Dec 30, 2021
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Hagler seeks breakthrough win in $150K Jerome

by NYRA Press Office

  • Hagler seeks breakthrough win in $150K Jerome
  • Royally-bred Courvoisier attempts to live up to prominent pedigree in $150K Jerome
  • Alpha Chi Rho pointed to Rego Park
  • Backtohisroots ready for Turfway stakes for Terranova
  • Aqueduct Racetrack Week 4 stakes probables

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez is hoping to go on a familiar path through Kentucky Derby prep season in New York with up-and-comer Hagler in Saturday’s $150,000 Jerome at Aqueduct Racetrack. 

Rodriguez captured the one-turn mile Jerome, which offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers, in 2013 with Vyjack, who subsequently provided the veteran trainer with his first Kentucky Derby starter following a Grade 3 Gotham victory and a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. 

E.V. Racing Stable’s Hagler arrives at his first stakes engagement from consecutive victories at maiden and allowance level. Following a five-month respite, the chestnut son of Tapiture graduated at second asking in October at Belmont Park by 4 ½ lengths traveling 6 ½ furlongs prior to a seven-furlong optional-claiming score at Aqueduct in wire-to-wire fashion seven weeks later. 

Hagler will be stretching out for the Jerome, but Rodriguez expressed more concern for the spacing between races.

“I don’t think the distance will be a problem for him. That’s probably his best, or seven eighths,” said Rodriguez. “Right now is the time to see what we got. Since Day One he’s shown a lot of promise and is proving us right. He’s done everything right, but time wise it’s a little bit rushed.”

Jorge Vargas, Jr., the pilot in both of Hagler’s two career wins, will retain the mount from post 8. 

“I think he can do pretty much what the jockey wants to do,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a very laid back horse. Sometimes in the morning he can be a little aggressive. When he gallops he’s very mellow. He looks good and eating well, just time wise, it’s a little quick.”

Hagler, out of the Latent Heat mare Ambitious Dancer, is a half-brother to New York-bred stakes winner Sky of Hook. 

Rodriguez said dual stakes-placed Magic Circle remains on track for the $100,000 Busanda on January 23 at Aqueduct. The nine-furlong event offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-four finishers. 

Owned by J.W. Singer, the daughter of Kantharos earned black type with close placings when second in the Tempted at Belmont and third in the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct, where she garnered two qualifying Kentucky Oaks points. 

Magic Circle has recorded two works since the Demoiselle over the Belmont training track, including an easy half-mile in 49.49 seconds on December 23. 

“She’s been steady and had some nice light works,” Rodriguez said. “She’s shown a lot of promise since Day One, so we’re taking our time and hopefully we can win one of the big races. Everyone’s dream is to go to Kentucky. We did that with Condo Commando and Vyjack. We didn’t get the results we wanted, but just to be there is special.”

Rodriguez nominated Aqueduct specialist Wudda U Think Now to the $100,000 Say Florida Sandy on January 8 at the Big A. Owned by Stuart Grant’s The Elkstone Group the soon-to-be 5-year-old son of Fast Anna sports a 6-3-2-0 ledger when competing at the Big A. 

“We nominated for the stake. I know it’s coming up a little quick,” Rodriguez said. “The winner of his last race is a very, very nice horse [Happy Medium]. Over here at Belmont, we ran against Following Sea and went up against Happy Medium last time. I don’t think we’ll run, I’d like to give him a little more time. It’s kind of tempting. He loves Aqueduct and his best races are there. But I’ll talk to the owner and see what his plan is.”

Rodriguez said Michael Dubb and Michael Caruso’s Doctor Jeff, a last-out winner of the Atlantic Beach over the Belmont turf, is enjoying some down time at Michael Schrader’s In Front Farm. The son of Street Boss could return to Rodriguez’s barn in early February. 

Doctor Jeff broke his maiden on debut in an off-the-turf event in July at Belmont and followed in August with a fifth-place finish after battling with Gunite in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special which was won by High Oak.

“I think he can run on both surfaces,” Rodriguez said. “The day we hooked up with Gunite in the race at Saratoga he went very fast and fell apart at the end.”


Royally-bred Courvoisier attempts to live up to prominent pedigree in $150K Jerome

Hailing from prestigious bloodlines on both sides of the pedigree can come with added pressure, but Courvoisier will look to live up to his connections’ hopes when making his stakes debut in Saturday’s $150,000 Jerome at Aqueduct. 

The son of multiple champion-producing stallion Tapit is out of 2014 Champion Juvenile Filly Take Charge Brandi, who won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies that year prior to graded stakes wins in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Princess at Delta Downs and the Grade 1 Starlet at Los Alamitos. 

Owned by Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings and James D. Spry, Courvoisier showed improvement in each of his starts leading up to his fourth-out graduation for trainer Kelly Breen. After a distant third to next-out stakes placed Affable Monarch on debut in September at Monmouth Park, Courvoisier took his show on the road to Delaware Park, finishing second twice, including a nose loss on October 27. He added blinkers for his last-out maiden win going nine furlongs at 14-1 odds on December 2 at Aqueduct. 

“It seemed like in his races he was going to be a winner each time and then hung,” said John Sikura of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms. “Kelly put blinkers on him to sharpen him up and make him more aggressive.”

The Jerome will be Courvoisier’s chance to prove how good he can be against quality company. 

“He’s a well bred horse,” said Sikura. “He’ll have to improve to be competitive with the group. His maiden win was tenacious and his 3-year-old season is now upon us. This is where they separate themselves.”

Sikura noted that Courvoisier has a half-sister by Justify who will sell at the Keeneland January Sale through the Hill ‘n’ Sale Sales Agency consignment. The filly, named Justly, is listed as Hip. 176. 


Alpha Chi Rho pointed to Rego Park

J R Sanchez Racing Stable's Alpha Chi Rho posted a career-best 88 Beyer in his last out optional-claiming win and will look to parlay that effort into a first stakes score in the 6 1/2 furlong $100,000 Rego Park for New York-bred sophomores on January 9 at the Big A.

The Alpha bay was claimed by trainer Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon for $25,000 out of a winning effort on November 28 at Laurel Park and followed with a convincing 3 1/2-length score on December 27 sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs at first asking for new connections.

Sanchez-Salomon, a 49-year-old native of Mexico, took a patient approach with the win-friendly gelding, who has won five of his last seven starts.

"When we claimed him he had a reputation for being bad at the gate, so I schooled him a lot and he gave us a hell of a race last time. He improved a lot. He's doing awesome right now," Sanchez-Salomon said. "I think he's more relaxed and comfortable now. He goes out with the pony every day in the morning and he's settled down a lot. I had him for a month and I took him to the gate two or three times a week."

Initially campaigned by Gregory Viands, Alpha Chi Rho finished a distant sixth in his stakes debut in the 2020 Funny Cide at Saratoga Race Course. He was transferred to conditioner Kieron Magee for a summer campaign, racing mainly in sprint events at Laurel Park.

Bred in the Empire State by Chester and Mary Broman, Alpha Chi Rho is out of the Unbridled mare Unbridled Star, making him a half-sibling to stakes winners Friend Or Foe and Star Grazing.

"I liked his past races. I won a four way shake to get him," Sanchez-Salomon said. "He can be a nice one. He improved a lot last time."

Sanchez-Salomon said a more settled Alpha Chi Rho should be able to stretch out in distance in the future.

"I honestly think he can run the mile. He came out of the race like it was nothing," Sanchez-Salomon said.

Sanchez-Salomon saddled J R Sanchez Racing Stables' Shake Em Loose for a surprise 59-1 score last out in the seven-furlong Heft for 2-year-olds on December 26 at Laurel.

By Shakin It Up and out of the West by West mare Cash No Credit, Shake Em Loose is a half-sibling to graded stakes winner Praying for Cash, who won the 2006 Grade 3 Long Branch Breeders' Cup at Monmouth Park ahead of a runner-up effort to Bluegrass Cat in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational.

Sanchez-Salomon claimed the dark bay for $16,000 out of a maiden score on November 19 at Laurel.

"I had been following the horse for a while before I claimed him. I was going to drop on him for $25,000 and I ended up taking him when he won for $16,000," Sanchez-Salomon said. "He had a little problem with his hind end and I figured out what it was and then we gelded him."

Shake Em Loose, sent to post as the longest shot on the board in the seven-horse Heft field, settled at the back of the pack under Yomar Ortiz before circling outside rivals down the lane to secure a three-quarter-length win and a career-best 70 Beyer.

Sanchez-Salomon said he entered Shake Em Loose in a pair of claiming routes that didn't go before taking a shot at the Heft.

"He was showing in the morning that he wants more ground than this. He has a lot of talent," Sanchez-Salomon said. "I'm going to give him some time before making a decision [on a next start]. Today was his first day back to training. I think the longer he runs, the better he's going to get."


Backtohisroots ready for Turfway stakes for Terranova

Gatsas Stables’ stakes winning gelding Backtohisroots will contest a field of 11 rivals in the six-furlong Holiday Cheer at Turfway Park on New Year’s Day. The soon-to-be 6-year-old son of Mark Valeski was last seen finishing a game fourth in the Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship on November 27, finishing just three-lengths behind Arrest Me Red as a 21-1 longshot. 

The dark bay gelding earned his lone stakes victory as a 2-year-old, taking an off-the-turf edition of the Atlantic Beach at Aqueduct by 5 ¾ lengths. With one sophomore start and a win in allowance company as a 4-year-old, Backtohisroots started his 2021 season with a gutsy second-place effort to Pulsate in the Lucky Coin at Saratoga Race Course after almost a year away from the races. 

Terranova gave the gelding time off after he stumbled and lost his rider at the break of the Grade 3 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational in October 2020. 

“He ran really well in the Lucky Coin and hasn’t really jumped up since, but hopefully this will be the right spot for him at Turfway,” said Terranova. “We’ll see if he takes to the track down there. He settled in great down there and everything is good.” 

Backtohisroots finished fourth in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational and fifth in Belmont’s Oyster Bay ahead of his last-out effort. Ridden by Jose Lezcano in those starts, Backtohisroots will now exit post 6 in the Holiday Cheer with jockey Joe Talamo in the irons for the first time. 

Along with a new jockey, Backtohisroots will also face a new surface in the Holiday Cheer, making his first career start over the all-weather track. 

“We hope he’ll like the track,” said Terranova. “He won on the dirt as a 2-year-old and he’s been breezing and galloping over [the synthetic] well. He’s the kind of horse that can take to it. We’re hopeful.” 


Aqueduct Racetrack Week 4 stakes probables

Saturday, January 8

$100K Say Florida Sandy (NYB)

Probable: Alpha Chi Rho (Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon), Chestertown (Steve Asmussen), My Boy Tate (Michelle Nevin), South Africa (Nevin)

Possible: Wudda U Think Now (Rudy Rodriguez)

Sunday, January 9

$100K Rego Park (NYB)

Probable: Bali’s Shade (Rodriguez), Barese (Mike Maker), Unique Unions (Rick Schosberg)

Possible: Agility (Jorge Abreu), Bustin Pietre (Bruce Levine), G Munning (John Kimmel)

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