Jun 9, 2022
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Flightline looks to carry momentum to the East Coast

by NYRA Press Office

  • Flightline looks to carry momentum to the East Coast
  • MGSW Change of Control set to take on males in G1 Jaipur
  • We the People gets look at starting gate for G1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets
  • Aloha West under the radar in G1 Met Mile for bustling BSRF for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners
  • Morley sends out Assertive Style and Locally Owned in BSRF
  • Rich Strike schools at gate for G1 Belmont Stakes 

Flightline, who soared to victory in all three career starts in California, will showcase his talents in the Empire State in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap. 

The gifted colt has won his three starts by a combined 37 1/2 lengths, producing triple digit Beyer Speed Figures each time, while effortlessly strolling past the wire in a gallop under Flavien Prat. 

A 13 1/4-length maiden victory at six furlongs last April at Santa Anita had Flightline on everyone’s radar, but the brilliant Tapit colt would not see action for another five months, capturing an allowance optional claimer at Del Mar on his return going the same distance by 12 3/4 lengths. 

Despite never running at stakes level, Flightline was made the 2-5 favorite in the Grade 1 Malibu and gave his connections a late Christmas present, winning by 11 1/2 lengths on December 26. The winning effort produced a 118 Beyer – the highest figure recorded for a thoroughbred last year. 

Flightline arrived at Belmont on Tuesday and visited the main track Wednesday and this morning, and also schooling in the paddock both days under the watchful eye of Juan Leyva, the assistant to trainer John Sadler. 

Leyva said Flightline wasn’t bothered by the early morning rain.

“On the walk up to the track it was raining, but once we got to the track it was a light sprinkle,” Leyva said. “He did well. He just galloped his usual mile and a quarter. He behaved well and handled it nicely.”

Stephanie Hronis, whose Hronis Racing is the lead partner on Flightline with Siena Farms, Summer Wind Equine, West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing, was on hand to see Flightline’s training.

“He’s bright-eyed. Juan had told me earlier, you can see his eyes, they have the sparkle in them. He’s settled in nicely and looking good,” Hronis said. “It was nice to see him go to the paddock nicely and taking it all in, stay calm, pause when he needed to, and check things out. He’s very smart, so his brain is working well through this.”

Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds has also been at Belmont to observe Flightline’s training and said he couldn’t be doing any better. 

“You really do get a feeling that you’re in the presence of something great when you’re around him,” Finley said. "It just looks like he’s settled in really well. He’s a true professional. He looks confident and settled. It looks like he still has his swagger. Juan is just over the moon with the way he handled it. The shipping and the new surroundings will not factor in if he should not get to the winner’s circle - that won’t be a reason.”

Hronis is particularly fond of the way Flightline has moved so effortlessly throughout his starts.

“His speed and the way his body moves, it’s incredible,” Hronis said. “It’s kind of like your kids in sports - you’re proud of each one and what Flightline has brought to the barn, the family and the ownership group is so unique. Juan and I were talking about how his body moves and how concise it is. There’s not a lot of wasted energy. His first race I remember watching him go across the track. It was almost scary to watch his body move like that. It's through the incredible care at the barn.”

Hronis recalled how excited Prat was following the Malibu.

“Flavien got off him and just said, ‘That was exciting.’ You could just tell he had huge chills,” Hronis said. “It was a special moment for him, also. He’s on a lot of really nice horses so it was cool to see. In each of the races it’s been like that. Flavien just holds on and goes. He navigates him well.”

Finley spoke volumes of the partnership group, particularly Hronis. 

“They know what good horses look like,” Finley said. “He just brings a smile to all of our faces. Hopefully, he’s one that they’re still talking about 100 years from now.”


MGSW Change of Control set to take on males in G1 Jaipur

Perry Harrison’s dual Grade 3-winner Change of Control will face males for the second time in her career in Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Jaipur for 3-year-olds and upward sprinting six furlongs over the Widener turf course. 

The Jaipur is one of three Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races on Saturday’s lucrative Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets card and offers the winner a berth in the Grade 1 Turf Sprint in November at Keeneland. 

Trained by Michelle Lovell, the bay daughter of Fed Biz will look to give her conditioner the first Grade 1 victory of her career as she enters the Jaipur off a narrow defeat in the 5 1/2-furlong Unbridled Sidney on May 5 at Churchill Downs. 

Lovell said she is excited for the chance at her first Grade 1 as Change of Control stretches out an extra sixteenth. 

“It would mean the world,” said Lovell. “With the six furlongs, she likes a little more ground. She can put herself close and in a stalking position usually. She grinds it out and she closes – she’s game. A little more distance helps her.” 

Change of Control was bested a neck by Tobys Heart in the Unbridled Sidney after briefly taking command at the top of the lane and battling to the wire with her foe. 

“It’s hard to watch her get beat because she does give everything,” Lovell said. “Tobys Heart is a nice mare. I thought we were going to get there.”

Change of Control broke her maiden at fifth asking over a sloppy and sealed main track at Fair Grounds Race Course en route to her first stakes victory in the Mamzelle sprinting five furlongs over Churchill’s turf course. She went on to collect three more allowance victories and a one-length Giant’s Causeway coup before landing her first graded win in last year’s seven-furlong Grade 3 Intercontinental over the Belmont Park lawn. 

In the Intercontinental, Change of Control rated two lengths off the pace in third and rallied under regular rider C. J. Hernandez to best multiple stakes-winner Piedi Bianchi by 1 1/2 lengths. The win was the first of two New York stakes victories for Change of Control, who went on to capture the Autumn Days in November at Aqueduct. 

“It was awesome. She loves New York and she’s won two stakes races there,” said Lovell. “She’s my favorite horse and the best I’ve ever trained. She’s really honest and so professional.”

Lovell said it was Harrison’s call to send Change of Control to the Jaipur rather than defend her title in the Intercontinental on Friday. 

“She’s got her work cut out for her, but she’s doing good. She’s a good, honest mare,” said Lovell. “The owner has had his sights set on this race and he’s wanted to try and get a Grade 1 placing for her. This is her last year racing before she goes to be a mama.”

Change of Control currently boasts a 35-9-8-7 record and earnings of $809,725. As Lovell reflects on Change of Control’s career in her final season of racing, she shared an appreciation for the mare’s professionalism in all she has achieved. 

“She’s a very healthy horse. She trains lightly and doesn’t need much,” Lovell said. “I let her do what she wants to do and she enjoys it that way. She’s a happy horse and an easy horse to train. She’s physically in great shape and mentally awesome. She’s stayed good for a long time. I wish she was three and not six. I haven’t had a more professional and courageous horse. She lays it down every time.”


We the People gets look at starting gate for G1 Belmont Stakes

We the People, the 2-1 morning line favorite for Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, schooled at the gate on Thursday along with a one-mile gallop around the sloppy main track at Belmont Park for trainer Rodolphe Brisset. 

“He’s pretty chill for the gate. He’s never had an issue with that,” Brisset said. “I was just hoping he didn’t go too fast in his gallop. He’s been [training] a mile for the past two days and today was very good. That’s the usual for him.” 

Owned by WinStar Farm, Bobby Flay, CMNWLTH and Siena Farm, We the People earned his favoritism in the Belmont Stakes after winning the Grade 3 Peter Pan, the local prep for the “Test of the Champion,” by an impressive 10 1/4 lengths in his most recent outing. The son of Constitution has won 3-of-4 lifetime starts, with his only loss coming in a troubled seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. 

Brisset said We the People will gallop on Friday as well as Saturday before the Belmont. 

“He’ll gallop on Saturday morning,” said Brisset. “He’s the kind of horse who needs to do something. The race is so late anyways. So, he’ll gallop a little bit; likely on the main track.” 


Aloha West under the radar in G1 Met Mile for bustling BSRF for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners

Trainer Wayne Catalano is bursting in confidence for his Aloha West, winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November at Del Mar, who invades for Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at Belmont Park.

“We are here to win,” said Catalano. “He is going into the race perfectly and you can’t always get horses as perfect as this before a big race, knock-on-wood, but I know we got him as good as he can be.”

The son of Hard Spun, from a Beyer Speed Figure standpoint, must face the fastest horse of 2021, Flightline [118] for West Coast-based conditioner John Sadler, and thus far in 2022, Speaker’s Corner [114] for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. 

Aloha West will also race beyond seven furlongs for the first time his career, but the late runner is bred to handle the ascent and has two victories over seven furlongs, including a Saratoga allowance win in September, earning his best figure of 102. 

He breezed a bullet five furlongs at Churchill Downs on June 3 in 58.60 in his final preparation for Saturday’s test.

“His last work was amazing and he’s been training really well since - nice and relaxed - and even today, when he jogged a half and galloped a half [at Belmont], he looked great,” Catalano said. “You always question if they can get a mile with a come-from-behind sprinter like him, but there’s only way to find out and that’s to lead them over there. Don’t get me wrong, it’s obviously a tough race, but it will still tell us if he gets the mile. 

“If I had the money, I would buy a rabbit to make sure we could get a strong pace in front of us, but we aren’t in that position,” Catalano said, with a laugh. “But in all seriousness, Billy’s horse has speed and the California horse is fast inside, so hopefully they go out and we can do what we want from there.”

Aron Wellman, the president and founder of Eclipse Thoroughbreds, also believes that Aloha West could be sitting on a big effort. He will be joined by a large contingent of syndicate partners - much like on Kentucky Derby Day when Aloha West was third last out in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs—to amplify that faith. 

“This is the race that we have had in mind since the Breeders’ Cup and it was just a matter of how we were going to get here,” Wellman said. “We’re very pleased to have got a prep race into him at Churchill Downs on Derby Day and he ran a really good race. He deserves a little more credit for the race he ran, I think. He took the worst of it on a dead rail and up against a horse like Jackie’s Warrior. We were probably second-best on the day, not third, but the race was designed as a means to an end for him. 

“The Met Mile, certainly with the presence of Flightline and Speaker’s Corner, is a heavyweight bout and we feel as though we belong,” Wellman continued. “We are sportsmen, will take on the challenge and we feel like Aloha West is deserving of this opportunity. In the best of all worlds, they lock horns and potentially soften themselves up for a horse like Aloha to mow them down. It’s going to take a serious horse to beat either of them and a lifetime-best from our horse, but we are game and the horse is doing as well as we could possibly imagine. He's never raced beyond seven furlongs, but we feel like if the pace unfolds the way it looks, a one-turn mile configuration could be perfect for him.” 

Wellman and partners will kick off a big weekend on Friday with morning-line favorite Abaan in the Grade 2, $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup, a two-mile marathon for older horses.

A son of Travers winner Will Take Charge co-owned by Alex Daigneault, Abaan exits a fifth in the Grade 1 Man o’ War on May 14. A proven stayer, he won the two-mile H. Allen Jerkens over the winter and backed that up with graded glory in the Grade 3 W. L. McKnight over 12 furlongs on the same Gulfstream Park turf. He was a good second two starts back in the Grade 2 Pan American to multiple Grade 1-winner Gufo.

“This has been his primary target to start the second half of the season and we called an audible when running him in the Man o’ War,” Wellman explained. “It was a Grade 1 race with only five horses and worth $700,000 and we worried that the nine weeks between the Pan American and Belmont Gold Cup might leave him a little too fresh going into two-mile race. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out how we hoped it would, but it was a segue to the Gold Cup. 

“You don’t get a lot of opportunities to run for $400,000 with turf marathoners and we believe he will run a big race,” he continued. “It is hard to see a scenario where he’s not laying 1-2-3 and he’s proven he can make or win with a target. The Europeans, Loft and Outbox, will be tough and if there’s any cut in the ground it can help them, but the fact that our horse has won on good and yielding turf definitely helps.”

In addition to Aloha West, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners are co-owners of the lone filly in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, Nest, and have longshot Divine Huntress earlier on the card in the Grade 1 Acorn. 

Already a Grade 1 winner in April’s Ashland at Keeneland, Nest is a daughter of Belmont runner-up Curlin and granddaughter of Belmont winner A. P. Indy. Trained by Abaan’s Hall of Fame conditioner Todd Pletcher, a three-time Belmont winner, the four-time winner from six tries ticks a lot of boxes going into her first battle with the boys. Like Aloha West, she breaks from post three under Jose Ortiz.

“We’re pleased with the draw and I love that We The People is drawn inside,” Wellman said. “I would love to be able to sit right off him. Everyone is going to be scrumming for position and it’s just a matter of whether or not they’re fast enough to get that position. In a perfect world, we’re very much in a spot just behind the pace.” 

Acorn outsider Divine Huntress will also break from post three, but under Abaan’s rider, Luis Saez. Trained by Graham Motion, the daughter of Divining Rod exits a fourth in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico and was fifth in the Grade 3 Gazelle at the Big A in April. Bred and trained in Maryland, the granddaughter of champion sprinter Housebuster may appreciate the cut back in trip. 

“This is not something we frankly had on our radar after the Black-Eyed Susan, but we are very opportunistic, especially with our fillies and getting blacktype and graded races. It’s a $500,000 race and Grade 1 honors on the line and you, at the very least, have to give yourself a $3,500 [entry fee] option to survey the field,” Wellman said. “You never know when a main player like Matareya or Echo Zulu might stub their toe in a five-horse field. She’s done very well since the Black-Eyed Susan. Her PPs may not show it, but we think she’s very talented and we also think that after a couple two-turn races, that cutting back to a one-turn mile could really suit her. You have to be in the races to have a chance.”

Catalano also gave an update on Susan Moulton’s highly impressive Keeneland maiden-winning 2-year-old, Andthewinneris, whose plan to head to the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot was recently abandoned. 

From the first crop of 2017 Belmont Derby Invitational winner Oscar Performance, the bay colt closed with a rush to win first out by two widening lengths with the well-regarded Wesley Ward trainee Wico in third.

“We want to win the Breeders’ Cup with him, it’s as simple as that,” Catalano said. “The owners thought it through and decided not to go to England and the horse is doing great. He is a really talented horse and I don’t rule out trying the dirt with him once somewhere along the line, but our goal is the Breeders’ Cup and we’ll figure out how to get there. There’s Saratoga, Woodbine and Churchill races in the meantime to look at this summer and fall.”


Morley sends out Assertive Style and Locally Owned in BSRF

Tom Morley will saddle a pair of starters for Flying P Stable at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival with Assertive Style entered in Friday's Grade 3, $200,000 Intercontinental and Locally Owned in Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational.

Assertive Style drew post 11 in a talented field of 13 older fillies and mares, who will sprint six furlongs over the Widener turf in Race 11 to close out Day Two of the festival. Morley claimed the 4-year-old Nyquist dark bay for $80,000 out of a runner-up effort in a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint in March at Fair Grounds. 

He entered Assertive Style in the six-furlong License Fee on May 1 over the Belmont inner turf, but had to scratch. She returned in the Grade 3 Vagrancy at 6 1/2-furlongs over Big Sandy on May 14 and she closed to finish third.

Morley said he is pleased to be involved in the lucrative festival which will encompass 17 total stakes, including eight Grade 1s on Belmont Stakes Day, capped by the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.

"I'm extremely grateful to be taking part. It's a good thing for our barn," Morley said. "Assertive Style is doing fabulously well. We wanted to run her on the turf earlier this year and she spiked a temperature for 24 hours, so we had to scratch her out of that spot and then she ran very well in the Vagrancy."

The dark bay is out of the Scat Daddy mare Sca Doodle, who ran third in the 2013 Avowal over the Woodbine turf. Assertive Style, who has posted a record of 17-5-1-4, has made three starts on turf with her most recent effort at Fair Grounds providing her best result thus far.

"I'm really looking forward to getting her on grass," Morley said. "She's out of a Scat Daddy mare and she's got great big feet and angular pasterns, so she looks like a turf horse to me. The fact we have her graded-stakes placed is huge."

Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who guided Zindaya to victory in the 2016 Intercontinental, will have the return call aboard Assertive Style.

"He rode her in the Vagrancy and he's worked her in the mornings, so he knows her very well," Morley said. "She's got enough speed that she should be handy and she's a big filly, so if there's a bit of a scrum going on, I wouldn't swap horses. She'll be able to barge her way around the place."

Morley said the key to a winning trip on Friday will be a tempered stalking trip in a loaded field that should have plenty of early pace.

"The day we claimed her at the Fair Grounds, she circled the field and then got nailed late on," Morley said. "She's a filly you want to ride with a little bit of patience. She's got one kick. He [Castellano] knows that and rode her like that on the dirt and she gave him a nice kick down the lane to get third. I'd expect her to be fifth or sixth early...let her switch her leads and then quicken up down the lane."

Locally Owned will exit post 6 under returning rider Dylan Davis in the 12-furlong Brooklyn for older horses in Race 5 on Saturday's card.

The 6-year-old Distorted Humor gelding was haltered for $40,000 in February 2021 at Fair Grounds and has since provided two wins in seven outings, including a one-length score over Brooklyn rival Lone Rock in the 13-furlong Grand Prix American Jockey Club in September at Belmont. 

Locally Owned finished third in his seasonal debut on May 6 in the Flat Out, completing the trifecta behind Brooklyn rivals First Constitution and Portos.

"To get the race into him in the Flat Out was very important going into the Brooklyn," Morley said. "All my horses seem to improve for their first start of the year. He'd been off six months and he made a lovely move into the race around the second turn of the Flat Out and gave me a bit of a surprise that he ran as well as he did. He just got tired in the last eighth of a mile. I expect to see him take a big step forward."

Morley said he is hopeful that the typically forwardly-placed Lone Rock [post 1] and First Constitution [post 5] can provide an honest pace.

"I think with Lone Rock drawn on the inside and First Constitution returning, there should be a good even gallop and that generally means that Locally Owned runs his race," Morley said.

The Morley stable is off to a good start at the Belmont spring/summer meet with a record of 27-6-1-4 heading into Thursday's card.


Rich Strike schools at gate for G1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets

Thursday was a quieter day for Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, who had a very laid-back gallop one clockwise lap around Belmont Park’s sloppy main track on his way to the starting gate to school for Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets. 

“He didn’t care at all,” trainer Eric Reed said of Rich Strike’s first look at the starting gate since arriving at Belmont last Wednesday. “He’s still a little fresh and will train a little more tomorrow. He’s so different from before the Derby. He never did any of this rearing up and playing. Since the Derby, that’s all he wants to do is show off.” 

The son of Keen Ice, affectionately nicknamed “Richie,” has continued to impress his team with each gallop and trip around Belmont’s paddock. The charismatic chestnut is often seen posing for cameras on the track and in his daily post-gallop bath, keeping his eyes and ears on the excitement around him. 

“I saw him today coming out of the tunnel, and they’ve got all the cameras on the right side. He took about two steps and he stopped and stared at them,” Reed said, with a laugh. 

Rich Strike garnered a dedicated following when he upset the “Run for the Roses” at odds of 80-1 with a masterful ride by returning rider Sonny Leon, who rallied the colt from 17 1/4 lengths off the pace and weaved around foes in the stretch to stun as the second-biggest longshot to win the Kentucky Derby.

On most mornings since arriving at Belmont, Rich Strike’s team plays Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” for him to get him familiar with the classic tune that will play as he steps onto Big Sandy on Saturday. 

Reed notes that Rich Strike is a horse who relies on a consistent routine, including his daily nap around 11 a.m. once the barn quiets down. He often enjoys making a “pillow” out of his shavings in his stall to rest his head. 

“He laid down the other day and had his head on a pillow against the wall,” Reed said. “You can’t make this stuff up.” 

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NYRA Press Office

Trainer Ken McPeek has garnered plenty of knowledge and experience since starting his first runner in 1985. He’s known for his fearlessness when taking a gamble with his horses, like when he sent out Sarava to a shocking 70-1 victory in the 2002 Belmont Stakes for the dark bay’s first try against graded company, and more recently, scored a Grade 1 Preakness victory with upset filly Swiss Skydiver in 2020.