by Ryan Martin
Castleton Lyons' graded stakes winner Gucci Factor will look to pick up where he left off when going for a fourth straight victory in Sunday's 44th running of the $125,000 Ashley T. Cole going 1 1/8 miles over the inner turf at Belmont Park for New York-breds.
Paying tribute to the prominent attorney and New York state politician who was a driving force behind the creation of the New York Racing Association, the Ashley T. Cole is one of three stakes carded for Sunday afternoon, which also includes the Grade 2, $250,000 Gallant Bloom and the $125,000 John Hettinger.
Trained by Christophe Clement, Gucci Factor last raced when taking his graded stakes debut in the Grade 3 Poker on June 15 over the Belmont turf. Third in last year's Ashley T. Cole, Gucci Factor did not race again until December when defeating allowance company at Tampa Bay Downs and returned to action following that effort with a win against his Empire State-bred counterparts in the Kingston on May 27 at Belmont Park.
A seven-time winner of 14 career starts, Gucci Factor has banked a total of $443,450.
Since the Poker, Gucci Factor has worked four times, most recently recording a five-furlong work over the Belmont main track in 1:02.59 on September 14.
"Gucci Factor had the summer off and he's training well again. I hope he's fit enough but he's a nice horse," Clement said. "He's won very well going a mile but he's not quite as fit as that, so we just hope that he's good enough to overcome his fitness. He's trained very well. The last two to three weeks he's done well in his training. I didn't think he trained well enough for him to run in July so I put him back in training in August."
Bred in New York by Highclere, Gucci Factor is out of the unraced Dynaformer broodmare Shoo In, who has produced four other offspring, all of which are winners. He was purchased for $150,000 from the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-Bred Yearling Sale.
Jockey Joel Rosario will pilot Gucci Factor from post 8.
Clement will also saddle six-time stakes winner Therapist, who will seek his first triumph at such caliber since winning the Elusive Quality at Belmont Park in April against open company. Owned by Oak Bluff Stables, the chestnut Freud gelding scored against open company in three of his other stakes victories in the Laurel Futurity, the Awad at Belmont Park and Cutler Bay at Gulfstream Park.
Therapist last raced when finishing third in the West Point presented by Trustco Bank on August 23 at Saratoga.
"Therapist has never missed a beat. He's actually training better here than in Saratoga. I think he's better with the cooler weather than what he was in the summer," Clement said.
Bred by his owner and trainer, Therapist is out of the Smart Strike broodmare Lady Renaissance. Seven-time Belmont Park leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. will guide Therapist who leaves from post 6.
Five-time stakes winner Offering Plan was placed in two previous editions of the Ashley T. Cole but seeks his first triumph in the event.
Trained by Chad Brown, the 7-year-old son of Spring At Last is owned by seven-time NYRA leading owner Michael Dubb in partnership with Nantucket Thoroughbred Partners, Bethlehem Stables and G. Aisquith. He enters Sunday's race off of a victory in the Kingston at Saratoga besting fellow Ashley T. Cole aspirants Dot Matrix and Therapist by a neck. Prior to that start, his last victory took place with a six-length romp in the Mohawk last October at Belmont Park, where he recorded a 105 Beyer Speed Figure.
Hall of Famer and six-time Belmont leading jockey Javier Castellano has guided Offering Plan in his last 15 starts and will return to the saddle for Sunday's race, where he will break from post 7.
Barry Schwartz's Voodoo Song will attempt to get back on track when breaking from post 5. Trained by Linda Rice, the chestnut son of English Channel has not won since taking last year's Grade 1 Fourstardave at Saratoga. Although a New York-bred, Voodoo Song has competed mostly against open company and will make his first start against state-breds since August 2017, where he won a second-level allowance event over the Saratoga turf.
Defending Belmont leading rider Jose Lezcano will guide Voodoo Song.
Completing the field are Memories of Peter [post 2, Kendrick Carmouche], Red Knight [post 3, Jose Ortiz] and Dot Matrix, [post 4, Luis Saez]. Dynamax Prime [post 1] has been entered for main track only.
The Ashley T. Cole is slated as Race 7 on Sunday's 11-race card. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern time.