by Keith McCalmont
Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stables' Mind Control, a dual Grade 1-winner on the New York Racing Association (NYRA) circuit, will get to target the Grade 1, $250,000 Runhappy Carter Handicap after all.
Trained by Gregg Sacco, the 4-year-old Stay Thirsty colt was expected to follow his last-out win in the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap on March 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack in the Runhappy Carter Handicap, which had been scheduled for April 4 at the Big A until the suspension of live racing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We were thrilled to see the race was back on the card and we're looking forward to running Mind Control in the Carter," said Sacco. "Everyone at Belmont and NYRA has collectively done a great job and worked really hard to help bring racing back."
On Tuesday, NYRA announced a 25-day Belmont spring/summer meet with a lucrative stakes schedule that includes the seven-furlong Runhappy Carter Handicap, a Win and You're In qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Sprint, as the centerpiece of a June 6 card that will kick off the first of five consecutive Saturdays of Grade 1 races at Belmont Park.
Mind Control has remained in training throughout the racing hiatus at Belmont Park where he breezed five furlongs in an easy 1:03.24 on May 16 on the main track.
"He's been on a weekly schedule throughout this time and he's only missed one week. He's training super," said Sacco. "He's just gliding over the main track. He had his first work on the main last week and he'll work again on Saturday on the main track. He couldn't be doing any better going into the race."
Mind Control's NYRA ledger includes a pair of Grade 1 wins at Saratoga Race Course, beginning with the Grade 1 Hopeful as a juvenile and the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens in August.
Sacco said he is hopeful of another shot at a Grade 1 score at Saratoga later this summer with the Grade 1 Vanderbilt a possibility for Mind Control.
"He's two-for-two at Saratoga, but we'll take it one race at time. The Carter is an important race and another Grade 1. We expect a very tough race but he's going in with the right mindset," said Sacco.
Jeff Fazio and Michael Fazio's Joevia, who won the 2019 Long Branch at Monmouth Park, is under consideration for the Grade 3, $100,000 Westchester, a 1 1/16-mile route for older horses on Saturday, June 6 at Belmont.
The 4-year-old Shanghai Bobby colt had a successful 'Llewellyn' surgery to correct a breathing issue following off-the-board efforts in the Grade 3 Razorback in February at Oaklawn Park and the Stymie on March 7 at the Big A.
"We'll nominate him for the Westchester," said Sacco. "It looks like the breathing issue is under control. He's shown no indication of any breathing impairment in his works back, so we'll nominate and take a serious look at it."
Joevia was a front-running third in last year's Belmont Stakes which Sacco said demonstrated the colt's significant ability.
"That was probably the best race of his career. He loves the big track - he's a big horse himself - and he really moves well over that surface," said Sacco. "I think it was the breathing that was an issue these last two races. He's an elite horse and the Westchester might be the right spot."
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G1 Travers hero Code of Honor pointed to G3 Westchester
W.S. Farish's Code of Honor, a three-length winner of the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers in August at Saratoga Race Course, is back in training at Belmont Park and targeting the Grade 3, $100,000 Westchester, a 1 1/16-mile route for older horses for his seasonal debut on Saturday, June 6 at Belmont.
"Code of Honor is doing very well," said Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. "If all goes well, I plan to start him in the Westchester."
The now 4-year-old Noble Mission chestnut won four-of-eight sophomore starts including wins in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park; the Grade 3 Dwyer at Belmont; and a dramatic renewal of the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont in which Code of Honor was elevated to first.
The talented colt was third past the wire in the 2019 Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and elevated to second following the disqualification of Maximum Security.
McGaughey said he is looking forward to getting started with Code of Honor with an eye on a significant goal at Saratoga Race Course this summer.
"The Whitney would be our big summertime goal. We're just hoping that everything will continue to go right and carry us on through the year with the major older-horse races with the Breeders' Cup on our minds," said McGaughey.
McGaughey has a strong contingent of more than 20 horses stabled at Belmont as the spring meet gets set to kick off on June 3.
Phipps Stable and Claiborne Farm's Performer, a 4-year-old Speightstown chestnut, earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure for an impressive last-out score in the Grade 3 Discovery at nine furlongs on November 30 at the Big A.
McGaughey said Performer will make his return on Opening Weekend at Belmont Park in the Grade 1, $250,000 Runhappy Carter Handicap, which offers a berth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
"Performer has been training well and I'm looking to start him in the Carter," said McGaughey.
Gainesway Stable and Andrew Rosen's Pink Sands, a five-year-old daughter of Tapit, has won her last two starts, both at Gulfstream Park, including scores in the Grade 3 Rampart and Grade 2 Inside Information.
McGaughey said Pink Sands will target the Grade 1, $300,000 Ogden Phipps, a 1 1/16-mile test for older fillies and mares slated for Saturday, June 13 which offers a berth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Stuart S. Janney III and Phipps Stable's Passing Out, a 4-year-old daughter of Orb, has won three-of-seven starts including a last-out optional claiming win on the Tampa Bay turf. The eye-catching seven-length score earned a career-best 90 Beyer Speed Figure.
McGaughey said the filly is likely to start in the Grade 3, $100,000 Beaugay, a 1 1/16-miles turf event on Opening Day June 3.
Top Seed sprinted to a nine-length maiden score on April 22 at third asking at Tampa Bay Downs. The 4-year-old Orb chestnut, a Phipps Stable homebred, is a late bloomer out of the Giant's Causeway mare Trophy Wife.
"Top Seed is at Churchill and we're going to try and run him around two turns there and see what he is," said McGaughey. "He has some ability though. He had a few little issues and we had to start and stop with him."
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Bruce Brown barn ready to hit the ground running
Trainer Bruce Brown, who oversees a stable of 18 horses, said he is excited for a return to live racing when the spring meet gets underway on Wednesday, June 3 at Belmont Park.
"I can't wait to get going. I'm really excited to get back to some normalcy around here," said Brown. "It's good to see some light at the end of the tunnel we've been in. Everyone realized what had to be done in order to get back to racing and did what it takes to get this all behind us.
"Now that things are opening up again, I'll have more horses coming in soon," continued Brown. "People had been in holding patterns, but now that we have some guidance on the future I'll be up around 25 horses for the rest of the year."
Windylea Farm's Three Outlaws, bred in the Empire State by Best Foot Forward, is back in training at Belmont. The late-closing son of Goldencents hit the board in a trio of restricted turf allowances in the fall.
Out of the Tiznow mare Bojangle Now, Three Outlaws was off-the-board last out in a main-track sprint in December at the Big A. Brown said he will target turf opportunities going forward for Three Outlaws.
"He's doing great. He was a little delayed getting in from the farm but he could run towards the end of the first condition book or the beginning of the next book," said Brown. "We gave him one last try on the dirt at the end of last year and he made it clear he's much better on the turf."
The unraced Robin Sparkles, named for a fictional character on the hit T.V. series How I Met Your Mother, has breezed twice at Belmont Park. Bred in New York by Hibiscus Stable, the Elusive Quality sophomore was purchased for $30,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Preferred Yearling Sale.
Brown said the bay filly has demonstrated some early ability.
"She's doing good. She's just getting back going," said Brown. "She's a big, good-looking filly and very classy. They liked her on the farm so we'll see how she goes once we're a little further along with her."
Anthony P. McCarthy's homebred Belle of the Spa, a chestnut daughter of Pure Prize who won the Yaddo in August at Saratoga, has been retired. The talented New York-bred, out of the winning Devil His Due mare Awakened Beauty, posted a record of 12-4-1-1 with purse earnings of $225,947.
"She's in foal to Mission Impazible and we'll be expecting a foal out of her next year which is very exciting," said Brown.
The veteran conditioner, who boasts more than 500 career wins, was last in the winner's circle with former Our Sugar Bear Stable charge Mission Wrapitup on February 20 at the Big A.
The Mission Impazible sophomore, bred in the Empire State by Chester and Mary Broman, was an impressive 8 1/4-length winner at first asking last May at beautiful Belmont Park and was stakes-placed in two starts at Finger Lakes last year with a second in the Aspirant followed by a third in the New York Breeders' Futurity.
Brown said the gelding was sold privately following the last-out win and is now in training with Chad Brown.
"We wish him well. He's a good horse and we had a good offer for him," said Brown.
Brown said he is looking forward to getting the meet underway and is hopeful the time off will have benefited his stock.
"We're hoping a few of our maiden fillies, that had some seconds and thirds before things shut down, will move forward off the break," said Brown. "Hopefully, this time off was a blessing in disguise and will let some of the horses grow and mature a little bit."