by NYRA Press Office
Exline-Border Racing, Gatto Racing, and Garrett Zubok's New York-bred Giant Expectations will make his way back to the Empire State for the first time since June 2017 when he lines up in the $200,000 Commentator on Monday, May 27 as part of New York Breeders' Showcase Day.
Trained by Peter Eurton, the millionaire son of Frost Giant out of Sarahisittrue, boasts a record of 4-3-4 from 20 starts. Bred in New York by Sunrise Stables, Giant Expectations graduated on a sloppy Belmont main track in May 2017 and followed up one week later with an allowance win, going a one-turn mile on Big Sandy.
"He's going to have an easy breeze here on Sunday and then ship out on Monday," said Eurton over the phone from Santa Anita.
The talented 6-year-old chestnut proved his class twice at the Grade 2 level in 2017 with wins in the Pat O'Brien at Del Mar going seven furlongs and the 1 1/16-mile San Antonio at Santa Anita. Winless in four starts in 2018, he finished third in the Grade 3 Ack Ack at Churchill Downs ahead of a rallying fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
A versatile type, Giant Expectations stretched out to nine furlongs twice this campaign, finishing third in the Grade 2 San Pasqual and fifth last out, defeated by a length, in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap when piloted by Joel Rosario.
Eurton said that Giant Expectations will add blinkers for his New York return.
"I'm trying him with blinkers on for the first time. He tends to get a little unfocused at the head of the stretch. Rosario thought he had a lot more horse [in the Oaklawn Handicap] and he got looking around a little bit and ran fifth, beaten a length. That was brutal," said Eurton of the tough beat.
Giant Expectations breezed six furlongs in 1:13.40 seconds in blinkers on May 13 at Santa Anita while working in company with multiple graded stakes winner Core Beliefs.
"I love the way he's trained up to this race. I worked him three-quarters the other day with Core Beliefs and he looked wonderful. He worked really good with the blinkers on, he was on the bridle. I'm not looking for him, so much, to stay closer more so just to have him stay focused through the running of the race down the lane," said Eurton.
Eurton said Giant Expectations should appreciate the cut back to one mile for the Commentator as he looks for his first win since the San Antonio.
"I think so," said Eurton. "I know he loves Belmont. We're trying to get a win into him. I know New York-breds are very tough, but I think he loves that one-turn. Hopefully, we can show him off in New York a little bit if he ever does go to stud there."
If all goes well in the Commentator, Eurton noted a return to graded company is in the cards and said the horse continues to appreciate his job.
"He's a very easy, good-feeling horse to train. He really likes to train. He's 6-years-old now but he's a sound horse and just a pleasure to be around," said Eurton.
Also expected to line up in strong renewal of the Commentator are Celtic Chaos, Control Group, Honor Up, Mr. Buff, Pat On the Back and Syndergaard.
Toner seeking turf triumphs home and away
Veteran conditioner Jimmy Toner, who captured the 1999 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf with Soaring Softly and campaigned the popular multiple Grade 1-winner Winter Memories, continues to be a force with his turf runners.
Robert LaPenta, AJ Suited Racing Stable, and Madaket Stables' Hawkish provided Toner with his first stakes winner of 2019 when he captured the Cliff Hanger on May 4 at Monmouth.
The 4-year-old Artie Schiller gelding, who captured the Grade 2 Penn Mile last year, finished second in the Grade 3 Appleton in his seasonal debut at Gulfstream Park and will look to add to his credentials in the Grade 3, $300,000 Poker on June 16 at Belmont.
"He's right on schedule. We started him out at Gulfstream and he was a good second there. He came back and won the Cliff Hanger at Monmouth and now we'll be pointing for the Poker," said Toner. "He's come back this year very well and we're really happy with him."
Michael Ryan's Violet Blue, who was cross-entered in the $100,000 Searching at Pimlico on Saturday's Preakness card, will instead stay home for an optional-claiming event at 1 1/4-miles on the Belmont inner turf. Osare, trained by Jonathan Thomas, was also slated for the Searching but will stay at Belmont and provide steep opposition for Toner's 5-year-old Americain mare.
Violet Blue, who boasts a record of 2-2-1 from 15 starts, finished third in her seasonal debut on April 11 at the Big A. Toner said the dark bay is training well into Sunday's test.
"We entered at Pimlico in the event Sunday's race didn't go. She's training really well," said Toner. "She wintered well and has come out of her last race really well after running well first time back. We're looking forward to a big effort out of her."
Toner said he would consider pointing Violet Blue to the River Memories on July 5 at Belmont.
"I take it race by race with her. There are races like the River Memories later on that we would be pointing for provided everything goes well on Sunday," said Toner.
Hunter O'Riley, an upset winner of the 2017 Grade 2 Bowling Green, continues to perform well for Toner, notching Beyer Speed Figures consistently in the mid-90s range while racing with his trademark cavalry charge style. The 6-year-old Tiz Wonderful gelding has yet to hit the board in three starts this season but was only defeated five lengths last out in the Grade 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland.
Toner said he will train the horse into the Grade 2, $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational slated for Friday, June 7 as part of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.
"He's not easy to ride. If you relax on him, he relaxes and goes into a gallop which is what he did the last time. He's come back fine and we're looking forward to the Belmont Invitational in June going two miles," said Toner.
Hunter O'Riley was fourth in his seasonal debut in the Grade 3 W. L. McKnight at Gulfstream when kept to task by Flavien Prat.
"He's a funny horse. Flavien rode him at Gulfstream and got into him right away and he was on the bit all the way and finished really well. But, if you don't know him and just relax, he'll go into a common gallop and then you have to start waking him up. He always finishes and if you get lucky enough to get him in the right spot, he can get the job done for you," said Toner.
Sean Shay's Mominou will look to sprint to a first stakes win in Saturday's $75,000 Politely at Monmouth. The 4-year-old Congrats filly wired a Keeneland allowance tilt on April 20 and Toner said he's trying to find a good spot for the filly.
"After running at Keeneland, we didn't have enough time to come back here and run in the License Fee. So, the schedule worked out well for her to go to Monmouth," said Toner.
The stakes-placed Coffee Crush, a 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro, will look to follow a similar path to Mominou when she tries the $75,000 Miss Liberty next Sunday at Monmouth. Coffee Crush breezed four furlongs in 49.44 seconds on Friday morning on the Belmont main track.
"She breezed well and now I'm just trying to find the right spot for her. There's a race at Monmouth next weekend - the Miss Liberty, it's an overnight stakes- and we're trying to get some black type with her. It looks like a logical spot. We're trying not to get too deep with her," said Toner.
Toner will also saddle a young, grey filly with potential in Saturday's third race at Belmont when Global Exchange makes her first start since finishing fourth in a Saratoga maiden on August 10.
Global Exchange wintered in Florida at Palm Meadows and will make her seasonal debut under Junior Alvarado, who was aboard for the maiden voyage.
"She had some physical issues which we had to address. I picked up her up six weeks ago at Palm Meadows and got her ready. We were ready to go two weeks ago but the race came off the grass, so we're in tomorrow and she's training really well," said Toner. "She ran really good first time at Saratoga and we're looking forward to getting her started."
Kendrick Carmouche continues successful return from leg injury
Kendrick Carmouche continues to rocket up the Belmont spring/summer meet leaderboard, entering Friday tied with Jose Lezcano for the most jockey wins with 15.
Through the meet's first 12 days, Carmouche already has doubled his 2018 graded stakes victory count, piloting Heavenhasmynikki in the Grade 3 Vagrancy on May 11 and the French-bred Olympico in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy on May 4.
The 35-year-old native of Vinton, Louisiana is building off a strong Aqueduct spring meet in which he went 9-8-6 in 54 mounts, tying Eric Cancel for the fourth-most wins.
"Since I've been back, it's been very good," Carmouche said. "I've just been putting my head down and riding hard and making good decisions out there. The trainers and owners are putting me on decent horses where I can perform to my abilities, and I'm very thankful. My agent, Kevin [Bubser] and I are trying really hard. To be tied for leading jockey, I'm just thrilled."
Carmouche will look to continue his hot start on Saturday when he will be in the irons of the Chad Brown-trained Seek and Destroy in the Grade 3, $100,000 Soaring Softly for 3-year-old fillies going seven furlongs in the Widener turf.
Seek and Destroy, at 8-1 on the morning line, draw post 5 in the eight-horse field. Carmouche will be looking to win his second graded stakes of the meet for Brown, with the duo teaming for Olympico's three-length score on the soft inner turf earlier this month. That marked the first time a horse trained by Brown and ridden by Carmouche won a graded stakes since Goldy Espony in the 2015 Grade 3 Fasig-Tipton Waya at Saratoga.
"It's always a plus when you're riding for one of the top trainers in the country and to add him to some of the other guys I ride for makes my business better," Carmouche said. "I'm never stressed out about riding for a guy like that. I've won races for him in Philadelphia and everywhere and I'm just glad for the chance now. I want to be one of the top jockeys in New York and I've proven over the years that I can compete at the highest levels. I'm just thrilled to have [Brown] on the team again."
Carmouche's run of success came after a six-month layoff to recover from a broken right leg suffered in a spill at Kentucky Downs on September 9. Riding Chattel in the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint, Carmouche's horse clipped heels with Impact after the horse ducked out in front of him, unseating Carmouche.
Chattel suffered a fatal injury while Carmouche was sidelined six months, rehabbing his leg at his home in Delaware. He said the support he received, both medically and from his family and friends, helped him eventually get back to one of the most challenging circuits in the world for a jockey. It also allowed him to continue in a sport he's known all his life as the son of jockey Sylvester Carmouche, who won 1,348 races in just under 16,700 career mounts from 1978-2013.
"After six months being out, all the love that everyone gave me for six months and all the support from the doctors, my mom, my kids, my wife, my in-laws; all the people who stuck with me during that time, all the hard work they put in; I just want to get out there and keep working hard. I'm just loving the sport. It's the sport of kings, I was born into it, and I want to keep it going," said Carmouche.
Carmouche is a 2015 inductee into the Parx Hall of Fame, where he won seven riding titles, including four straight from 2008-11.
"A lot of owners, trainers, and a lot of jock's around the country kept calling me over this six months to see how I was doing. It makes me speechless," Carmouche said. "They didn't have to do that. But I guess the love that I've spread throughout my life and my career on the path to where I want to be today in New York, it goes to show you that if you treat everyone the same, there's a lot of respect."
Carmouche said it took time and multiple mounts after returning to racing on February 24 at Aqueduct to feel like he did before the injury. But he said the rehab process has helped improve his fitness regimen as he looks to make a bid for his first Belmont riding title.
"I would say three weeks, four weeks tops," Carmouche said about the timeline to feel like he did pre-injury. "It finally felt to the point where now I was leveling off and back to myself. I'm a different type of fit now. From being out for six months, I run more now to keep my leg strong, it's only going to get better from here. I'm a lot fitter and my weight is better. My mind is totally different from being off for six months. I realized I was riding with some of the top jocks in the country, and that's what motivated me more than anything. When you have God with you, you can overcome anything."
Bourbon War settling in well at Pimlico for G1 Preakness
So far, so good for Grade 1, $1.5 million Preakness contender Bourbon War according to trainer Mark Hennig, who reported that the Tapit colt has been training well since shipping to Pimlico for the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Owned by Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable, Bourbon War was most recently fourth in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, beaten 7 ½ lengths behind Maximum Security.
"He's been great," Hennig said. "He's been on the muscle and seems sharp. Just doing really well. He's galloped well over the track."
Bourbon War drew post two for the Preakness which Hennig is satisfied with.
"It works out okay," Hennig said. "There's some speed around us that will give us some pace. He should be able to save some ground."
A two-time winner, Bourbon War was a close second behind Code of Honor in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park before his most recent effort in the Florida Derby.
Bourbon War gives Hennig his first starter in an American classic since Eddington raced in both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes back in 2004, where he finished a respective third and fourth.
Bourbon War will be racing with blinkers for the first time, which he has worked in during his past several breezes. He will be guided by jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. Bred in Kentucky by Conquest Stable, he is out of the Grade 1 winner My Conquestadory.
Holy Helena likely for G2 New York
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens is targeting the Grade 2, $600,000 New York with three-time graded stakes winner Holy Helena, who breezed three furlongs in 37.26 seconds over the Belmont Park training track on Thursday morning.
"It was good, just something small," Jerkens said. "She was due to have some kind of breeze, so we let her stretch her legs. It'll end up being a ways between races, so you got to keep them conditioned. I'll probably work her real good on the turf next week."
Owned by Stronach Stables, Holy Helena won the Grade 3 The Very One on March 2 at Gulfstream Park in her most recent effort. She was scheduled to race in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay two weeks ago at Belmont Park, but was scratched when the Elmont area received heavy rain, resulting in a soft turf.
Bred in Ontario, Holy Helena won the Woodbine Oaks and Queen's Plate against her Canadian-bred counterparts before going on to win three graded stakes races over the turf. She was fifth in last year's New York Handicap which was won by Fourstar Crook.
Jerkens went on to say that Centennial Farms' graded stakes winner Rocketry will target the Grade 2, $400,000 Woodford Reserve Brooklyn Invitational on the June 8 Belmont Stakes undercard following a runner-up effort in the Flat Out behind Marconi, who also points for the Brooklyn.
Graded stakes winner Fly So High back with McGaughey
Fly So High is back at Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey's barn at Belmont Park after getting some extended time off at Niall Brennan Training Center in Ocala, Florida.
Owned by Phipps Stable, the 4-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon has not raced since winning last year's Grade 2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park 14 months ago, where she was vanned off after the race and had a small tear in a suspensory.
"She's back here, she's training," McGaughey said. "She hasn't breezed yet but she's two-minute licking and when she two-minute licks with the big and flawless stride that she's got, it's almost like breezing so she's coming a long."
McGaughey stated that Fly So High would probably make her comeback this summer at Saratoga.
"I'd like to get one in her before then, but we go up there so early now. It's not six weeks away," McGaughey said.
Bred in Kentucky by Mt. Brilliant Broodmares II, Fly So High is out of the Quiet American broodmare Quiet Flight and was purchased by the Phipps for $675,000 from the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2016.
Empire Racing Club to campaign 2-year-old filly by Can The Man
The Empire Racing Club, a non-profit organization whose purpose is to introduce fans to racehorse ownership, has entered into an agreement with Spendthrift Farm to campaign a filly this year.
Established by the New York Thoroughbred Horseman's Association, the Empire Racing Club is limited to 200 members who each pay an all-in cost of $500 for the term, providing members with racing and horse ownership experience without additional expenses often associated with the business.
The filly is an unnamed 2-year-old by Spendthrift stallion Can The Man out of Five Star Daydream. She is a half-sister to 2018 Grade 3 Beaumont winner Gas Station Sushi. Empire Racing Club members will have the opportunity to name the bay filly, with all confirmed members eligible to submit a vote by emailing [email protected] The filly's name will be announced on June 3.
Can The Man won multiple stakes in a racing career that spanned 2013-14, capturing the 2014 Speakeasy and the Grade 3 Affirmed at Santa Anita Park, building on a third-place finish in the 2013 Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity.
Empire Racing Club, which has retired NYRA race caller Tom Durkin serving as the managing partner, will also have Eclipse Award-winner Todd Pletcher train the filly, as well as all other future club-owned horses.
Proceeds from the Empire Racing Club will be used to pay for the horse's expenses, with any excess funds designated to the non-profit aftercare organization Take The Lead Thoroughbred Retirement Program.
NYRA Bets is also partnering with the Empire Racing Club, offering a $200 wagering credit to members who sign up as new NYRA Bets account holders. Only individuals who have not previously held a NYRA Bets account will be eligible for the bonus.
Club members will receive regular updates about the stable's horses via conference call, email, social media and dedicated club events and race days.
For more information, visit www.nytha.com/welcometotheclub.
Belmont Park New York Breeders' Showcase Day probables
Monday, May 27: The $200,000 Critical Eye
Probable: Bonita Bianca (Jason Servis); Frostie Anne (Rudy Rodriguez); Holiday Disguise (Linda Rice); Indy's Lady (Jeremiah Englehart); Kathryn the Wise (Chad Brown); Midnight Disguise (Rice)
Possible: JC's Shooting Star (David Donk); Out of Orbit (Phil Serpe)
Monday, May 27: The $125,000 Kingston
Probable: Black Tide (David Cannizzo); Dot Matrix (Brad Cox); Mo Maverick (Cannizzo); Offering Plan (Brown); Rapt (Robert Ribaudo); Therapist (Christophe Clement)
Monday, May 27: The $125,000 Mike Lee
Probable: Bankit (Steve Asmussen); Blindwillie McTell (Rice); Funny Guy (John Terranova); Holey Matrimony (Gary Gullo); Just Right (Todd Pletcher); Kosciuszko (Patrick Quick); Le General (Michelle Nevin); Red Zinger (Gary Contessa); Stone Breaker (Gullo); Thorny Tale (George Weaver)
Possible: Doups Point (Clement)
Monday, May 27: The $125,000 Mount Vernon
Probable: Conquest Hardcandy (James Ryerson); Fifty Five (Brown); Munchkin Money (Brian Lynch); Purrageous Dyna (Edward Allard); War Canoe (Contessa); Wegetsdamunnys (Clement)
Possible: Dream Passage (Cox)