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Belmont Park Notes - September 27, 2013

By NYRA Press Office | 09/27/2013 03:04 PM ET
The Lumber Guy
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

  • Luzzi reunited with The Lumber Guy for G1 Vosburgh
  • Jacobson hoping for Breeders' Cup trip with Strapping Groom
  • Twilight Eclipse seeks return to world-record-setting form in G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic
  • Toner aiming high with debut winner Recepta
  • Artemis Agrotera hunts Grade 1 glory in Frizette
  • Fields taking shape for next weekend's stakes

Before climbing aboard The Lumber Guy prior to his final work for Saturday's Grade 1, $400,000 Vosburgh Invitational, jockey Mike Luzzi had one question for trainer Mike Hushion.

The 39-year-old Luzzi, a winner of more than 3,000 career races, had ridden the son of Grand Slam twice before, both last spring, including a win in the Grade 2 Jerome at Aqueduct Racetrack. He will be back aboard for the Vosburgh.

"I asked Mike, 'Is he the same horse?'" Luzzi said. "And he said, 'Hopefully, he's better.'"

Luzzi and The Lumber Guy blazed through a half-mile breeze in 46.72 seconds on Monday over the main track at Belmont, the fastest of 69 horses at the distance.

"It was real easy on him and, honestly, I didn't think I went that fast," Luzzi said. "I didn't let him do anything, and that's what he ended up working in. It's a fast track in the mornings right after the break, but he did it all on his own."

Luzzi said he could feel a difference in The Lumber Guy, who won the Vosburgh last year and ran second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint before a pair of off-the-board finishes in California.

"He's a lot different. He's bigger, stronger and better than when I had been on him before," Luzzi said. "When I won on him, he was just OK; he probably hadn't grown completely yet. He looks like a sprinter now. He feels like one and, of course, he works like one."

Hushion turned to Luzzi to replace Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who is committed to ride Justin Phillip in the Vosburgh.

"He's ridden him before, and he's ridden him well in the past," Hushion said. "It was as simple as that. He's a veteran. He's not going to get rattled by a big purse in a Grade 1."

Trainer David Jacobson has never run a horse in the Breeders' Cup, but he has a top prospect in Grade 1 winner Strapping Groom.

A 6-year-old son of 2001 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Johannesburg, Strapping Groom takes a two-race win streak into his upcoming start in the Grade 1 Vosburgh.

The Vosburgh is a "Win and You're In" race for the Breeders' Cup Sprint in November at Santa Anita Park. Both races are contested at six furlongs.

"It's race by race. The horse will let us know how he is and what he's ready to do," said Jacobson. "It's definitely in the back of our heads, the Breeders' Cup. It would be very exciting to go out west. Just the fact that you're asking me that question is very exciting. We're definitely thinking about it but, again, one race at a time."

Co-owned by Jacobson with Drawing Away Stable, Strapping Groom has won three of four starts since being claimed for $35,000 in May, including the Grade 1 Forego and the restricted Kid Russell stakes at Saratoga Race Course in his two previous starts. He also won the Lion Cavern stakes on June 16 at Belmont Park.

"He had some issues going back, that's why I was able to get him in a claiming race," Jacobson said. "We work on him just like we do with our other horses, and some horses respond better than others. He seems to be one that's really responded very well.

"It's exciting, I'll tell ya," he added. "You've got to pinch yourself."

Twilight Eclipse, 7-2 on the morning line for Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational, may have a single win in five starts so far in 2013, but he made it count. When the 4-year-old won the Grade 2 Pan American by four lengths in March at Gulfstream Park, he established a world record for 1 ½ miles on the turf, stopping the timer in 2:22.63.

Since then, he has finished fifth in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap in June and second in both the Grade 1 Man o' War in July and the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational on August 17.

Twilight Eclipse finished one length behind Big Blue Kitten in the Sword Dancer after leading in the stretch, and that performance as well as his record-setting victory in the Pan American has trainer Tom Albertrani believing the gelding performs his best over firm turf. The turf was listed as "yielding" for the Woodford Reserve Manhattan and "good" for the Man o' War.

"We'd like to see a little stronger pace [in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic], but it seems like he always places himself well," said Albertrani. "We have the firm ground this week, so he should like that. We're hoping for a good effort and to go on to the Breeders' Cup."

Javier Castellano, aboard Twilight Eclipse for his past four starts, will ride the West Point Thoroughbreds color-bearer once again on Saturday.

Trainer Jimmy Toner readily admits he isn't known for his prowess with first-time starters, which makes him that much more excited about Recepta's potential.

"When my [first-time starters] win, they have to be good!" said Toner before bursting into laughter.

Recepta, a daughter of Champion Sprinter Speightstown, debuted a 4 ½-length winner in a seven-furlong maiden special weight that was contested in the slop on September 1 at Saratoga Race Course. She is now targeting next Saturday's Grade 1, $400,000 Frizette for 2-year-old fillies, breezing five furlongs in 1:01.25 Friday morning.

Since September 2010, Toner has sent out only three other debut winners, and two were eventual Grade 1 Diana heroine Winter Memories and three-time stakes-placed runner Moment in Dixie.

Although Recepta is a half-sister to Grade 3-winning sprinter Taqarub and is out of a winning half-sister to Grade 1-winning turf runners Plenty of Grace and Soaring Softly, Toner believes Recepta will do her best running in route races on the dirt, which is why he opted to run her in the one-mile Frizette instead of the Grade 2, six-furlong Matron.

"Why cut back? She's bred to go longer," said Toner, who trains Recepta for the Phillips Racing Partnership and Pam Gartin. "Speightstowns can go either way, and there's a lot of stamina in her family. She has good lung capacity and I knew when I started her at seven furlongs that she'd be going long.

"Usually, they tell you [whether they want to run on the dirt or the turf]," he added. "I always have the backup of running her on the grass, but I always wait to see if they'll handle the dirt. She breezed well on the dirt, and I saw no reason for her to run on the turf."

Although Recepta will have to face Grade 1 competition in her second start, Toner is looking forward to the challenge.

"I think she'll be competitive," said Toner. "There are some tough fillies in there; we'll get to see where she fits in that group. We'll have fun."

Among those pointing to next Saturday's Grade 1 Frizette is Chester and Mary Broman's homebred Artemis Agrotera, a front-running 11 ¾-length maiden winner on August 16 at Saratoga Race Course. The New York-bred daughter of Roman Ruler completed six furlongs in 1:10.53 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 86 for her efforts.

"She had trained well going into the maiden race and I liked her going into the race," said trainer Mike Hushion. "The race seems to have turned her around and made her even better. She's worked big numbers since. Her half-mile work [46.23 on September 14], she galloped out in :58 and change. Since then, it's been, 'Game on!'"

Artemis Agrotera, who is named after the ancient Greek goddess known as Artemis of the Wildland, is out of Broman's multiple stakes-winning mare Indy Glory, who closed out her career with a victory in the 2003 Videogenic stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack. A full sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Stephen Got Even, Indy Glory has produced two stakes-placed runners, Times Squared and Submerge.

Two "Win and You're In" races for 2-year-olds highlight next Saturday's trio of stakes at Belmont Park, with the Grade 1, $500,000 Foxwoods Champagne projected to draw a half-dozen or more outstanding juveniles, including Grade 1 Hopeful winner Strong Mandate.

Also probable for the one-mile Champagne, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, are Hopeful runner-up Casiguapo; Debt Ceiling, winner of four of his five starts; standout maiden winner Havana, who earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in his debut; late-running maiden winner Honor Code from Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, and Long On Value, sixth in the Hopeful. Ride On Curlin is questionable.

In addition to Artemis Agrotera and Recepta, the Grade 1, $500,000 Frizette is expected to draw Divided Attention, who broke her maiden at second asking at the Frizette distance on September 12 at Belmont; Canadian import Ria Antonia, most recently fourth in the Swynford at Woodbine; Grade 1 Spinaway winner Sweet Reason, and Who's in Town, who finished first in the Grade 2 Adirondack but was disqualified and placed fourth.

The Grade 1, $500,000 Jamaica for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on the turf is likely to attract Atlantic Seaboard, winner of two of seven starts in Pennsylvania; multiple graded stakes winner Balance the Books, winner of the Stroll overnight stakes at Saratoga last time out; Charming Kitten, most recently fourth in the Grade 3 Hall of Fame at the Spa; Grade 3 Saranac star Five Iron, Saranac runner-up and beaten favorite Notacatbutallama and third-place finisher Joha; Mills, who was third in the Stroll, and Up With the Birds, winner of the Breeders' Stakes on August 18 at Woodbine. Are You Kidding Me, Michael With Us and Stormy Len are questionable.

Belmont will offer two more Breeders' Cup Challenge races the following day when it hosts the Grade 3, $200,000 Pilgrim for 2-year-olds and the Grade 3, $200,000 Miss Grillo for 2-year-old fillies. Both races will be contested at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Dominant debut winners Due Diligence and Shadow Banker are slated to face each other in the Pilgrim, which is expected to also attract Belly of the Whale, Blue Pigeon, Captain's Affair, Marvin's Miracle, Otoy, Sheldon, and Ziggy the Great.

Trainer Chad Brown will aim for his third victory in the Miss Grillo in six years when he saddles Granny Mc's Kitten. The daughter of top turf sire Kitten's Joy won the P. G. Johnson on August 28 and will attempt to emulate Watsdachances, who swept the P. G. Johnson and Miss Grillo for Brown in 2012. The provisional field also includes Bikini Beauty, Courtesan, Duff One, Fancy Boss, Morethanawarning, Sea Bubble, and Sky Painter. Testa Rossi, a European import who was recently transferred to Brown's barn, is possible.