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Breeders' Cup 2017

Bribon Seeks Westchester Repeat

His connections may be different, but Bribon will attempt the same goal Friday as he did at this time last year: win the Grade 3, $100,000 Westchester on opening day at Belmont Park.


In 2009, the French-bred gelding made three winter starts at Gulfstream Park, and then used a victory in the one-mile Westchester as a stepping stone to the first Grade 1 triumph of his career, in Belmont’s Metropolitan Handicap last May. From there, he took a turf allowance in Saratoga, ran fifth in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, also on grass, and yielded late to Champion Sprinter Kodiak Kowboy in the Grade 1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile at Aqueduct Racetrack in November, beaten less than a length in his final start of the year.


In December, Bribon was sold privately to Derrick Smith and transferred to the barn of Todd Pletcher. Though he again wintered in Florida in 2010, the 7-year-old gelding did not race, instead training at Palm Meadows up to a start in the $100,000 Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup, a 1 1/8-mile turf race at the Garrison Savannah in Barbados on March 6.


Bribon, a mile specialist, finished second by a neck to Sterwins.


“Other than the extra eighth of a mile, I believe he fit nicely into the Barbados Gold Cup and just got nipped at the wire,” said Jonathan Thomas, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher.


Following that race, Bribon turned in a bullet work at Palm Meadows on April 3 before shipping back to New York and firing two more at Belmont, most recently covering five furlongs over the training track in 1:00.81 on April 24, the fastest of 27 at the distance.


“He’s a very nice, very talented animal,” said Thomas. “He seems to do his work rather easily. The guys in Florida sent him up in excellent shape and we’re just trying to keep him as good as they sent him. He won this race last year and obviously loves Belmont.”


Jockey Javier Castellano will ride 9-5 morning-line favorite Bribon for the first time Friday, breaking from post position 7.


An able field of eight has assembled to face Bribon, including Barry Schwartz’s unbeaten 4-year-old Ironman Jon, who emerged as a standout over Aqueduct’s inner track this winter, winning both a maiden race and a first level allowance by a combined margin of 18 ¼ lengths.


Though he wired the field in both previous starts, one at six furlongs and one at a mile and 70 yards, trainer Mike Hushion does not believe the New York-bred son of Mineshaft is one-dimensional.


“I’m not concerned that he needs the lead,” Hushion said. “He’s a very talented horse.”

New York’s leading rider Ramon Dominguez has the return call aboard Ironman Jon, who makes his first foray into stakes company breaking from post 3.


Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has entered two Darley Stable trainees in Elusive Warning and Past the Point.


Elusive Warning exits a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Carter behind quality sprinters Warrior’s Reward, Musket Man, and Munnings. Past the Point, who was transferred to McLaughlin late last year, was most recently ninth in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 13.


“They’re both coming out of very tough races,” said McLaughlin. “A mile would be fine for Elusive Warning, and we think a mile is the perfect distance for Past the Point, who ran great in his first start for us, then hooked Quality Road in the Donn and last time didn’t perform very well in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, which was just a difficult race.”


Elusive Warning and Past the Point are entered as an entry with jockey Eibar Coa named to ride both horses, one of which is likely to scratch, according to McLaughlin.


Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens and son Jimmy Jerkens will each send a starter postward Friday, Le Grand Cru and Convocation, respectively.


Judson Streicher’s Le Grand Cru won an off-the-turf edition of the Grade 3 Kelso over the main track at Belmont in October, followed smartly by a win in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler later the same month. The son of Dynaformer is winless in four starts since and exits a 10th place finish in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.


Convocation, owned by Centennial Farms, exits a five-length allowance victory on March 18 at Gulfstream Park, his first start since a fifth-place finish behind Kensei in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga Race Course in August. Convocation was an impressive maiden winner on the 2009 Belmont Stakes Day undercard and in his next start, on July 4, ran second to Kensei in the Grade 2 Dwyer at Belmont. He is 1-2-0 from three starts over the main track at Belmont.


“He breezed well on Friday morning,” said Jerkens. “It’s a tough race, but he’s ready to run.”


Both Giant Moon and Honest Man come into the Westchester following extensive layoffs. Albert Fried Jr.’s Giant Moon finished seventh in the Kingston, a New York-bred turf stakes on May 10, 2009; while Fox Hill Farms’ Honest Man most recently finished sixth in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 4, 2009, though he was placed fifth through the disqualification of the winner. 

More Than a Reason makes a quick turnaround following a second-place finish in allowance company at Aqueduct on April 17 to complete the field.

The field for the 81st running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Westchester:








Giant Moon (NY)

J F Chavez


R E Schosberg



More Than a Reason (KY)

M J Luzzi


R Persaud



Ironman Jon (NY)

R A Dominguez


M E Hushion



Elusive Warning (KY)

E Coa


K P McLaughlin



Past the Point (KY)

E Coa


K P McLaughlin



Honest Man (KY)

D Cohen


A W Dutrow



Bribon (FR)

J Castellano


T A Pletcher



Le Grand Cru (KY)

C H Velasquez


H A Jerkens



Convocation (KY)

E S Prado


J A Jerkens


A - Coupled Entries - Elusive Warning, Past the Point



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