heavy broke a step slow under regular pilot Mychel Sanchez in the Wood and raced in 10th position in the early running before making a wide move through the final turn. He went seven-wide into the stretch run and was in close proximity to Deposition, who fell inside the three-sixteenths.

“He came back fine and is happy this morning,” Reid, Jr. said. “Considering the incident that happened very close to him in the race, we’re happy he came out of it fine. It was just one of those days, he drew a lousy post, didn’t break good and ended up wide. It just wasn’t our day.”

While Reid, Jr. would have dearly loved to test Uncle Heavy at 10 furlongs in the Kentucky Derby, he said the team will consider a number of options, including the nine-furlong Grade 3, $200,000 Peter Pan on May 11 here.

“I think that distance would be better for this horse, so we’ll keep an eye on it but we’re realistic,” said Reid, Jr. regarding possible defections in the Kentucky Derby. “We have other possibilities in mind already – the Peter Pan makes sense – but there’s several races that make sense and a lot of money to be made out there. I’d like to get a nice confidence builder for the horse.”

Bred in Pennsylvania by Reid, Jr.’s sister-in-law Barbara Reid, Uncle Heavy has banked $323,580 through a 5-3-0-0 record.

Maximus Meridius, owned by Reid, Jr. in partnership with LC Racing and Cash is King, finished second to the rallying Reasoned Analysis in Saturday’s Listed Bay Shore at the Big A.

The Maximus Mischief colt had flashed talent in four starts prior to the seven-furlong Bay Shore for sophomores, winning his debut by 10 1/2-lengths in November at Parx and following two starts later at the same track with a strong optional-claiming win with blinkers on for the first time.

Maximus Meridius has made his last two outings in stakes company at the Big A, finishing a prominent fourth in the Grade 3 Gotham traveling a one-turn mile in March ahead of his Bay Shore effort where he opened up by four lengths at the stretch call before Reasoned Analysis flew by.

“I still think he’s better than that. He makes the lead and then he waits on horses,” Reid, Jr. said. “He needs a rider to be really patient with him and wait to the last minute to make their move. He has more talent than he’s letting on so far. When he turned for home yesterday I thought he was gone, but I can’t take anything away from the winner, he ran a great race and beat us handily.

“He’s a horse that’s still improving and will move forward as his career goes on. It seems like when he makes the lead he hangs a little bit,” Reid, Jr. added. “I thought he’d even run long, so I was surprised with the turnback that he did get run down yesterday. But those things happen.”

Reid, Jr. said he may point Maximus Meridius to the six-furlong $150,000 Gold Fever on May 5 here.

Cash is King and LC Racing’s Carmelina set the pace in Saturday’s Grade 3 Gazelle here, a nine-furlong route for sophomore fillies, before fading to seventh.

“We wanted to take a shot at it and see how far she could get,” Reid, Jr. said. “With all that said, Aqueduct was a very funny racetrack yesterday with a lot of favorites getting upset and a lot of horses weren’t handling it. We’re happy everyone came back safe and sound and we’ll move on to the next spot.”

Carmelina, a Pennsylvania-bred Maximus Mischief bay, boasts a record of 8-4-1-0 for purse earnings of $263,300 topped by restricted stakes scores last year in the Keswick at Colonial Downs and Shamrock Rose at Penn National to go along with an open-company score in the Gin Talking at Laurel Park. She finished second in the Busher Invitational here in March.

Reid, Jr. noted that Michael Millam’s Pennsylvania-bred Neecie Marie, a now 4-year-old Cross Traffic bay, could look to make her seasonal debut in the $150,000 Plenty of Grace – a one-mile turf test for older fillies and mares on April 21 at the Big A.

Neecie Marie won the state-bred Mrs. Penny in August at Parx ahead of close runner-up effort to Eternal Hope at Belmont at the Big A in the Grade 3 Fasig-Tipton Jockey Club Oaks Invitational and Grade 2 Sands Point. She completed her sophomore campaign with a fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Mrs. Revere in November at Churchill Downs.


Super Chow to freshen up for Spa targets

Lea Farms’ Super Chow brought a pair of Grade 3 sprint wins at the Big A to Saturday’s seven-furlong Grade 2, $300,000 Carter presented by NYRA Bets here, but the seven-furlong distance proved too much for the 4-year-old Lord Nelson colt, who settled for third.

Trained by Jorge Delgado and ridden by Maddy Olver, Super Chow enjoyed moderate splits of 24.38 seconds and 48.18 over the fast main track. He opened up by 1 1/2-lengths at the stretch call, but tired late and drifted out into the path of the streaking favorite Post Time, who surged to a narrow neck score over Castle Chaos. It was a further 1 1/4-lengths back to Super Chow in third.

“We got beat fair and square. The horse that won the race is in top form and ran a very good race,” Delgado said. “We had an easy lead like we wanted and things went our way, so no excuse. We were facing top horses and maybe yesterday wasn’t his day.

“At a shorter distance against these kind of horses we may have a good chance,” Delgado added. “But yesterday at seven furlongs, which is not our strength, that last sixteenth was a little too long for him. The horse that won was a very nice horse and I’m sure he has a promising future.”

The ultra-consistent Super Chow has banked $722,900 through an 18-8-4-5 record, boasting stakes scores in the 2022 Bowman Mill at Keeneland to go along with last year’s Inaugural at Tampa Bay Downs and Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park. He made the grade with a frontrunning score in the seven-furlong Toboggan in February and doubled up in the six-furlong Tom Fool Handicap in March.

“He had a very nice winter, hitting the board in every stakes race there in this division and finished with two wins and one third,” Delgado said. “I’m proud of the horse and everyone that put a little something into developing the horse this winter. I look forward to the rest of the year for him.”

Delgado said he’ll give Super Chow plenty of time to recover with one potential target being the 6 1/2-furlong Grade 2, $350,000 True North presented by F. W. Webb on Belmont Stakes Day on June 8 at Saratoga Race Course.

“He’ll take a week off and we’ll start training him a little light and look for a race at the end of May or beginning of June,” Delgado said. “It was a busy winter and he is a solid, strong horse and he gives 100 percent all of the time. A horse that finishes 17 times in the money out of 18, and at eight different tracks – that tells you a lot and we’re very proud of the horse.”

Delgado said Lea Farms’ Power Squeeze, last-out winner of the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, is in fine fettle ahead of her upcoming start in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.

“She’s doing very good. We’re really excited about her,” Delgado said. “Watching the races all around the country this weekend and seeing the potential competition – as far as the numbers are concerned, I believe we’ll have a good chance. Leslie’s Rose was very impressive in Keeneland.”

Power Squeeze, by Union Rags, has won 4-of-6 starts, taking the Cash Run at Gulfstream Park and Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs ahead of her Gulfstream Park Oaks coup.

“We’ll make sure to bring our best of the filly to the race. We’re due to win a Grade 1 race and I’m very grateful for the opportunity,” said the multiple graded stakes-winning conditioner.

Delgado said that Power Squeeze will continue her preparations at her Gulfstream base before flying to Kentucky on April 25.

“She likes her stall and likes the environment here. I think it’s best to keep her home and breeze her and then send her there,” Delgado said.


Abnel Bocachica joins NYRA jockey colony

Jockey Abnel Bocachica, who is currently third in the jockey standings at Charles Town with 31 wins, will look to make an impact on the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit where he will be represented by agent Shawn Klotz.

The 19-year-old native of Carolina, Puerto Rico is the son of Arnaldo Bocachica, who currently leads the Charles Town jockey standings with 46 wins. Abnel attended Puerto Rico’s famous Vocational Equestrian Agustín Mercado Reverón School, which has produced a number of top riders.

“He's doing really well there and has his dad coaching him along and now it's time to make it or break it,” Klotz said. “He's really focused and a nice kid. He's been doing really well at Charles Town and already won a lot of races there this year. He’s a five-pound bug until the beginning of September and can ride 109 pounds.”

Bocachica launched his riding career in May at Charles Town and picked up his first win in July at the West Virginia oval by guiding Hovel to victory in a seven-furlong claiming tilt. His mounts banked $503,505 through a record of 329-23-29-53 last year and he has already surpassed those totals this year with a ledger of 218-31-27-30 for purse earnings of $578,759.

Klotz said Bocachica has honed his skills riding the six-furlong dirt oval at Charles Town.

“He can finish really strong but he's also really good out of the gate coming from Charles Town where you need to break going 4 1/2-furlongs and go. I think that will give him an advantage riding speed horses,” Klotz said.

Bocachica is currently in New York working horses at Belmont Park.


Aqueduct Racetrack spring meet Week 2 stakes probales

Saturday, April 13

Listed $150K Top Flight

Probable: Comparative (Brad Cox), Saddle Up Jessie (Brittany Russell), Spiked (John Terranova), Tizzy in the Sky (Todd Pletcher)

Possible: Queen of Missoula (Ben Colebrook)

Sunday, April 14

$200K NYSSS Park Avenue

Probable: Baroness Bourbon (James Bentley Begg), Bustin Time (Robbie Davis), Fast and Frisky (Jorge Abreu), My Shea D Lady (Carlos David), Sohana (Cox), Sunday Girl (David Duggan)

$200K NYSSS Times Square

Probable: Antonio of Venice (Rudy Rodriguez), Black Almighty (Linda Rice), Brick Ambush (Danny Gargan), Cable Ready (Linda Dixon), Doc Sullivan (Mike Miceli)

Possible: Liberty Central (Patrick Quick)

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