by NYRA Press Office
Trainer Rob Atras continued a torrid run of form by saddling Robert Derr’s New York-bred Rossa Veloce to a gate-to-wire score in Saturday’s $100,000 Correction, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The 38-year-old Manitoba native has won with seven of his last eight starters at the Big A, rocketing the conditioner to second place in the winter meet standings with 18 wins.
“We've been fortunate. We got horses in good spots and most of them have been short prices, but you still have to get good trips and good rides,” Atras said. “You never know in this game, sometimes everything goes right and sometimes nothing goes right."
Prior to Super Quality's win last Sunday here which kicked off the current hot streak, the Atras barn had endured a frustrating record of 24-1-5-4 at the Big A dating to February 9.
“It was nice to get some wins," Atras said. "We'd gone a little cold there for a few weeks, having trouble getting in the right spots and a couple horses didn't run like we though they would. That's the way it goes in this game sometimes.”
Rossa Veloce, guided to victory by Manny Franco, set splits of 23.28 seconds and 46.93 over the sloppy and sealed main track before kicking clear at the top of the lane. The 5 1/4-length score registered a 92 Beyer Speed Figure.
“We were going to try an allowance race that didn't go and I was kind of disappointed, but I'm not anymore,” said Atras, with a laugh.
The ultra-consistent Rossa Veloce, a $12,000 purchase at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale, has banked $476,510 through a record of 25-9-4-2. A total of $219,200 of those purse earnings have come since Atras claimed the 5-year-old Girolamo mare – at the owner’s suggestion - for $32,000 in September at Saratoga Race Course. She has won 4-of-5 starts since here at Aqueduct and secured her first stakes win on Saturday, adding to her potential broodmare status.
“She's been a pleasant surprise,” Atras said. “When we first got her, we though she was an OK claim because she ran good. I wasn't 100 percent sure what to expect the first time we ran her because she really doesn't show you a whole lot in the morning. She just does what you ask of her and she's not real flashy.”
Rossa Veloce has been in pole position at the second point of call in 4-of-5 starts for Atras, a strategy that served her well in a juvenile campaign in 2020 that included a runner-up effort in the state-bred Key Cents. The chestnut had raced in stalking fashion for the majority of her starts prior to being claimed.
She made a winning debut for Atras in October at Belmont at the Big A after exiting the outermost post 5 under Franco and followed with an impressive gate-to-wire score under Jose Ortiz in a November open allowance that garnered a career-best 102 Beyer.
“The first time we ran her she had an outside post and I told Manny to break real sharp and put her right in there,” Atras said. “The second time Jose rode her and there was other speed in there. I told Jose to break like you're going to go and we'll see what happens. That day she went to the front faster than I'd ever seen her go and she's just been showing a lot of speed lately.”
Atras said he has yet to pick out a next spot for Rossa Veloce, who sports a ledger of 13-7-2-2 at the Big A.
“I hope she can stay in that caliber of racing. She seems to do real well at Aqueduct,” Atras said.
Beach Haven Thoroughbreds’ Warman Road graduated at second asking in Race 1 Saturday at Aqueduct, leading gate-to-wire to best a four-horse field in a six-furlong maiden special weight.
The Unified sophomore, piloted by Kendrick Carmouche, garnered a 77 Beyer, improving 21 points off his third-place finish in September here in a race won by Quick Hammer, who finished fifth next out in the Bowman Mill at Keeneland, while the runner-up Signator, a $1.7 million OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase, graduated next out.
“We always liked him and he'd trained pretty good,” Atras said. “We were worried in the summer that he wouldn't be able to compete against some of the top barns and he got scratched in the gate up at Saratoga. When we first ran him at Aqueduct, it was a pretty deep track that day. He showed some speed and then he got tired. He came back yesterday and ran a pretty good race. I know it was a sloppy track and a small field, but with the layoff I thought he ran pretty well.”
A half-brother to Great Majestic, who won the off-the-turf 2016 Owners Cup Distaff at Evangeline, Warman Road is out of the Distorted Humor mare Great Humor, who is a half-sister to multiple graded-stakes placed Valid Notebook and multiple stakes-winner Silk Concord.
Atras said he will look for a first-level allowance next for Warman Road. Initially purchased for $20,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Warman Road was bought by Thatta Boy Stable for $55,000 at the 2022 OBS June 2-Year-Olds and Horses of Racing Age Sale.
Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Kentucky homebred Law Professor, winner of the off-the-turf 2021 Grade 2 Santa Anita Mathis Mile, is under consideration for a number of stakes after breezing a solo half-mile in 50.45 Sunday over the Belmont Park dirt training track with exercise rider Jesse Sauder in the irons.
“It went well. It was just a maintenance half-mile for him,” Atras said.
Law Professor came into Atras’ care last summer after making his first 10 outings for trainer Michael McCarthy, including his Mathis Mile score and a runner-up effort in the nine-furlong Grade 2 San Pasqual last February over the Santa Anita dirt.
He made a winning debut for Atras in September, scoring a half-length victory in the restricted Tapit over the turf at Kentucky Downs before posting a strong runner-up effort to multiple Grade 1-winner Life Is Good in the Grade 1 Woodward on October 1 at Belmont at the Big A. He closed out his campaign with an even fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Keeneland.
Law Professor won his seasonal debut in impressive fashion, romping to a 7 1/2-length score in the nine-furlong Queens County here before finishing a distant third last out after attending the pace in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Razorback Handicap on February 18 at Oaklawn Park with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
“He didn't really settle in well there. I thought he was a little rank in the morning and it's a busy track,” Atras said. “We schooled him in the paddock a bunch, but he was a little nervous in the paddock. He broke like a shot and Jose had trouble relaxing him. It wasn't his fault, the horse was just a little too keen. I don't think we saw his best effort that day. If we do go back to Oaklawn, we might tweak a few things to help him settle in a little better.”
While the simplest route to the winner’s circle might be the nine-furlong $125,000 Excelsior on April 1 here, Atras said he will also consider a pair of nine-furlong options out-of-town in the Grade 2, $500,000 New Orleans Classic on March 25 at Fair Grounds, and the Grade 2, $1 million Oaklawn Handicap on April 22.
“He trains so well in New York and he runs well here, so we're definitely going to consider that race,” said Atras regarding the Excelsior. “But we haven't made any definite plans with him yet. We have him nominated at the Fair Grounds, so we'll see who shows up for that race.”
Michael Dubb and Gandharvi’s graded-stakes winner Battle Bling is enjoying a freshening at Fair Hill in Maryland following her third-place effort in the one-mile Heavenly Prize Invitational on February 18 at Aqueduct.
The 5-year-old Vancouver mare, who boasts a ledger of 24-6-9-2 for purse earnings of $664,317, captured the nine-furlong Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm Handicap here in November as part of a 10-race campaign last year.
“We decided to give her a little break. She'd been running every 25-30 days for a year and a half now,” Atras said. “She wasn't giving us her best efforts and might have been a little tired, so we decided to give her a couple months at Fair Hill. They'll start her back there when they think she's ready and prepare for a summer/fall campaign. She won't go out of training for too long.”
Bred in Kentucky Royal Oak Farm and E. Kiely, Battle Bling is out of the E Dubai mare Soleil Rouge, who is a half-sister to graded-stakes placed Justice for Auston, multiple stakes-winner Bound, and stakes winners Lune Rouge and Road to Mandalay.
Reid, Jr. considering Ninetyprcentmaddie for G2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino
LC Racing’s multiple stakes-winner Ninetyprcentmaddie made his first trip outside of Parx Racing on February 11 to make his graded stakes debut in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Though the son of Weigelia finished a distant seventh after failing to fire, trainer Butch Reid, Jr. said he may consider another try over the same surface and distance in the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on April 8.
“It’s possible,” said Reid, Jr., who finished in-the-money with 7-of-9 runners at the Big A last year. “There’s several races around that time and we wonder if he handled that surface there, so we’ve got some questions to think about. But we’ll see how the races shape up and make our decision from there. I don’t think shipping is his best thing, but he’ll probably have to go on the road again for his next start. We will probably ship him in a little earlier to get him used to his surroundings.”
The Wood Memorial is the last local prep on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, awarding the top-five finishers 100-40-30-20-10 qualifying points, respectively, towards the prestigious Grade 1 test on May 6 at Churchill Downs.
Ninetyprcentmaddie, who is now a dual stakes winner, bounced out of his Withers effort with an emphatic score in Monday’s City of Brotherly Love at one-mile and 70 yards over the main track at Parx Racing, leading at every point of call to post an eye-catching 9 3/4-length victory in a final time of 1:44.57. The effort was awarded a career-best 86 Beyer Speed Figure, a number that Reid, Jr. said gives him confidence in stretching Ninetyprcentmaddie out even further.
“I don’t think distance is a problem and I’ve always felt he’s a distance horse waiting to happen and that he proved that on Monday,” said Reid, Jr. “If you throw out the Withers, it was really his first time around two turns. It seems like he learned from it and will be even better next time.
“He came out of it really well and happy,” Reid, Jr. added. “I was happy to see him come back after that effort in the Withers and be no worse for wear. The jockey [Abner Adorno] said he was kind of choking up down the backside last time and maybe he flipped his pallet, but he didn’t show any signs of that this time.”
Earlier on Monday’s card at Parx, Reid, Jr. sent out Swilcan Stables and LC Racing’s multiple stakes-winner Girl Trouble to a third-place finish in the one-mile and 70-yard Main Line.
Ridden by Paco Lopez from post 1, the often prominently-placed Girl Trouble was held in fourth position along the rail through the first turn as Social Success marked a tepid opening quarter-mile in 24.66 seconds. Girl Trouble advanced to third position under a strong ride from Lopez at the half-mile call and was swung three-wide in pursuit of the pacesetter at the top of the lane. She battled down the stretch with Gold Metal Anna to her inside and was nosed out of place honors by that foe, finishing 2 1/2 lengths behind Social Success.
“She came out of the race well. I wasn’t extremely happy with the ride Paco gave her, but he even apologized for it,” said Reid, Jr. “We made a couple mistakes there, but we certainly haven’t lost any faith in her. She’s a very nice little filly.”
Girl Trouble’s latest performance came on the heels of a runner-up effort to Interpolate in the seven-furlong Ruthless on February 5 at the Big A. She earned her two career stakes triumphs in the seven-furlong Parx Futurity in January and the six-furlong Future Stars Filly Division in November. While the daughter of Fast Anna has now won around two turns, Reid, Jr. said he believes the nine-furlong Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle, a 100-40-30-20-10 Kentucky Oaks Qualifier on April 8 at Aqueduct, may be too far.
“I think she proved the other day that she can get a route of ground as well, but she is probably better at the middle distance of seven-eighths to a mile,” said Reid, Jr. “I don’t think she wants to go beyond that. We’ll take a look at the Gazelle, but I think that would be stretching it for her.”
On Tuesday, Reid, Jr. celebrated another Parx stakes victory with Cash is King and LC Racing’s Disco Ebo, a dominant 4 1/4-length winner of the 6 1/2-furlong Penn’s Landing in pacesetting fashion under Frankie Pennington. The Weigelia bay, who had not raced beyond six furlongs since a distant seventh-place finish in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Forward Gal at Gulfstream last February, has won her last three races by a combined 15 1/2 lengths and received a career-best 96 Beyer for her latest effort.
“She’s great. We really weren’t sure about her getting much beyond three-quarters of a mile,” said Reid, Jr. “She stretched out to six and a half and handled it very well. That was a pleasant surprise, so I think she’ll be a major player in some of the major sprint races here in the northeast.”
Reid, Jr. said he is still considering options for Disco Ebo’s next start.
Among Reid, Jr.’s seven winners at the Big A last year was Cash is King and LC Racing’s Dr B, who made the grade with a pacesetting triumph in the Grade 3 Go for Wand on December 3 over a sloppy and sealed Big A main track. The 5-year-old daughter of Liam’s Map received a freshening following her victory and returned to Reid, Jr.’s barn on Monday alongside Grade 1-placed Morning Matcha, who returns to training after finishing third in the Grade 3 Comely on November 25 here.
“Dr B just got back here with Morning Matcha,” said Reid, Jr. “They’ve been galloping all week, they both look fantastic and have put on weight, and we’ll be looking for some major events for them in the next couple of months.”
Reid, Jr. also sent out Eloquist to victory in the nine-furlong Discovery on November 27, scoring the victory by a nose over Barese in a thrilling renewal of the historic test for sophomores. Owned by Cash is King and LC Racing, Eloquist had his first race back in a January 30 allowance at Parx, finishing a non-threatening fourth after tracking in third throughout the one-mile route. Reid, Jr. said the Nyquist colt, who won a $40,000 claiming tilt at Saratoga Race Course last summer, will be freshened in Florida and pointed towards a summer campaign and a return to the Spa.
“He’s on the farm with Barry Eisaman getting some ‘R and R’ and eating some grass,” said Reid, Jr. “He seemed like he really handled the Saratoga surface, so we’ll be bringing him back next month and look for a campaign in late summer and early fall.”
Joining Eloquist at Eisaman’s Williston, Florida facility is graded stakes-winner Ridin With Biden, who won the Grade 3 Greenwood Cup for the same owners in September at Parx. The Constitution gelding, who has won four stakes races, was last seen finishing off-the-board in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational on January 28 at Gulfstream Park where he tracked in last-of-12 throughout and failed to improve position.
“He came out of it fine but we dropped him off at the farm and he’s getting a nice break, too,” said Reid, Jr. “He had a hard campaign last year. Things didn’t really work out for him in the Pegasus and he was a victim of pace, but we haven’t lost any faith in him and he’ll be nice and fresh for a nice summer campaign. We’re happy and I think we’re looking forward to a strong year this year.”
Majestic Return to try turf following maiden score
Following an impressive second-out graduation against New York-breds going six furlongs over a sloppy and sealed Aqueduct main track, Ten Strike Racing’s Majestic Return will likely see turf in her next outing according to trainer Michelle Giangiulio.
Majestic Return, bred in the Empire State by Marshall Gramm, Raymond Sauer and Mike Pietrangelo, was in control down the backstretch and extended her advantage through the stretch call to win by 6 1/2 lengths and register a 68 Beyer Speed Figure.
Giangiulio said Majestic Return’s pedigree has given her confidence that she will excel on the grass. Her sire is Long On Value, a millionaire on grass, who captured the 2017 Grade 1 Highlander at Woodbine.
“We’re looking to run her on the turf. We’re happy to get a couple of starts in her and we weren’t sure if we could get her to win on the dirt or not,” Giangiulio said. “She had always trained well over it. We’ll probably go allowance level first and see how she takes to it. I think she’s really going to fly on the turf. Her dad was a really cool horse, and a Grade 1 winner on the grass, so she should be a nice filly.
Majestic Return’s triumphant effort came one start following a distant sixth-place finish over the local going on February 11 behind promising Todd Pletcher trainee Monroe.
“I thought she put in a really good effort first time, obviously we weren’t beating Todd Pletcher in there, but she ran well,” Giangiulio said. “She was in the race, she broke well and got experience taking a little bit of dirt. From that start to this start, she put on a large amount of muscle. When I looked at her in the paddock yesterday and once I saddled her, I could really see how much she had tightened up. I was pretty confident.”
Giangiulio said Majestic Return’s improved fitness level as well as her first-race experience were beneficial in getting her a victory on Saturday.
“I had her ready and she had plenty of breezes in her. I actually had been training her since April of last year,” Giangiulio said. “She was just small and immature at the time, but she had always been very straightforward and a very classy filly. She always showed she had talent, so I was excited about her.”
Majestic Return is out of the Majesticperfection mare Majestic Mist. She comes from the same extended family as English Affair, a graded stakes winner on grass, as well as turf graded stakes-placed Seruni.
Giangiulio also reported on multiple stakes-winner Sea Foam, stating the 8-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro could target the nine-furlong $100,000 Native Dancer on April 22 at Laurel Park. Sea Foam was a distant fifth in both of his most recent efforts in the open company Queens County on January 7 and the state-bred Haynesfield on February 20.
“We’re sitting quiet on him. I may send him to the Native Dancer at Laurel,” Giangiulio said. “It’s just something to get him back where he needs to be. He can go the one-turn mile, but there’s always other speed in there and he just isn’t getting his way. We’ve been going easy on him since that race and given him a little break in between.”
After claiming Sea Foam for $45,000 in July 2021, Sea Foam provided Giangiulio with her first win as a trainer in the following month’s nine-furlong Evan Shipman Handicap at Saratoga Race Course. He garnered more stakes glory in that year’s Alex M. Robb at the Big A, which also was his most recent victory. He was second beaten a nose in last year’s Evan Shipman, which was cut back to one-mile and contested through the Spa’s Wilson Chute.
“He ran so well in Saratoga at the mile, which is almost two turns. He ran well here at the mile, too, but he can’t be sent too much,” Giangiulio said. “If he has a clear trip, he’ll run on. He still tried last time. He’s doing great and the horse is still as good as the day I claimed him, he just hasn’t been getting his way.”
Sea Foam, bred in New York by Waterville Lake Stable, is out of the graded stakes winning Unbridled’s Song mare Strike It Rich.