by Brian Bohl
Dogwood Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Pipes will look to build on his best stakes effort when he competes against a six-horse field in the fourth running of the $100,000 Gander for New York-bred 3-year-olds on Sunday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Pipes enters off back-to-back second-place finishes for trainer Gary Contessa, including a runner-up effort to Grade 3 Withers runner-up Not That Brady in the Damon Runyon last out on December 31 at Aqueduct at the Gander's one-turn mile distance.
Pipes has posted improving Beyer Speed Figures in each of his last three races since Contessa took him off the turf following a 10th-place finish in the Grade 3 Pilgrim on September 29 at Belmont Park, including a personal-best 81 in the Damon Runyon on a good-and-sealed track at the Big A. For Sunday, he drew post 4, where he will look to utilize his closing burst.
"He has good closing speed; that's his style," Contessa said. "We need a good pace up front, hopefully. I'm very pleased with the position and I like the way the race sets up. I expect him to show up."
The Exchange Rate colt posted back-to-back third-place finishes at Saratoga Race Course to start his career, including his debut in a 5 ½-furlong sprint on a sloppy and sealed track that was moved off the grass on July 23 before running on the Spa turf on August 24. He broke his maiden at 1 1/16 miles on a race moved off the turf September 9 at Belmont before misfiring in the Pilgrim.
Pipes, purchased for $115,000 at the 2018 Ocala Breeders' Sale, is 1-2-2 in seven career starts. He will look to make his 2019 bow a successful one and will pick up jockey Kendrick Carmouche's services.
"You buy an Exchange Rate [progeny] and you think you have a turf horse, so I just went with it, but it turns out he's better on the dirt," Contessa said.
Sunrise Stables and Celeritas Racing's Kadens Courage will look to stretch out in distance after making his first eight starts between six and 6 ½ furlongs, posting one win, two runner-up efforts and five third-place finishes for trainer Rudy Rodriguez.
After running second in the Rego Park on January 13 at Aqueduct, Kadens Courage ran third last out against optional claiming company on February 18 on the same track, finishing 7 ½-lengths back to winner London House.
"We're going to see if we can get the distance," Rodriguez said. "I'm hoping he can give us another run. I was disappointed with how he ran last time. I think he can run better. We'll try to put him on the lead and see what happens."
Meeting-leading rider Manny Franco will be in the irons for Kadens Courage, breaking from post 5.
Edward Witek's Kosciuszko returns to stakes action after winning against optional claimers on February 7 at the Gander distance at Aqueduct. The Patrick Quick trainee is 2-1-1 in six career starts, with a third-place effort in the Notebook on November 25 before a sophomore-campaign ending sixth-place finish in the New York Stallion Series Great White Way.
Kosciuszko's last start marked his first at a mile, and the Smart Bid colt responded by dueling Hushion for the lead before taking command and outkicking Tiergan by three-quarters of a length for the win, earning a personal-best 75 Beyer.
Jose Lezcano will ride from post 3.
Durkin's Call, a private purchase by Wachtel Stable, has continued to put in consistent efforts, with four consecutive in-the-money finishes buoying the Jump Start gelding's first stakes appearance.
With a pair of wins, a runner-up effort and a third-place finish in eight starts, Durkin's Call will race for the fourth straight time at Aqueduct, where he is 1-1-1. Hall of Famer Bill Mott takes over the training duties from Michael Trombetta and will send Durkin's Call out for the first time, with his charge drawing post 6 with Junior Alvarado.
Rounding out the field is a pair of first-time stakes starters in Rohan Ramdat's Ventus, trained by Oscar Barrera, III, and Captain Frost, conditioned by Linda Rice. Ventus will be looking to notch his first win in his fourth career start, drawing post 2 with jockey Heman Harkie. Captain Frost has won back-to-back starts after running seventh in his debut on December 16. Dylan Davis will ride from post 1.
First post time for Sunday's 9-race card at Aqueduct is 1:30 p.m.