Mar 22, 2019
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Haikal remains on target for G2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets

by NYRA Press Office

  • Win Win Win awaits next assignment
  • Weaver weighing options for Vekoma
  • The Derby battle continues for Bourbon War
  • Purse increases set for Belmont spring/summer meet
  • Cross-Country Pick 5 between Aqueduct and Oaklawn features three stakes on Saturday

Shadwell Stable homebred Haikal remains on target for the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets on Saturday, April 6 and is expected to return to the work tab soon, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Friday morning.

Haikal won his third consecutive start and earned a personal-best 95 Beyer Speed Figure when he posted a one-length victory in his graded stakes debut, besting a talented field that included Grade 1-winner Mind Control and Instagrand in the one-mile Grade 3 Gotham on March 9 at Aqueduct.

Should a Grade or Group 1 winner become an official starter in the Wood Memorial, which is expected to be the case with Mind Control pointing towards the nine-furlong challenge, it would trigger a purse increase to $1 million.

Haikal, who earned 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby with that win, will now be aiming at 100 additional qualifying points for the "Run for the Roses" and will start that trek next week when he works on either Thursday, March 28, or the following day.

"He's doing very well; we're just going to work him once, either next Thursday or Friday," McLaughlin said.

Since running second in his debut on November 10, Haikal has won at increasing distances. His maiden-breaking win by a neck over American Mandate came at six furlongs on an Aqueduct track labeled good on December 15. In his first appearance as a 3-year-old, the Daaher colt edged Joevia by a neck in the seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield on February 9.

Exactly a month later, Haikal moved from second-last in the eight-horse field to close strong in the Gotham in his first start at one mile. The quarter and half-miles provided the fastest fractions in Haikal's four-race career [22 1/5 and 44 2/5 seconds], which McLaughlin said favored his style.

The conditioner said while the pace for the 1 1/8-mile Wood might not be as fast, he is encouraged that Haikal can get the distance [the Kentucky Derby, slated for May 4, is contested at 1 1/4 miles].

"It was great. We were hoping he could go a mile or further, and the pace was very fast, which helped us," McLaughlin said. "But he's got a great mind. He does everything right. We don't think nine furlongs will be a problem, either, though we aren't going to get such a hot pace to run. Hopefully, we won't have to have a hot pace.

"He's versatile and he does everything right," he added. "He's a neat horse to train, and we're excited about it."

McLaughlin will be seeking his second career Wood Memorial victory, with Frosted capturing the 2015 edition. Frosted, who finished second to American Pharoah in his Triple Crown-winning Belmont Stakes effort that year, went on to set the largest margin of victory in the Metropolitan Handicap with his 14 ¼-length score in 2016.

McLaughlin said Stonestreet Stables' Dawn the Destroyer is a possibility for the Grade 3, $150,000 Distaff Handicap for older fillies and mares at seven furlongs on Friday, April 5.

The 5-year-old Speightstown mare has won her last two starts at the Big A, capturing the Interborough on January 25 after defeating allowance company on November 28. She is coming off a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie on February 16 at Laurel Park.

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Win Win Win awaits next assignment

Live Oak Plantation homebred Win Win Win, who finished third in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in his most recent start, will target either the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets or the Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland for his next start.

Conditioner Michael Trombetta said that a decision will be not be made until after Win Win Win's scheduled breeze on Saturday morning at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland.

"Well, it's either between New York or the Blue Grass," said Trombetta. "We'll make a decision soon, but we definitely want to see how he looks tomorrow morning following his breeze."

Sired by Hat Trick, a son of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Sunday Silence, Win Win Win won his debut sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on November 3 at Laurel Park. The dark bay colt followed up with an impressive optional-claiming victory by 6 ½ lengths on December 7 at Laurel in his next start and closed out his 2-year-old campaign with a second-place finish in the Heft on December 29.

Win Win Win kicked off his 3-year-old season with a 7 ¼ length victory in the Pasco on January 19 at Tampa Bay Downs before entering the Tampa Bay Derby where he picked up 10 Derby qualifying points, completing the trifecta behind Tacitus and Outshine.

Trombetta said he was still assessing the colt's ability but reported that Win Win Win is training well heading into his next assignment.

"He's done everything right so far," said Trombetta. "I haven't really worked with this sire before so we're still figuring things out with him as far as how long he might want to go. He didn't have the best of trips in the Tampa Bay Derby and it was his first time racing at two turns, but I still thought he gave a valiant effort. Certainly, enough to warrant taking another shot at a Derby prep."

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Weaver weighing options for Vekoma

R.A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stable's Vekoma, with 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, currently stands in 22nd position on the leaderboard.

With 20 horses able to leave the gate in the 145th renewal of the 'Run for the Roses,' the talented chestnut, trained by George Weaver, will look to move up the rankings in his next start.

With his next breeze scheduled for Saturday morning at Palm Beach Downs, Weaver said he is still contemplating where Vekoma would make his next start and final chance to make the Kentucky Derby.

"Right now we've got three options on the table," said Weaver. "We're looking at the Florida Derby [Grade 1, March 31], the Wood, and the Blue Grass."

A son of Candy Ride purchased for $135,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Vekoma broke his maiden sprinting in his debut on September 23 at Belmont Park and capped his juvenile year with a win in the one-mile Grade 3 Nashua at Aqueduct on November 4.

Vekoma launched his 3-year-old campaign in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on March 2 at Gulfstream Park. Sent off at odds of 3-1, Vekoma stalked from off-the-pace to finish a solid third, 2 3/4 lengths behind winner Code of Honor.

Weaver said he was satisfied with Vekoma's Fountain of Youth effort.

"We thought he ran well in his comeback race," said Weaver. "I thought it was a solid effort and he's been training forwardly since then. He was a May 22 foal, so he's really been starting to fill out and you can see the maturity he's gained over the winter and he's continuing to grow."

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The Derby battle continues for Bourbon War

Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable's Bourbon War, a debut winner at the Big A on November 14, is making great strides towards a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby.

Trained by Mark Hennig, Bourbon War graduated in a one-mile race moved off the turf as the Tapit colt posted a 2 ¼-length win on the fast main track. The bay colt picked up a single Derby qualifying point when fourth in the Grade 2 Remsen following a wide trip and was subsequently freshened ahead of a victorious return in a January 18 optional claiming tilt at Gulfstream Park.

Last time out, in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, Bourbon War rallied from ninth in a talented field of 11 to finished second, defeated less than a length, by Code of Honor. The Kentucky-bred added 20 Derby qualifying points for the effort, bringing his tally to 21, which is good for eleventh in the points standings.

Hennig said the well-bred Bourbon War, out of the Grade 1-winning dam My Conquestadory, has made great strides.

"He's made great progress. I think that first race really woke him up a lot. He's a horse that was never really enthusiastic as a training horse prior to running," said Hennig. "Once he ran, the light came on for him. It's been quite a wake up for him. He's a typical Tapit that was bored of all the training and was ready for some race experience."

Bourbon War has shown an ability to rally from off the pace in all four of his career starts. Hennig said he was particularly impressed with how his young charge completed the Fountain of Youth under regular pilot Irad Ortiz, Jr.

"He's very relaxed. He's not in any rush. The effort didn't surprise me. The only thing that surprised me was that last sixteenth when he was really finishing very quickly," said Hennig.

Hennig said that Bourbon War is slated to make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby set for March 30 at Gulfstream Park. The improving colt breezed four furlongs in 49.88 seconds this morning at the Hallandale oval in his final prep for the key Derby prep which offers 100-40-20-10 Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers.

"We're trying to earn points. He needs a good effort in the Florida Derby to warrant going forward," said Hennig. "He's been happy here and trained well. The timing is good, and we get five weeks to the Derby provided he moves on."

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Purse increases set for Belmont spring/summer meet

Maiden special weight races at Belmont Park for the spring/summer meet will see purses increase from $75,000 to $80,000, while similar $5,000 purse increases will be implemented for first-and-second-level allowance races.

First-level allowance purses will now be $82,000 and second-level will be upped to $85,000.

Third-level allowance races will be worth $87,000, marking a $2,000 increase from 2018.

The 48-day Belmont Park spring/summer meet, featuring 59 total stakes races worth $18.4 million, will start on Friday, April 26 and run through Sunday, July 7.

NYRA will also continue the under-20 claiming challenge, implemented to boost trainers who stable 20 or fewer horses where points are accumulated based on placing in claiming races.

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Cross-Country Pick 5 between Aqueduct and Oaklawn features three stakes on Saturday

Saturday will offer horseplayers another opportunity at a Cross Country Pick 5, with the New York Racing Association continuing its partnership with Oaklawn Park in an exciting sequence that will see all five races contested in a one-hour span, including the 27th running of the $100,000 Cicada at Aqueduct Racetrack and the $100,000 Nodouble Breeders' from Oaklawn.

The action commences from Hot Springs, Arkansas, with Race 7, featuring the Nodouble Breeders' with a post time of 5:09 p.m. Eastern. The second leg will switch to the Big A, with the Cicada, for 3-year-old fillies going six furlongs, at 5:37 p.m. The action will continue to alternate, with Oaklawn's Race 8 comprising the third leg at 5:38 p.m. Aqueduct's ninth and final race at 6:08 p.m. will be the fourth leg, and the Cross County Pick 5 will conclude with the $125,000 Gazebo at 6:09 p.m. from Oaklawn.

The minimum bet for the multi-track, multi-race wager is 50 cents. Wagering on the Cross Country Pick 5 is also available on track, on ADW platforms and at simulcast facilities nationwide. There will be a mandatory payout of the entire pool.

Last week's Cross Country Pick 5 between Aqueduct and Oaklawn, highlighted by the two divisions of the Grade 2 Rebel, posted a handle of $203,282, marking the largest all-sources pool for the Cross Country Pick 5 series this year. A winning 50-cent ticket returned $4,812.25.

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