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Air Support Headlines Hill Prince

Dual graded-stakes winner Air Support headlines a contentious nine-horse renewal of the Grade 3, $100,000 Hill Prince, to be run at a mile on the turf Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park.

Air Support, a 3-year-old son of Smart Strike who carries the colors of Stuart Janney III, already owns a Grade 3 score at Belmont, having taken October's Pilgrim Stakes over yielding turf as a juvenile. The colt had broken his maiden in his first start on the grass in Saratoga and subsequently ran fourth in the Grade 3 With Anticipation at the Spa.

Following the Pilgrim, Air Support went to the Grade 2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs on November 6, a one-mile race in which he finished ninth. After a winter off he returned to capture the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland on April 8 by a nose, then was a late-running third in the Grade 2 American Turf Stakes on May 6 at Churchill Downs.

"He's run two very good races this year," said trainer Shug McGaughey. "His race at Keeneland was great and we changed our tactics a little bit from the Breeders' Cup. I felt, everyone felt, like he laid up a little bit too close that day and didn't finish. So, we hauled him back a little bit at Keeneland, and he came running and beat a pretty good horse in Great Mills."

To date, all three of Air Support's career victories and the majority of his starts have come at 1 1/16 miles. While McGaughey admitted the one-mile distance of the Hill Prince may not be ideal, it does suit the potential schedule he has laid out for the colt.

"I ran him back pretty quick at Churchill," said McGaughey. "It was a month, but it was off a long layoff, and he ran hard to win at Keeneland. [In the American Turf] I thought he got a little bit farther back then I would have liked. He was not going to beat the winner, but he was way back and we left him too much to do. I'd like to run him in the Virginia Derby going a mile and a quarter, if he runs decent here. The mile might not be the best for him, but I prefer to run him at a mile going to a mile and a quarter rather than just sitting on him. He's training really well, we gave him a bit of a breather after he raced at Churchill, and everything has been good coming in to this race so far."

Alex Solis has the call aboard the 3-1 morning-line favorite from the rail.

Although Air Support is the most accomplished horse in the Hill Prince field, he will face competition from a number of talented newcomers, including the top three finishers from the James W. Murphy Stakes on the Preakness Day undercard at Pimlico on May 21.

Chinglish, 2 ¾-length winner of the James W. Murphy, began his career on the main track at Aqueduct, finishing sixth in his debut and sole start as a 2-year-old. Moved to the turf at the start of his sophomore season, he finished fifth and second in a pair of maiden races at Gulfstream Park before graduating on March 26. He then was sixth in a first-level allowance race at Gulfstream on April 23 after being bumped in the early going.

A son of War Front trained by Mark Hennig for Jerry and Ronald Frankel, Chinglish was tabbed as the 4-1 morning-line second choice and will leave from post 8 with John Velazquez.

Humble and Hungry, runner-up in the Pimlico race, will be ridden by Eddie Castro from post 9 at 6-1 on the morning line, while third-place finisher Master Dunker will have the services of Gabriel Saez from post position 7.

Fastest Magician and Longhunter, the one-two finishers from the A Gift overnight stakes at Belmont on May 22, will meet again in the Hill Prince.

Dismissed at 22-1 when making his first start on turf in the A Gift, Fastest Magician split horses in the stretch and went on to post a one-length upset of favored Longhunter.

"He's a nice horse and he was very, very powerful the last time he ran," said Robin Smullen, assistant to Barclay Tagg, who trains the gelding for Charles E. Fipke. "We told [jockey Jose Lezcano] to take him back out of the gate because he makes one little run and he's very fast doing it, and he was."

A lightly raced son of Johannesburg who broke his maiden over the artificial surface at Lingfield in Great Britain for former trainer Jeremy Noseda, Fastest Magician made his first start for Tagg in a 6 ½ furlong dirt allowance at Belmont on May 1, finishing last.

"He had been breezing well on the dirt, which is why we tried him on the dirt," said Smullen. "He would breeze in 59.00 without asking him to work, and usually if you have a horse who can do that, they run all right on the dirt, but he obviously is not a dirt horse."

Fastest Magician turned in his final work for the Hill Prince on Tuesday, breezing a bullet half-mile in 48.05 over the Belmont Park turf course.

Longhunter, trainer by Christophe Clement for Silverton Hill, LLC, also turned in a turf work Tuesday in preparation for the race, covering five-eighths in company with stablemate Nordic Truce in 1:01.04.

"He worked well and came out of his work in good order," Clement said. "I've liked every single one of his races so far, he's been very consistent. The more pace, the better for him."

Bred in the United Kingdom, Longhunter was trained by Kevin Prendergast in Ireland for the first three starts of his career, which include a listed stakes victory at Curragh in September. The son of Halling has made three starts for Clement, also producing a runner-up finish in a turf optional claimer at Gulfstream on February 24 and a win in the one-mile Alligator Alley Stakes on April 2.

Cornelio Velazquez has been named to ride Longhunter, 5-1 on the morning line, and the pair will leave from post 2.

Casino Host, co-third choice on the morning line at 5-1, will step into stakes company for the first time in the Hill Prince, having lost a neck decision in a 1 1/8-mile turf allowance at Churchill Downs on May 6.

Street Game, easy turf allowance winner at Belmont on May 21 and East of Danzig, who has not raced since a fourth-place effort in Gulfstream's Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes on March 12, complete the field.


The field for the Grade 3, $100,000 Hill Prince Stakes:

PP

Horse

Jockey

Wgt

Trainer

Odds

1

Air Support (KY)

A O Solis

123

C R McGaughey III

3-1

2

Longhunter (GB)

C H Velasquez

118

C Clement

5-1

3

East of Danzig (NY)

J Valdivia, Jr.

116

M R Matz

20-1

4

Fastest Magician (KY)

K J Desormeaux

118

B Tagg

6-1

5

Casino Host (KY)

D Cohen

116

C C Brown

5-1

6

Street Game (NY)

R Curatolo

116

P M Serpe

12-1

7

Master Dunker (FL)

G Saez

120

D Fawkes

12-1

8

Chinglish (KY)

J R Velazquez

120

M A Hennig

4-1

9

Humble and Hungry (KY)

E Castro

116

I Correas, IV

6-1

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

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