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Eldaafer Seeks Brooklyn Repeat

Long distance specialist Eldaafer will try to win the Grade 2, $200,000 Brooklyn Handicap for the second straight year.


The Brooklyn, a 1 ½-mile event for 3-years-old and up, is the first leg of the Brooklyn/Belmont Double, which requires bettors to select the winners of the 122nd edition of the Brooklyn and Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes.


Eldaafer was winless in eight starts after winning last year’s Brooklyn by a nose at 17-1, but regained winning form in his latest effort, drawing off to take a starter allowance at Belmont by 4 ¼ lengths.


“The race [on May 20] at Belmont hopefully didn’t take too much out of him,” said Diane Alvarado, who trains the 5-year-old gelded son of the 1992 Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy for owner Alghuwayriyah Stable. “He won pretty easily. He got some class relief and got his confidence back.”


Prior to that victory, Eldaafer had made three starts in turf events at Gulfstream Park and had finished last of seven in the Grade 3 Skip Away, also at Gulfstream.


“He’s a horse who likes change – he gets bored with routine,” said Alvarado. “[The turf starts] didn’t help him or hurt him, either way. Down there he was knocking heads against some monsters.”


Jose Valdivia retains the mount aboard Eldaafer, who will carry 116 pounds and break from post position 4 as the 9-2 third choice on the morning line.


Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out Tiger’s Rock, a two-time stakes winner at 1 5/8 miles, and American Dance, who has never raced beyond nine furlongs.


Tiger’s Rock won the Gallant Fox and Coyote Lakes during the inner track meet at Aqueduct, then was 12th in both the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap over a synthetic surface and the Grade 2 Elkhorn on the turf at Keeneland.


“He’s proven the marathon distance is his best game,” said Pletcher of 121-pound high weight who drew post position 7. “Keeneland’s turf course is a bit difficult for some horses, so we drew a line through that race and regrouped.”


David Cohen, who guided Tiger’s Rock to victory in the Gallant Fox and Coyote Lakes, will be reunited with the 7-2 second choice.


Pletcher figures American Dance, who was second in an optional claimer over the main track at Aqueduct in his last start, will be prominent early.

“He’s kind of a one-paced horse, but he’s by A.P. Indy and a half-brother to Saint Liam, so we think he might be able to carry his speed,” said Pletcher.


American Dance, the 3-1 morning line favorite, will break from post position 5 under John Velazquez and 114 pounds.


Gangbuster looks to make it two-for-two since joining the barn of Tim Ice. The son of Langfuhr captured last year’s Fort Harrod at Keeneland while racing for trainer Keith Desormeaux.


“I used to work for Keith Desormeaux, and he thought there’d be more long distance races for him here,” said Ice of the decision to send the 5-year-old to New York.


Gangbuster, tabbed at 5-1 on the morning line, prepped for the Brooklyn with a 2 ¾-length victory in an optional claimer over the Belmont inner turf course on May 20.


Last year’s Greenwood Cup winner Alcomo will make his first start since a winter campaign in Dubai, while Gabriel’s Hill and Stones River invade from Calder. Tranquil Manner, who tackles stakes competition for the first time, completes the field.

The field for the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap:








Tranquil Manner (KY)

F Jara


K P McLaughlin



Gabriel's Hill (KY)

E Coa


S Benzel



Gangbuster (KY)

K J Desormeaux


T A Ice



Eldaafer (KY)

J Valdivia, Jr.


D Alvarado



American Dance (VA)

J R Velazquez


T A Pletcher



Stones River (KY)

J Castellano


M D Wolfson



Tiger's Rock (KY)

D Cohen


T A Pletcher



Alcomo (BRZ)

C H Velasquez


E Caramori







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