Sunny Desert, Risky Rachel, La Verdad vie for spotlight in Broadway
By Jenny Kellner | 03/24/2014 05:42 PM ET
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese/Chelsea Durand
Multiple stakes winners Sunny Desert, victorious in the 2013 edition of the Broadway, and Risky Rachel, who took the 2012 running, make their long-awaited return to Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday when they meet for the first time in the 35th renewal of the $100,000 sprint for New York-bred fillies and mares.
The 5-year-old Sunny Desert, unraced since winning the Shot Berry last April at the Big A while in the care of the now-retired John Parisella, will be making her first start for new trainer Bruce Levine. The Wild Desert mare, no worse than third in nine of 10 starts at Aqueduct, was given the summer off after pulling a muscle and then popped a splint on the eve of returning to the races in the fall. She has been working steadily toward a comeback, most recently breezing a half-mile in 48.25 on Sunday for the six-furlong Broadway.
"On the track she's all business and a complete professional," said Levine of the mare, owned by Queens, N.Y. natives Saul and Max Kupferberg. "I talk with John almost every day, and he loved her. We do, too. She's a favorite around our barn, too, almost like a pet."
A pet with an enviable resume, that is, with an 8-3-1 record and earnings of $421,750 from 14 career starts including additional stakes wins in the 2013 Cat Cay and in 2012, the Judy Soda, the New York Stallion Series, and the NYSS Park Avenue.
"I hope I do as well as John did with her," said Levine, who will give a leg up to Irad Ortiz Jr., on the 5-1 morning-line choice, who will leave from post position 9.
Like Sunny Desert, Risky Rachel had a lengthy break from the races, off for 15 months recuperating from a tendon injury after a fifth-place finish in the Iroquois in October 2012 at Belmont Park. Now 7 years old, she returned to action in January at Tampa Bay Downs, prompting the pace and then drawing clear to 3 ¼-length win the Minaret on January 11 and next setting a stakes record of 1:23.48 in the seven-furlong Manatee on February 8.
A Sanford Bacon homebred daughter of Dancin Renee, who passed away this winter at the age of 22, Risky Rachel recorded stakes victories in the 2011 editions of the Iroquois and Putthepowdertoit and the 2012 Union Avenue, as well as in the Broadway, which was trainer Juan "Manny" Coronel's third start as a trainer.
"It will be very emotional for me to see her back in the Broadway, which was such a special moment for me," said Coronel, a former assistant to H. James Bond. "They did a great job with her [at SGV Thoroughbreds] in Ocala as she recuperated and when I saw her this year I was so impressed with how she looked; she was so fit and muscular.
"We're very excited about running her," he added. "I know Sunny Desert is a very nice filly and with a big field, it will be a very competitive race."
Daniel Centeno will ride Risky Rachel, 4-1 on the morning line, from the rail.
Heavily favored at 4-5 in the six-furlong Broadway is the Linda Rice-trained La Verdad, who in her first stakes appearance finished second in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie on February 22 at Laurel Park. Having begun her career with a maiden victory and a handy optional claiming score last spring, the Lady Sheila Stable color-bearer was given the summer off and returned to stretch her winning streak to five with three more optional claiming victories, the latter two against open company.
"If she were to run well, we would like to bring her back in the Grade 2 Distaff here on April 19," said Rice, who will also saddle Mulberry Stable's Ave's Halo in the Broadway. "[Ave's Halo] has been more of a grass filly, but we are getting close to turf season and she did break her maiden on dirt."
La Verdad drew post position 4 under Jose Ortiz, while Ave's Halo, 30-1 on the morning line, will leave from post position 7 with Sammy Camacho aboard.
Rounding out the field are last-out winners Hot Rendezvous, Cape Cod Carol, Here's Zealicious, and Make the Moment, along with Vicki's Dancer, winner of
The field for the $100,000 Broadway: