Breeders’ Cup 2017 runners dominate Aqueduct’s last big day

December 03, 2017 09:10am
Sharp Azteca wins 2017 Cigar Mile
Photo: Viola Jasko/NYRA

The final four graded stakes races of the year on the NYRA circuit were dominated by horses that had made their most recent start in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup. It was slightly less than a month since the World Championships, and that turned out to be the most significant angle for picking winners Saturday at Aqueduct, which moved its Cigar Mile card back a week when compared to recent years. 

Most noteworthy was the impressive victory of
Sharp Azteca in the Grade 1 Cigar, as he was last seen finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Del Mar.

Trainer Jorge Navarro explained, “He came out [of the Breeders’ Cup] tired. We paid attention to every little thing. We wanted to do the right thing. And I know we were sitting on that Grade 1, and you know what, I wasn't expecting this big of a performance.”

It was indeed a very big performance that earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 115, one of the biggest numbers of the year in New York.

In the
Remsen (G2), there were 2018 Kentucky Derby qualifying points on the line and it was Catholic Boy’s successful switch from the grass, after his fourth place run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf that turned him into a viable Derby contender.

His young trainer, Jonathan Thomas, who was formerly an assistant for Todd Pletcher, talked about the transition.

"We were really happy with how he exited the Breeders' Cup and, to us, he galloped out very well in that race and indicated that he wanted more ground," Thomas said. "The day after that race, he was very lively and looked like he exited well, so knowing that he would get the trip and that there was a direct flight here, we brought him here and were able to get two nice works into him on the dirt [at Belmont Park training track] and he did that well. We came over here quietly confident that he would show us a little something, but we never expected that.”

Catholic Boy earned the 10 Kentucky Derby points with a very strong closing move and an eventual winning margin of 4 ¾ lengths. That effort got a 91 BSF, a solid number at this point in his career.

“He came into this being a lightly raced colt,” added Thomas. “His fourth start, so we felt we were dealing with a fresh animal. I hate to say this but the Breeders' Cup kind of served as a great prep for this.

Demoiselle (G2), which is an official prep race for the 2018 Kentucky Oaks, was won by Wonder Gadot. She was coming off a troubled sixth place performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Jamie Begg, assistant trainer to Mark Casse, described their post-Breeders’ Cup plan.

"Mark was smart," Begg said. "He sent her straight back to the farm from California [after the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies] and they were pondering what to do with her. So, they sent her back to the farm, and I think that lay back kind of helped her a little bit. It was easier to climatize her, bring her to the East coast before, instead of just shipping her straight into Aqueduct."

Wonder Gadot is yet another Medaglia d’Oro-sired runner. She sat just off the pace and was able to draw off to a convincing 3 ¾-length victory in the nine-furlong contest.

In total six horses entered at Aqueduct yesterday were coming from the Del Mar Breeders’ Cup, and they all ran well. There were the three winners, a second-place effort in the Go for Wand (G3) by Highway Star, and also the place and show spots in the Cigar Mile went to Mind Your Biscuits and Practical Joke coming out of the Breeders' Cup Sprint and Dirt Mile, respectively.


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Meet Matt Shifman

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs, Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.

Since 2012, Matt has been a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.

Recently, Matt helped launch Derby Day Racing, a new 2-year-old racing partnership, that just purchased a promising Lookin At Lucky filly named Sooner Schooner.

You may also know Matt by his Twitter, Facebook, and HRN screen nameAndyScoggin.

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