Thin White Duke looks for sustained success on dirt in Friday's Bertram F. Bongard
by Brian Bohl
The top-three finishers in the Funny Cide earlier this month at Saratoga Race Course will compete again on Friday at Belmont Park, as Thin White Duke, Eagle Orb and Lookin for Trouble highlight the $100,000 Bertram F. Bongard for New York-bred juveniles going seven furlongs.
Thin White Duke handled the switch from turf to dirt with aplomb last out when graduating against sakes company on September 4 in the Funny Cide. The son of Dominus will look to build on that effort on Friday as he stays on the main track for the 27th running of the Bertram F. Bongard, which marks the 27-day fall meet's first stakes for 2-year-old colts.
Trained, bred and co-owned by Phil Gleaves, Thin White Duke started his career on Big Sandy, running third in his debut on June 19 and again on July 12 stretching from five to 5 1/2 furlongs. At the Spa, Gleaves transitioned him to the turf, where he ran second in back-to-back maiden special weights going 5 ½ furlongs.
Before the summer meet concluded, Thin White Duke was moved back to the main track and graduated at fifth asking with a half-length win over Eagle Orb in the 6 1/2-furlongs Funny Cide, earning a personal-best 68 Beyer Speed Figure for his stakes bow.
He will test the dirt again, but Gleaves said his versatility can leave options open.
"We're keeping an open mind about it [a return to grass], but the New York-bred stakes in the fall are all on the dirt so that was our reason for running in the Funny Cide," Gleaves said. "We wanted to find out how he fit with the better New York-breds on the dirt. So, for now, we'll stay on the dirt but he's one of those adaptable horses that can run on both."
Co-owned by Steven Crist, Ken deRegt and Bryan Hilliard, Thin White Duke is named for the David Bowie stage persona associated with the 1976 album Station to Station.
Manny Franco, who had the call for his first four starts, will return, drawing post 5.
E.V. Racing Stable's Eagle Orb was the runner-up in the Funny Cide after winning his first race on August 21 at Saratoga. Trained by Rudy Rodriguez and bred by Barry Ostrager, the Orb colt was purchased for $95,000 at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale.
Jose Ortiz will pick up the mount on Friday and will break from post 4.
"He's training really good and we're putting Jose Ortiz on him this time, so hopefully that helps him," Rodriguez said. "He hasn't missed anything since the last race. They're just babies, so you have to hope they break good. But I'm very happy with the way he's training. He acts like he wants to go longer and behaves like he wants to do more, so let's hope."
Trainer Mike Maker will send out a pair of talented entrants, including Lookin for Trouble, who ran a competitive third - just 1 1/2 lengths back to Thin White Duke - in the Funny Cide. After running fourth in his debut on July 12 at Belmont, Lookin for Trouble posted a maiden-breaking 2 ¾-length score on August 7 at Saratoga before being elevated to stakes company.
In the Funny Cide, the Into Mischief colt set the pace for the seven-horse field before being run down. Owned and bred by William Butler, Lookin for Trouble will rematch Thin White Duke with Jose Lezcano set to ride from post 7.
Maker's second entrant, Windy Nations, was a four-length debut winner on August 1 in a $25,00 maiden claiming tilt at Monmouth Park for owner Russell Cash. The gelded son of Soaring Empire rallied from fifth and showed good closing speed to beat a seven-horse field over a fast track and will return to action with Kendrick Carmouche in the irons out of post 2.
Half Right, a first-out winner for trainer Doug O'Neill on August 30 at Saratoga in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint moved off the turf, will look to make the step up.
Sired by multiple Grade 1-winner Alpha and owned by Ron Arakelian, III and Arakelian, Jr., Half Right bested a nine-horse field last month at the Spa for a 2 1/2-length score. To prepare for his first Belmont start, Half Right has breezed twice on the main track, including a five-furlong work in 1:01.88 on Saturday.
Half Right, bred by War Dancer Ladies, will pick up the services of Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano and break from post 1 in his initial Belmont appearance.
"We look forward to running him there Friday," O'Neill said. "We'll have Javier on him again and see what happens."
Rounding out the field is maiden winner Hold the Salsa, who ran ninth in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on August 7 before running fifth in the Funny Cide, for owner and trainer Richard Lugovich [post 6, Junior Alvarado]; Brooklyn Strong, a debut winner on September 12 at Delaware Park for conditioner Daniel Velazquez [post 3, Eric Cancel]; and New York One, who broke his maiden at third asking on August 19 at Mountaineer for trainer James Chapman [post 8, Dylan Davis].
The Bertram F. Bongard is slated as Race 9 on Friday's 10-race program, which offers a first post of 12:50 p.m. Eastern. America's Day at the Races will present daily television coverage of the fall meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks. For the complete America's Day at the Races broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.
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