Richard Sherman’s 5-year-old gelding Nikki’s Sandcastle
, winner of
the $125,000 Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes at Gulfstream Dec. 1, will
get solid support to win a second stakes at the meet in Saturday’s
$75,000 El Prado Stakes. Jockey Corey Lanerie will be back aboard in the
one mile turf test for trainer Dave Kassen.
“I would think he’ll be one of the favorites in there,” said Kassen.
“He’ll run on any surface – turf, dirt or synthetic – but he’s probably
a little better on turf. He gives you his best every time he runs.” The
Kentucky homebred chestnut by Castledale broke a frustrating string of
three seconds before that victory and goes into Saturday’s race with a
29-7-9-1 career record.
Nikki’s Sandcastle was beaten a head on turf in the DeBartolo
Memorial at Remington Park in August, a neck over the Hawthorne course
in the Robert F. Carey Memorial in early October and runner-up again in
the Fayette Handicap (G2) on Polytrack at Keeneland in late October.
Robert Harvey’s 5-year-old gelding Hollinger will be among the
favorites in the full field of 14 with jockey Jose Lezcano to ride for
veteran horseman Roger Attfield, inducted into the Saratoga Hall of Fame
last summer. A roan/gray Canadian homebred by Black Minnaoushe,
Hollinger finished a game second last out when beaten a half-length in
the Tropical Turf Handicap (G3) at Calder on Nov. 30.
A career winner of $688,000, Hollinger ran very well in two starts
over the Gulfstream course last winter when second in both the Ft.
Lauderdale Stakes (G3) in January and the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap
(G1) in February, when beaten a half-length by Get Stormy.
“He’s been unlucky with poor racing luck a couple of times,” said
Attfield. “He’s won one race in two years, but run very well a number of
times.” Hollinger worked a sharp half-mile in 47 1/5 on turf Tuesday
morning at Payson Park. Hollinger also was a bit unlucky with the draw
in post position 13.
Peter Kelly’s 3-year-old gelding Hobbs steps up to face veteran turf
stakes performers after scoring a neck victory in the Montserrat Stakes
at Aqueduct last out on Nov. 4 over a strong field his own age in his
second start for new connections after being claimed for $50,000 at
Saratoga in late August.
“It looked like he was a little aggressive in some of his races, so I
put blinkers on him and he’s been more relaxed. He’s got a great
disposition, nice and laid back around the barn. We actually missed a
little training with him before his last race. We were stabled at
Monmouth Park when (Hurricane) Sandy hit and could do no more than walk
him in the shedrow for several days.”
Jockey Eddie Castro will be down from New York to be back aboard
Hobbs for trainer Kathy Mongeon. The Florida-bred son of Put It Back
changed barns for the second time in only eight career starts having
passed the claim box previously at Belmont Park in mid-June for a
Since a sixth-place debut sprinting on dirt in September of 2011, Hobbs
has won three times and finished second three times in as many starts
on turf with a second on Polytrack at Keeneland in his only other start
The intriguing entry in the field is Jules Boutelle’s 5-year-old
gelding Teaks North, supplemented to the race to make his first start
since January and first for trainer Rick Dutrow. Jockey John Velazquez
gets the call on the son of Northern Afleet, upset winner of the 2011
Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) before scoring in the United Nations
Invitational (G1) that summer at Monmouth Park.
Teaks North went on to finish eighth behind St Nicholas Abbey in the
Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) that fall at Churchill Downs. In two
disappointing outings here last winter he finished eighth in the Ft.
Lauderdale Stakes (G3), although beaten only three lengths for it all,
and fifth last out in the Sunshine Millions Turf on Jan. 28.
Completing the field for the El Prado are Robert Liebner’s Bad Debt,
Phantom House Farm’s Get Serious, Lawrence A. Durocher, Jr.’s Kharafa,
Wertheimer et Frere’s Salto, Patricia Generazio’s Tune Me In, Godolphin
Racing’s Xin Xu Lin, Luis Duco’s Empire Builder, Jack Mandato’s Zimmer,
Belle Meadows Farm and Lael Stable’s Beau Choix and Mrs. S.K. Johnston,
Pegasus Holding Group Stable’s Tell Tale Friend is ‘also-eligible’
while Sullivan Lane Stable and Dennis Narlinger’s Associate was entered
to run ‘main track only’ by trainer Rick Dutrow.