G3 Distaff a long term goal for $100K Interborough winner Betsy Blue; Piece of My Heart targets Heavenly Prize
by NYRA Press Office
Cloud Nine Stable’s New York-bred Betsy Blue secured her second consecutive open-company stakes conquest in Saturday’s $100,000 Interborough for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trainer Linda Rice said the Grade 3, $150,000 Distaff Handicap on April 7 at the Big A is the long term goal for Betsy Blue, a 5-year-old Tonalist mare, who posted a one-length score over stablemate Piece of My Heart in the seven-furlong Interborough.
Betsy Blue entered off a sharp victory in the Garland of Roses at the Big A going six furlongs on December 10 – just one week following a third-place finish in the local Grade 3 Go for Wand. In the Interborough, Betsy Blue took towards the rear of the field and launched a wide bid in upper stretch to get up in the final sixteenth and win under her regular rider Jose Lezcano. The winning effort garnered a 79 Beyer Speed Figure.
Winning Move Stable’s Piece of My Heart received a ground-saving come-from-behind trip under Kendrick Carmouche. A 6-year-old chestnut mare by Flat Out, Piece of My Heart took to the rear of the field before matching strides with pacesetter Miss T Too in upper stretch, putting up a valiant effort to finish second.
Rice said Betsy Blue could first run in the Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie on February 18 at Laurel Park in Maryland, while Piece of My Heart will likely remain in New York and could target the $125,000 Heavenly Prize going a one-turn mile the same day.
“Piece of My Heart we might point to the Heavenly Prize and with Betsy Blue, we’ll look at the race in Maryland but the Distaff is the ultimate goal with her,” Rice said.
Bred in New York by Blue Devil Racing Stable, Betsy Blue was claimed by Rice out of a Big A starter optional claimer for $50,000 in March 2021 and competed against fellow state-breds throughout most of her 2021 season, including a triumph in the seven-furlong Bouwerie that May at Belmont Park.
Last year, she turned her focus to open company races and twice defeated allowance optional claiming company going seven furlongs on the NYRA circuit, which included a career-best 96 Beyer following a six-length romp in August at Saratoga Race Course.
Although some of her more prominent victories have taken place going seven furlongs, Rice said Betsy Blue is a better horse at six furlongs, where she brags an 8-3-4-0 record.
“I think she beats better horses going shorter and closing into fast fractions,” Rice said. “She’s graduated, she’s matured and she’s really got the hang of it.”
Jerson Mauricio Suarez, one of four partners involved with Cloud Nine Stable, spoke volumes of the development of Betsy Blue.
“Linda has really taken her on and really guides her and protects her in many ways and that works because she’s now won two stakes races in a row,” Suarez said. “She’s been a winner, shown, placed or won in most of her races. Lately now, she’s been hotter than ever. I’m excited just to be a part of this.”
Chester and Mary Broman’s graded-stakes placed New York-homebred Arctic Arrogance breezed six furlongs in 1:15 flat Sunday over the Belmont dirt training track. He finished a game second last out here in the Jerome. He is one of 20 horses nominated to the nine-furlong Grade 3, $250,000 Withers on February 4 at the Big A which offers 20-8-6-4-2 Kentucky Derby points to the top-five finishers.
Mama’s Gold registers 96BSF in 21 1/4-length maiden score
Mama’s Gold, a 3-year-old New York-bred Bolt d’Oro colt, drew off to break his maiden by 21 1/4-lengths in a six-furlong state-bred maiden claiming tilt on Saturday at Aqueduct. Owner-trainer Chad Summers won a three-way shake to halter Mama’s Gold for $25,000 out of the impressive third-out graduation that garnered a 96 Beyer Speed Figure.
Mama’s Gold, with Jose Lezcano up, broke alertly from post 4 and marked off splits of 23.15 seconds and 47.03 over the fast main track, opening up a nine-length advantage at the stretch call en route to an eye-catching victory in a final time of 1:11.32.
Mama’s Gold made his first two starts traveling six furlongs in state-bred company in the care of trainer Mike Maker for owner-breeder William Butler, finishing fifth in his August debut at Saratoga, a tilt that featured Curly Larry and Mo, who would end his campaign with a pacesetting off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
He followed with a seventh-place finish off a three-month layoff on November 26 at the Big A in a race that runner-up General Banker exited to win the $500,000 NYSSS Great White Way ahead of picking up Kentucky Derby qualifying points for a third-place finish in the Jerome.
"Mike Maker is an outstanding trainer and no matter where his horses are running, he always has the horse prepared to run,” Summers said of the impressive maiden score. “On paper, it looked like a one-horse race and he did what he was supposed to do. The way he did it, he was geared down throughout and the track wasn't very fast, but he made it look fast. That was encouraging to see."
A half-sibling to multiple stakes winner Rotknee, Mama’s Gold is out of the winning Speightstown mare In Spite of Mama, who is a half-sister to graded-stakes placed A Freud of Mama. His third dam, Nothing Special, produced multiple graded-stakes winning millionaire Haynesfield.
"We knew the horse was a half to Rotknee, but so did they,” Summers said. “Looking at his first two races, they looked better on paper than his final results. In his first race, the horse that ran fourth ran in the Breeders' Cup and in the second race the horse that ran second came back and won the $500,000 stakes and has Derby points.
"Obviously, you're a little concerned about the drop from maiden special to maiden $25,000, but he's a New York-bred and he had all his conditions," continued Summers. "We love Bolt d'Oro and it's one of those ones where you take a look at him and if he's OK, you take a shot."
Summers said Mama’s Gold exited the race in good order and that he will take his time before planning a next start.
"We came to check on him at night check and he was hollering for more food. He seems like a happy horse,” Summers said. “We'll treat him like a good horse, but he has all his conditions so we'll take it step by step. We won't rush into anything and just let him take us where he takes us. Hopefully, that third race is an indication of who he is and not the first two."
Summers said Jonathan Hardoon’s stakes-placed Champagne Poetry is training well towards a return in an allowance tilt next Sunday here, having breezed extensively over the Belmont dirt training track, including a bullet half-mile from the gate in 47 flat on January 12.
A 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Carpe Diem, Champagne Poetry last raced on May 29 finishing last-of-9 in the Grade 3 Soaring Softly over firm Belmont turf.
“It's exciting to have her back. She's a really nice filly and a lot of fun,” Summers said. “She doesn't do herself any favors, unfortunately. When she ran last time, she reared up on post parade and then broke through the gate. We gave her a little time off and a little freshening.”
Champagne Poetry made her first three starts at the Big A, graduating last January at second asking sprinting six furlongs ahead of a narrow nose defeat to Shotgun Hottie in the seven-furlong Ruthless.
“We know she likes Aqueduct,” Summers said. “She had a lot of success there last year and what should have been a win in the stakes, so we're excited to get her going again.”
The $20,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale purchase is out of the Colonel John mare C J Oz, who is a half-sister to multiple graded-stakes winning millionaire Madefromlucky.
Maitha Salem Mohammed Belobaida Alsuwaidi's Meraas is on target for the $1.5 million Riyadh Dirt Sprint on the undercard of the $20 million Saudi Cup on February 25 at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.
Meraas, a Group 3-winner at Meydan last February for his former conditioner Musabbeh Al Mheiri, made three starts for Summers last year led by a frontrunning optional-claiming score under Abner Adorno on December 30 here that garnered a 97 Beyer. That effort followed a third-place finish in September at Saratoga in his North American debut and a troubled off-the-board effort in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler in October at Belmont at the Big A.
Summers has enjoyed past success in the Middle East, taking consecutive editions of the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen with New York-bred Mind Your Biscuits, who is now a successful stud in Japan.
“It's going to be a tough race,” Summers said. “Dancing Prince, who won the race last year, is going to be back and you might see Switzerland coming off a win in the Golden Shaheen and a real sharp effort in the Group 3 [Dubawi] last time off the layoff. You also have Elite Power and Gunite, who are bona fide Grade 1 horses. It's not going to be an easy race and we might be an underdog, but we've traveled international before as an underdog and it's worked out for us.”
Meraas worked a half-mile in 49.50 on January 15 over the Belmont dirt training track. He will leave on a flight from Florida on February 14 and Adorno will travel to Saudi Arabia to retain the mount.
“The horse is super. He's doing so good right now,” Summers said. “He’s so fast, we can’t breeze him every week. We’ll breeze him again on Tuesday here.”
General Banker eyes G3 Withers with half-mile tune-up
Seacoast Thoroughbreds of New England’s New York homebred General Banker, who was last seen finishing a closing third in the Jerome on January 7 at Aqueduct Racetrack, had his first breeze back over the Belmont Park dirt training track Sunday. The son of Central Banker covered a half-mile solo in 49.65 seconds.
“I had him a few ticks faster than the clockers did, but he galloped out five-eighths pretty good,” said trainer Jimmy Ferraro.
General Banker earned his first stakes victory two starts back with an emphatic maiden-breaking score in the $500,000 NYSSS Great White Way, dominating his 10 rivals by 8 1/2 lengths with a rallying trip under Eric Cancel. He made his open company debut in the Jerome and finished third after racing keenly and running up on the heels of a foe down the backstretch.
“He was a little on the muscle last time,” said Ferraro. “I don’t know if he would have won, but he would have been closer if he hadn’t been [so keen].”
Ferraro said General Banker has been nominated to the nine-furlong Grade 3, $250,000 Withers on February 4 at the Big A, which offers 20-8-6-4-2 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-five finishers.
“We’re going to take a good look at that,” said Ferraro. “They’ve got the [state-bred] Gander on February 25 going a mile, too.”
General Banker boasts a 9-1-3-1 record with total earnings of $363,600.
Graded stakes-placed Bank Sting returns to work tab; Midnight Stroll targets G3 Royal Delta
Hidden Brook Farm, Joseph McMahon and Anne McMahon’s graded stakes-placed New York-bred Bank Sting returned to the work tab on Saturday at Belmont Park in her first move since finishing a game second in the Grade 3 Go for Wand on December 3 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The daughter of Central Banker breezed a half-mile in 50.56 seconds over the Belmont dirt training track in company with I Am the Law.
“Everything is great and she had a nice, easy breeze,” said Terranova. “The two of them just kind of cruised together.”
Bank Sting earned the first graded placing of her career in the one-mile Go for Wand with a prominent trip under Joel Rosario, stalking pacesetter Dr B through swift fractions over a sloppy and sealed track before overtaking second position at the three-quarters call and chasing Dr B home to be defeated 4 1/4 lengths.
“It was fantastic,” said Terranova. “I think both the winner and she ran the best race of their lives. It was the fastest race she’s run and we had adverse conditions with the track. I know she likes a dry track better, but she tolerates the wet track and has run really big on it. I thought she was ready for a big race that day and I think the other filly just really caught her best form that day. We were thrilled with the effort.”
The Go for Wand effort garnered a career-best 96 Beyer Speed Figure and capped a productive 4-year-old campaign for Bank Sting, who earned a stakes victory against open company in the Heavenly Prize last March at the Big A. She also notched stakes victories against state-breds in the La Verdad last January and the Dancin Renee in June at Belmont, and was runner-up in the Critical Eye Handicap and Iroquois.
Terranova said Bank Sting will now turn her attention to state-bred company again in the seven-furlong $100,000 Broadway on February 12 at Aqueduct.
“The distance is kind of right in the middle of what [she likes], six furlongs to a mile,” Terranova said.
Steven Schoenfeld’s Union Lake will look to make the grade in her next outing as she targets the Grade 3, $250,000 Barbara Fritchie on February 18 at Laurel Park. The 4-year-old daughter of Speightster scored a redemptive win last out in a second-level optional claimer on December 31 at the Big A. The victory came on the heels of a disappointing trip to Keeneland in October where she finished off-the-board in the Grade 2 Raven Run.
“It was a misfire down at Keeneland, so we gave her some time to let her regroup and then targeted that race at Aqueduct,” Terranova said. “We were hoping for a big effort and we got it. She came out of it well and she’s aiming towards the Barbara Fritchie.”
Union Lake has breezed back twice since her victory, most recently covering a half-mile in 50.98 Saturday at Belmont.
“It was beautiful and it’s been a couple easy halves that we’ve come back with,” Terranova said. “We’re just keeping her happy and we’ll be looking towards keeping her just as good as she is now.”
Terranova also welcomed back two top runners for owners Gatsas Stables, R.A. Hill Stable and Steven Schoenfeld to the work tab Sunday at Tampa Bay Downs as graded stakes-winner Midnight Stroll and stakes-winner Freedom Trail breezed a half-mile in company in 48.60 seconds.
Midnight Stroll, a dark bay daughter of Not This Time, has not raced since a game third-place finish in the aforementioned Raven Run. She earned her lone graded victory in July at Delaware Park in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks before securing another graded placing when third in the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks in August.
Terranova said Midnight Stroll was originally targeting the Grade 1 La Brea on December 26 at Santa Anita Park, but was rerouted to the Grade 3, $150,000 Royal Delta on February 18 at Gulfstream Park.
“I’m looking at the Royal Delta off of what we saw in the work today,” Terranova said. “We were pointing for the La Brea and had her ready to ship, but she had a little hiccup in her last breeze and so we didn’t think it would warrant going all the way to California. She loves training down here [at Tampa] and she looks super, so we’ll look at the Royal Delta.”
Freedom Trail, a sophomore son of Collected, has made 2-of-3 starts on turf. He tried dirt in his latest outing, finishing a close eighth in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club in November at Churchill Downs. There, he was defeated 3 1/2-lengths by the victorious Instant Coffee, who exited that effort to win Saturday’s Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds.
Terranova said it is possible Freedom Trail, who won the Awad in October over the Aqueduct turf, could point to the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks on March 25 at Turfway Park which offers 100-40-30-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-five finishers.
“He got a bit of a break and got kicked out for about a month after his last race,” Terranova said. “I’m not sure where we’ll start off with him. We tried him on the dirt and didn’t get disgraced at all, but he’s just not that level on the dirt. We could try synthetic in a race like the Jeff Ruby at Turfway.”
Gatsas Stables, R.A. Hill Stable and Hidden Brook Farm’s New York-bred You’re My Girl has recently returned to Terranova’s barn at Tampa after a two-month respite. The bay Overanalyze filly made her last outing in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, finishing fifth after a prominent trip under Hall of Famer John Velazquez. She earned a Grade 1 placing two starts back when a close second to Chocolate Gelato in the Frizette in October at Belmont at the Big A.
Terranova said he expects You’re My Girl to make it back to the work tab within the next month.
“I’ve got her down here at Tampa and she’s starting to get herself going,” said Terranova. “We gave her a little vacation after the Breeders’ Cup and now we’re back. We’ll kind of see once we get her back breezing what we want to target. She looks great, has filled out, and is stronger and bigger. She’s a happy girl.”
Aqueduct winter meet Week 5 stakes probables
Saturday, January 28
Probable: Drafted (David Duggan), Little Vic (Juan Carlos Avila), Milton the Monster (Tom Morley), Synthesis (David Jacobson), Three Two Zone (Ray Handal)
Sunday, January 29
$100K Rego Park (NYB)
Probable: Looms Boldly (Brad Cox), Please Be Nice (Bill Mott)
Possible: Andiamo a Firenze (Kelly Breen)