Mar 1, 2020
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War Stopper, Water White on point for G3 Gotham card

by NYRA Press Office

  • Celtic Striker sitting on go for G3 Gotham
  • G1 Cigar Mile winner Maximum Security captures $20M Saudi Cup
  • Informative not without a chance for St. Lewis
  • Hough expecting Necker Island to rebound in Gotham
  • Stan the Man headed to Stymie: Killybegs Captain earns invitation to Golden Shaheen
  • Mind Control, Joevia ready to roll for Saturday stakes action
  • Well-bred The Last Ace shines in career debut
  • Cross Country Pick 5 handles $55K
  • Aqueduct Winter Week 10 Stakes Probables

Rudy Rodriguez, who sits second in the Aqueduct winter meet trainer standings with 25 wins, will saddle maiden winner War Stopper in Saturday's Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham which offers 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

The Gotham, a one-turn mile, is one of four stakes slated for a bumper card at the Big A, which also features the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap; the $250,000 Busher Invitational and the $125,000 Stymie.

Salerno Stables' War Stopper, a chestnut son of Declaration of War, graduated at fourth asking by four lengths in a one-turn mile on January 11 at Aqueduct. A $75,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale graduate, War Stopper was off-the-board in his first two starts, both on turf, before a promising effort under Joel Rosario on dirt when fifth in a Big A maiden tilt on December 7.

"We tried him a couple times on the grass and we were disappointed with how he ran," said Rodriguez. "When we ran him on dirt the first time, he broke a step slow and had a lot of kickback. Rosario came back and said the dirt was hitting him in the face and he was uncomfortable. So, he moved him out wide and he started running and finished good. He was eight or nine wide, but he finished fifth. It was a good race. It didn't look good on paper, but to me, it looked good."

Last out, with blinkers on for the first time, War Stopper broke alertly under Jorge Vargas, Jr. and made all the running in a sharp effort that garnered a 93 Beyer Speed Figure.

"He broke good with the blinkers and that made the difference," said Rodriguez. "Hopefully, he can improve a little bit. He'll have to improve with 12 or 13 horses in the race. He's coming into the race good, so we'll keep our fingers crossed."

War Stopper worked a half-mile in 49.96 seconds on February 25 on the Belmont Park dirt training track.

"It was nice and smooth. It was just a maintenance breeze," said Rodriguez. "He went a half-mile and galloped out three-eighths. He did it the right way, nice and comfortable. I may breeze him again on Wednesday but we'll see how it goes. He's done all the heavy duty work."

Rodriguez, who saddled 2013 Gotham winner Vyjack, said Vargas, Jr. will retain the mount on the Kentucky-bred War Stopper.

"He's riding well and is aggressive. He listens and he really likes this horse," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez will also send out Water White in the Busher offering 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points. Owned by E.V. Racing Stable and bred in Kentucky by Richard Forbush, the Conveyance gray is ranked 24th on the leaderboard with four points after finishing second last out in the Busanda on February 2 at the Big A.

A winner at third asking in a one-turn mile on November 15 at Aqueduct, Water White stretched out to nine furlongs when fifth in the Grade 2 Demoiselle in December. Last out, again at nine furlongs, Water White rallied five-wide down the lane to complete the exacta 7 1/2-lengths back of Harvey's Lil Goil.

Rodriguez said Vargas Jr. will retain the mount as Water White turns back to the distance of her maiden score.

"No changes," said Rodriguez. "Maybe the cutback to a mile will help us a little bit. She ran a big race her first time going a mile."

On Saturday, Water White will have to contend with the well-regarded Godolphin homebred Lake Avenue, a four-length winner of the Grade 2 Demoiselle for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Rodriguez said he is cautiously optimistic his hard-trying filly is up for the challenge.

"She's training very good," said Rodriguez, who saddled Condo Commando to a victory in the 2015 Busher. "I know the Bill Mott horse is a tough one to beat, but she tries hard and is very competitive."

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Celtic Striker sitting on go for G3 Gotham

Trainer Ray Handal has a sharp horse in Celtic Striker for Saturday's Grade 3 Gotham.

Owned by Imperial Racing, the sophomore son of Congrats will return to a one-turn mile after shipping to Parx Racing to beat winners in a mile-and-70-yard first level allowance following a fourth in the Jerome on New Year's Day, where he earned one point towards the Grade 1, $3 million Kentucky Derby.

In his last out two-turn debut, Celtic Striker broke alertly, set leisurely fractions on the front end and repelled a stretch challenge from heavy favorite Irish Cork to win by 1 ½ lengths.

"He was coming off a bit of a layoff in the Jerome. I thought I had him pretty sharp in there, but he came back pretty tired," Handal said. "He won the two turn race after which was by design. I wanted to go in a spot where I knew he could win so we went out of town for the allowance race. The plan was to come back to the Gotham for a cut back, making sure we put a tight, stiff one into him. Coming back in four weeks and on the cut back, he should be well sharp and ready to go."

Handal said if the field came up too tough, he could alter course and point for the Grade 3, $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks on March 14 at Turfway Park. As of now, all systems are go for the Gotham.

"Right now, the plan is to march forward, get to the Gotham and see what we have," Handal said. "He's a horse that's shown some talent in the morning in his workouts. I put blinkers on last race because I felt that he wasn't giving me everything he had. His numbers jumped up a ton in that allowance race. His first time wearing blinkers definitely changed his game so we'll see where we stand with him."

Purchased for $100,000 from the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale by Oracle Bloodstock, Handal said Celtic Striker displayed a strong physical demeanor, which made him very appealing.

"He was just such an athlete," he said. "We bought him at the [Keeneland] September Sale as a yearling and he had the perfect hind end. His whole conformation down that back leg was beautiful from the gaskin down to the hock. Everything was perfect. Physically, he's as good as you can get a horse to look."

With only four starts under his belt, Handal said it's still a bit unclear what the ideal distance for Celtic Striker could be.

"Looking at him, it looks like a one-turn mile is what he wants to do, but in his last race he just kept finding more," Handal said. "He kept on grinding and that was a legit field that day. The horse that ran second [Irish Cork] had just broke his maiden by 10 and ran second to [Grade 3 Withers winner] Max Player in the previous race. He doesn't show signs of fatigue from that race, he came back like it was nothing."

Bred in Kentucky by Stoneview Farm Inc. & Craig D. Upham, Celtic Striker is out of the Star Dabbler broodmare Shylock's Daughter.

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G1 Cigar Mile winner Maximum Security captures $20M Saudi Cup

Gary and Mary West and Coolmore's Maximum Security, with Luis Saez up for trainer Jason Servis, sustained a long stretch rally to overtake Mucho Gusto to win the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Saudi Arabia.

The 4-year-old New Year's Day bay, who crossed the wire first in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby only to be disqualified and placed 17th, made the journey to Riyadh off a pair of winning efforts in New York where he captured the Grade 3 Bold Ruler at Belmont Park in October and the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap in December at the Big A.

Henry Argueta, assistant to Servis in New York, said he was thrilled with the effort put forth by Maximum Security.

"He's the best horse I've worked with. It's a dream come true. He's the type of horse that everyone who works at the racetrack is waiting for," said Argueta, ahead of saddling Winning Drive to a fifth-place effort in Saturday's fifth race at Aqueduct. "He's a very kind horse and very professional. He can be a little bit excited going to the track, but at the barn he's so kind."

Mucho Gusto, the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup winner piloted by Irad Ortiz, Jr., led the field through most of the nine-furlong tilt, with Maximum Security tracking his early foot. Mucho Gusto drifted out down the lane and Saez smartly guided Maximum Security to the inside to secure the win over a fast-closing Midnight Bisou.

Argueta, who watched the Saudi Cup on TV with his family, said Maximum Security continued to live up to his excellent credentials with the winning effort.

"It was a very exciting race. Turning for home, 'Max' showed everybody he was the best," said Argueta.

Maximum Security banked $10 million in victory and, as of Sunday morning, was doubtful for the $12 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse on March 28.

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Informative not without a chance for St. Lewis

Fresh off his stakes victory with Adventist in the Bernardini on Saturday at the Big A, conditioner Uriah St. Lewis will look to return to the winner's circle in Saturday's Grade 3 Gotham with stakes-placed Informative.

A Bodemeister colt purchased for $25,000 by St. Lewis as a 2-year-old at the Fasig-Tipton Mid Atlantic Sale, Informative made his first five career starts at Parx before entering the James F. Lewis III at six furlongs on November 16 at Laurel Park as a maiden where he was only beaten by a nose.

Informative entered the Grade 2 Remsen on December 7 at Aqueduct following that effort and finished fourth, just five and a half lengths behind the victorious Shotski. Last out, he graduated at the one-mile Gotham distance on February 8 at the Big A, garnering a career-best 79 Beyer.

St. Lewis has three graded stakes wins on his resume having captured the Grade 3 Greenwood at Parx last October with Adventist, as well as the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and Grade 3 Excelsior on the NYRA circuit in 2018.

The veteran conditioner said he is hoping Informative, who posted a bullet half-mile work in 48.05 on Friday at Parx, can pull off the upset.

"He's done very well for us and is coming into next week in good shape," said St. Lewis. "We always had confidence in him. It took him awhile to get going. He's starting to put everything together and with the experience he's gotten in races, including his victory here at the track and distance, we're giving him a shot to show what he can do."

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Hough expecting Necker Island to rebound in Gotham

Following a disappointing fifth-place finish by Necker Island in the Grade 3 Swale at Gulfstream, conditioner Stanley Hough said he will point the Hard Spun colt to Saturday's Grade 3 Gotham.

Purchased for $250,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale for Sagamore Farm, Necker Island made his debut in August at Saratoga Race Course where he ran third at odds of 22-1. Breaking his maiden at even-odds next out on September 29 at Churchill Downs, he followed up with a one-mile allowance victory on November 30 at the Louisville, Kentucky oval.

Necker Island encountered traffic trouble in the Swale where he had to travel four-to-five wide in an event won by Gotham rival Mischevious Alex. Hough is hoping for a smoother trip on Saturday.

"He had a little bit a of a setback following his allowance win at Churchill and we kind of had to rush him a bit to run in the Swale," said Hough. "It also didn't help he had a rough trip in there. We were shuffled towards the back and couldn't make up any ground having to travel wide most of the way. We know he'll appreciate the one-turn mile and hopefully we'll get a better trip then last time."

Necker Island breezed five furlongs in 1:02.40 last Friday at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, and Hough said the chestnut exited the work in good order and will ship to New York on Wednesday.

"He'll ship up to New York from Florida on Wednesday and we expect to have Manny [Franco] aboard," said Hough. "He's a talented rider and having a good meet so hopefully everything works out."

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Stan the Man headed to Stymie: Killybegs Captain earns invitation to Golden Shaheen

Long Lake Stable's Stan the Man continues to train forwardly at Belmont Park as he is being pointed to the $125,000 Stymie on March 7, trainer John Terranova said Sunday morning.

Stan the Man breezed three furlongs in 37 seconds flat Sunday in his last work before the 66th running of the one-mile Stymie; part of a four-stakes card highlighted by the Grade 3 Gotham.

After running at 1 1/8 miles in each of his last two starts, including notching his first career stakes score when he captured the Queens County on December 21 at Aqueduct, Stan the Man will be cutting back to the one-turn mile.

After running fifth last out in the Jazil on January 25 at the Big A, Terranova said the shorter distance should help, as Stan the Man will be competing at one mile for the first time since finishing second by a neck to Nicodemus in the Grade 3 Westchester on May 4 at Belmont.

"We're scratching our heads with his race in the Jazil. We're not sure what went on there but he's thrown in an odd race here and there in his career," Terranova said. "He came out of it really well and has trained really well the last two weeks. Everything looks great. He's been successful at a one-turn mile. He looks like he's ready to go."

Stan the Man posted three of his six career wins in a stellar 2019 campaign. The now 6-year-old son of Broken Vow did not break his maiden until his 10th start but finished second four times and third on two occasions before breaking through. He will carry a 6-6-2 record in 21 career starts into the Stymie, where he finished sixth in last year's edition.

"He's been a solid competitor throughout," Terranova said.

Curragh Stables' Killybegs Captain will look to parlay an impressive Pelican win on February 15 at Tampa Bay Downs into a step up in class. Terranova said the 6-year-old son of Mizzen Mast earned an invitation to the Group 1, $2.5 million Golden Shaheen on March 28 at Meydan in Dubai.

After making his first 26 starts in the United States, the Kentucky-bred winner of three stakes will race outside the country for the first time, traveling more than 7,000 miles to take part of the Dubai World Cup meeting that will run six Group 1 contests and three Groups 2s, led by the $12 million Dubai World Cup.

The Golden Shaheen is contested at 1,200 meters (nearly six furlongs) and was won in 2019 by X Y Jet, with Mind Your Biscuits capturing the 2017 and 2018 editions. Killybegs Captain enters after earning a 98 Beyer for repeating as the Pelican winner at six furlongs last month in his first start of the year. As a 5-year-old, he finished third in the Grade 1 Forego on Travers Day August 24 at Saratoga Race Course before winning the six-furlong Grade 3 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash in September at Laurel Park.

Since the start of the year, Killybegs Captain has been training in Tampa. He continued a string of strong works on Sunday, breezing four furlongs in 47.20 seconds.

"He's doing great and in this point in his career, he looks to be in as good as form as he's ever been, or better," Terranova said. "Everything went very well this morning. He looks great out of the Pelican. We were very impressed with that effort and he's come back sensational since. He's training forward and after being invited to the Golden Shaheen, it's more than likely what we are going to be doing.

"This is a big opportunity for him and everybody. The horse seems to be doing great at the right time," he added. "After seeing the results from yesterday in Saudi and the likely group that he'll be running against, he absolutely fits well. As good as he's come back this year and continues to go forward, I think he's in top form and ready to take on a race like this. We'll see. It's a big deal and we're excited."

Terranova said he is hopeful Killybegs Captain remains a regular on the NYRA circuit following his Dubai sojourn. In 2019, he ran third in the Grade 2 John A. Nerud at Belmont, posting a career-high 99 Beyer, before his Saratoga appearances that also included a competitive fourth in the Tale of the Cat before earning blacktype in the Forego.

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Mind Control, Joevia ready to roll for Saturday stakes action

Following their respective five-eighths works over the Belmont Park training track on Saturday, trainer Gregg Sacco confirmed Mind Control and Joevia are ready for Saturday's stakes action at Aqueduct.

Owned by Steve Brunetti's Red Oak Stable in partnership with Sol Kumin and Jason Monteleone's Madaket Stable, dual Grade 1 winner Mind Control, who went five furlongs in 1:02.85, will seek his fourth stakes victory at the Big A in the Grade 3 Tom Fool, going six furlongs.

After winning the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens on August 24 at Saratoga Race Course, the 4-year-old son of Stay Thirsty received a freshening and came back on top when out-nosing graded stakes winners Nicodemus and Sunny Ridge in the Grade 3 Toboggan on January 18.

"Mind Control just did what we asked for," Sacco said. "He'll work fast if we want him to, but we just wanted to get the five-eighths into him. He galloped out super and he cooled out well. He's happy."

Sacco, whose brother Rick is the racing manager for Red Oak Stable, is enjoying the ride with Mind Control especially since campaigning the talented colt is a family affair.

"We grew up together in our dad's shed row," Sacco said. "When we were young adults we worked together and now, as adults, our kids are into it. My son Will is with me in between going to college, so it's a family affair and the Brunettis are very close to us. It's very special all around and to have Mind Control is just a cherry on top."

Jeff Fazio and Michael Fazio's Joevia completed a five-furlong work in 1:00.69 in preparation for the Stymie.

The son of Shanghai Bobby, who was third in last year's Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, arrives off an uncharacteristic 11th in the Grade 3 Razorback at Oaklawn Park.

"Joevia went five-eighths and he did it very well within himself and galloped out well. He bounced over the track very nicely," Sacco said.

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Well-bred The Last Ace shines in career debut

It was a successful career debut for well-bred The Last Ace, who went gate-to-wire going 6 ½ furlongs on Saturday afternoon over the Aqueduct main track against fellow New York breds.

Owned by Jeffrey Tucker's Stone Bridge Farm and trained by John Morrison, The Last Ace is by second crop stallion Honor Code and out of Acey Deucey, who won the Grade 1 Prioress in 2005.

Piloted by jockey Kendrick Carmouche, the bay sophomore colt veered to the left slightly out of the gate and shook off three foes when challenged around the far turn to win handily by 6 ¼ lengths, while displaying a strong gallop out. He earned a 77 Beyer for the gate-to-wire score.

"We knew he had talent all along. We took our time with him, he was very immature," Morrison said. "We're just glad it all worked out. Jeff let me be as patient as I wanted with him. We knew all along he had the ability. It looks like he has a future, so we just hope that everything stays together now."

Morrison said The Last Ace displays conformation similar to that of his mother.

"His physical demeanor is like his mom. He is built like his mom more than Honor Code," Morrison said. "She had a lot of ability. She was a come from behind sprinter and he just likes the competition. You work him by himself, he gets a little bored. When you put him in company, he's a different horse."

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Cross Country Pick 5 handles $55K

Saturday's Cross Country Pick 5, with a total pool of $55,019, returned $956.50 for the 50-cent wager.

The sequence began on the Tampa Bay Downs turf with a nine-furlong starter handicap won by favored Hope Again [No.3, $5.60] in a blanket finishing besting 9-1 Bourbon Extension by a nose with third-place Onarock another neck in arrears.

The action then moved to the Big A for a New York-bred allowance race where 9-5 second choice Freaky Styley [No. 4, $5.70], with Eric Cancel aboard for trainer Jorge Abreu, rallied from last of nine to nose out 17-1 Run for Boston.

The third leg saw 14-1 longshot Classy Act [No. 4, $31] sprint to a narrow half-length score in an allowance optional-claiming sprint at Oaklawn Park. Martin Garcia engineered the winning trip for trainer Joe Sharp. The penultimate leg, the featured $100,000 Bernardini from the Big A, saw Adventist [No. 6, $6.40] prevail as the 2-1 mutuel favorite. With John Bisono in the irons for trainer Uriah St. Lewis, Adventist rallied from last-to-first in the 1 5/16-mile tilt.

The final leg returned to Oaklawn Park for a maiden sprint for older fillies and mares where Shocking Fast [No. 2, $6.80] romped to a 5 1/2-length score. Shocking Fast, piloted by Ricardo Santana, Jr., was making her first start for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen after a pair of efforts in California for Bob Baffert.

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 across the country. Every week will feature a mandatory payout of the net pool.

The Cross Country Pick 5 will continue each Saturday throughout the year. For more information, visit

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Aqueduct Winter Week 10 stakes probables

Saturday, March 7
Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham
Probable: Attachment Rate (Dale Romans); Celtic Striker (Ray Handal); First Deputy (Linda Rice); Flap Jack (Jack Sisterson); Informative (Uriah St. Lewis); Mischevious Alex (John Servis); Montauk Traffic (Rice); Necker Island (Stanley Hough); Sixto (Eric Guillot); Untitled (Mark Casse); War Stopper (Rudy Rodriguez)
Possible: Ournationonparade (Kathy Ritvo)

Grade 2, $200,000 Tom Fool
Probable: Bon Raison (Michael Tannuzzo) Mind Control (Gregg Sacco); Wentz (Servis); Wonderful Light (Michelle Nevin); Tiz He The One (Rice); Wicked Trick (Rice)

$250,000 Busher Invitational
Probable: Lake Avenue (Bill Mott); Maedean (Mark Hennig); Master of Hope (Nevin); Panthera Onca (Brad Cox); Persisto (Kelly Breen); Water White (Rodriguez)
Possible: Glass Ceiling (Danny Gargan)

$125,000 Stymie
Probable: American Anthem (Gargan); Diamond King (John Servis); Joevia (Sacco); Stan the Man (John Terranova)
Possible: Backsideofthemoon (Robert Klesaris); Wicked Trick (Rice)

Sunday, March 8 $125 Heavenly Prize Invitational Probable: Abounding Joy (Mott); Alphadora (Marialice Coffey); Crimson Frost (Nevin); Espresso Shot (Jorge Abreu); Happycrest (Chandradat Goberdhan); Newly Minted (Rice) Possible: Victim of Love (Todd Beattie)

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