Tampa Bay Derby
runner-up Schoolyard Dreams comes into Saturday’s Grade 1,
$750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racetrack carrying the, well, schoolyard
dreams of owner Eric Fein.
“I grew up in
Douglaston, about five minutes from Belmont
explained Fein, who owns the Derek Ryan-trained son of Stephen Got Even with
Anthony Mitola. “We all loved the racetrack, and after school, hundreds of us
kids would hang out in the schoolyard of P.S. 187. It was a special place. I
always said I’d name a horse after our youth, and this is a perfect name for
breaking his maiden in November in his second start, Schoolyard Dreams began
his sophomore campaign by winning an allowance race at Tampa,
and then finished second to Rule in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis before being nosed
out by Odysseus in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby.
Saturday, he will
gain the services of New
York’s leading rider, Ramon
Dominguez, who also will ride Musket Man in the Grade 1 Carter for Fein
Nicky Boy, a
maiden filly, departed Sunland
in New Mexico
Tuesday morning for the 2,800-mile journey by horse van to New York
for her engagement in the Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial.
“We’re planning to
be there,” said trainer Arnulfo Ascencio, who trains the daughter of Anziyan Royalty
for Solange Chadda. “The owner is really excited about running her in the race.”
Nicky Boy has
started twice at Sunland
losing a maiden race on February 5 by 39¾ lengths while trained by Jeff Mullins,
and then finishing last in the Borderland Derby on February 27, beaten 81
lengths and walking off the track.
“It is very
unusual,” said Ascencio of the decision to run her in the Wood.
Grade 3 Gotham winner Awesome
Act will either breeze three furlongs Wednesday morning for the Grade 1,
$750,000 Wood Memorial or gallop up to Saturday's race.
“We’ll wait and see
how the track is in the morning,” said Wayne Tanner, assistant to trainer
Jeremy Noseda. “If he doesn’t breeze, he’ll just gallop into the race. He’s fit
and doing well. He’s feeling the joyous spring.”
Since his Gotham
victory, which marked his first start on dirt, the English import has breezed
twice over Belmont
training track, covering a half-mile in 50.23 on March 20 and going six
furlongs in 1:13.05 on March 25 with Noseda coming in from England
to look on.
Noseda will arrive
in New York
on Friday from Kentucky,
Grade 2 Fountain of
Youth winner Eskendereya, the likely favorite for Saturday’s Grade 1,
$750,000 Wood Memorial, and stablemate Munnings, aiming for the
Grade 1 Carter, are scheduled to arrive at trainer Todd Pletcher’s Belmont Park
comes into the Wood off an 8½-length victory in the 1 1/8th mile
Fountain of Youth, had his final serious move for the race last Saturday at
Palm Meadows, covering five furlongs in 1:00.60, handily.
“He went very well,”
said Pletcher of the work.
by Zayat Stables, is named for an Egyptian dance. According to Keti Sharif’s Bellydance
Glossary of Middle Eastern Dance Terminologies, an eskendereya is a “flirty
Alexandrian dance with a milaya, or heavy veil, formerly used as a fashion
accessory in the 40s.”
seven-length maiden winner at Laurel on March 10, is taking a big step up in
Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial but owner James McIngvale is hoping
the son of Giant’s Causeway is up to the task.
“We’re all excited
about the race,” said McIngvale by phone from Houston.
“It’s an opportunity to see where he fits. The Wood Memorial is a race I’ve
admired since I first watched Secretariat run in back in 1973. He didn’t do too
well, but he made up for it in the next race. It’s a race with a wonderful
history and we’re delighted to be a part of it.”
other Wood Memorial starter was the Bob Baffert-trained Consecrate, who
finished ninth behind Tapit in 2004.
$280,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale
in March 2009, Carnivore was named after McIngvale’s many friends who are
serving in the armed forces around the globe.
“My friends in the military
are all carnivores,” he explained.
For Repole Stable's
6-year-old Digger, Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 Carter will serve as
something of an assessment, helping his connections to map out plans for the
rest of the year.
Since arriving in
trainer Bruce Brown's barn late in 2009, Digger has demonstrated his abilities,
stringing together two wins, one second, and one third-place finish from four
starts, three of them in stakes company. After running third in a starter
handicap at Aqueduct on October 28, the gelding won his second start for Brown
in the Gravesend Handicap at the Big A on December 26.
solid record, Brown admits he's not an easy horse to handle.
to do anything and he doesn't like to be messed with much," Brown
said. "We've got a good routine going as far as his training is
concerned and he has gotten better, but he's not one where you want to change
the way you do things too much."
Maryland-bred son of Yonaguska, has had some time off since a second-place
finish in the Grade 2 General George Handicap at Laurel Park on February 15,
and Brown believes the break will put the gelding in the right place to move
"It looks like
a very, very high quality field in the Carter. For us, we gave him kind
of a breather after the race at Laurel, so now we'll decide off this race what
we're planning for the rest of the year, whether he's really going to step up
his game and be a top sprinter and we stay in New York, or if we're going to
have travel around and pick our spots in some of the smaller stakes.
We'll just see how he stacks up and where he should be."
Digger breezed five
furlongs over the training track at Belmont
in 1:02.42 on Sunday morning, his final tune-up for the Carter, Brown said.
Trainer Bruce Levine said he has a hard time figuring out how his 3-year-old
colt El Rocco is doing but is happy the bay son of Vicar has shown up
ready to run so far in every race he has been in. El Rocco, a Pennsylvania bred owned by Two Tone Farms, is
set to go in the Grade 3, $200,000 Bay
Shore at seven furlongs on Saturday, which will be
possibly the toughest challenge of his young career.
"He's not a good work horse," Levine said. He leaves you hanging a
little bit, so you don't know where you're at with him."
El Rocco has won two of seven starts and finished third last September in
the Grade 3 Sapling as a 2-year-old at Monmouth. Levine said the colt
"might have been more precocious, a little more advanced than
others," but he also opened his 3-year-old season well.
Despite clipping heels with another horse in his comeback race January 19 at
El Rocco easily cleared off to win the 6 1/2-furlong allowance race in the mud
by 2 1/4 lengths.
"It's a big step up from where he's coming from," Levine said of
going from an entry-level allowance to the Bay Shore, "But he's doing all
Repole Stable’s 13-year-old Cool N Collective will be officially
retired on Wood Memorial Day, parading in front of the stands before the 6th
race as part of a special on-track ceremony. In conjunction with his
retirement, in order to raise awareness for and benefit horse rescue and
retirement organizations, Mike Repole and The New York Racing Association, Inc.
(NYRA) are donating a total of $30,000 to Old Friends, the Thoroughbred
Retirement Foundation, and the Exceller Fund. Additionally, owner Harold Lerner
has donated $1,000 to the Exceller Fund. All three organizations will be at
Aqueduct Saturday, collecting donations to support their thoroughbred rescue
and retirement operations.