Brooklyn Strong, a New York-bred son of Wicked Strong, returns from a six-month layoff in Friday’s nine-furlong $100,000 Alex M. Robb, a nine-furlong test at Aqueduct for New York-breds 3-years-old and up.
“The long layoff is a big question, but he's doing really well,” trainer Daniel Velazquez said. “We think he's going to fire, but we just don't know for sure if he'll need a race. We know he can get the distance, it's just a physical thing now.”
Owned by Mark Schwartz, Brooklyn Strong won the one-turn mile Sleepy Hollow in October 2020 at Belmont to secure Velazquez his second career stakes win – just one race after Laobanonprayer provided the conditioner his first stakes score in the Maid of the Mist.
Bred in the Empire State by Cheryl Prudhomme and Dr. Michael Gallivan, Brooklyn Strong completed a terrific juvenile campaign in December 2020 with a neck score in the nine-furlong Remsen (G2) at the Big A.
Brooklyn Strong left the inside post in the nine-furlong Wood Memorial (G2) in April at Aqueduct, passing tiring horses late to finish fifth ahead of a distant 15th in the Kentucky Derby on May 1 at Churchill Downs.
He was last seen finishing fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Pegasus on June 13 at Monmouth Park.
“We scoped him after the Pegasus and he bled a little bit. We noticed he dropped a lot of weight and he just wasn't the same horse after the Derby,” Velazquez said. “So we decided he needed a mental pause and we could bring him back fresh. He gained a lot of weight coming in off the farm in New Jersey, and he's doing everything he's supposed to do moving forward. He's matured a lot, and I think the pause did him well.”
Brooklyn Strong has trained steadily at Parx dating back to early November, including a six-furlong breeze from the gate in 1:17.03 on Dec. 21.
“We popped him out of the gate and the surface was real deep that day, so the time wasn't the fastest but he did it easily,” Velazquez said.
Velazquez said he is looking forward to seeing his star pupil back in action.
“He's a real important horse for me. He's the horse that put me on the map and took me to the Derby, so he has a lot of sentimental value for me,” Velazquez said. “Moving forward, he's doing really well and doing everything I want him to be doing. He looks great. I just want to see him compete and show that he's back.”
Velazquez said Laobanonaprayer – who is also owned by the conditioner - returned to his care at Parx three weeks ago to prepare for a 2022 campaign.
Bred in New York by Christina Deronda, the 3-year-old daughter of Laoban followed her Maid of the Mist score with an eight-length romp in the 2020 NYSSS Fifth Avenue. Boasting a record of 9: 3-2-1 with purse earnings of $301,150, Laobanonaprayer completed her sophomore season with an allowance win against older company on July 24 at Delaware Park.
“She's just back in training. We gave her a little time off after her win at Delaware. She's about two months out,” Velazquez said.
Velazquez will saddle Collin’s Grey Lady, a promising 2-year-old daughter of Frosted, in Wednesday’s seven-furlong $100,000 Parx Futurity.
Owned by Charles Fiumano, the Kentucky-bred debuted sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs against the boys with a troubled sixth on November 24 at Parx. She followed up two weeks later at the same track to best a field of six juvenile fillies by four-lengths in a one-mile maiden special weight.
“I think she has a good future,” Velazquez said. “We debuted her against the boys – not by design, we just missed the filly race. She got a lot of experience that race. I still think she could have won. She had a terrible trip stuck on the inside – checked, stopped. It was just bad racing luck that day. We ran her back two weeks later going a mile and she won with ease.
“She still has a lot of maturing to do,” Velazquez added. “She has to learn her lead changes, but she's doing really well.”
Listed at 6-1 on the morning line, Collin’s Grey Lady will exit post 4 under Abner Adorno.
New York-bred Battle Station is entered in the six-furlong $100,000 Blitzen Tuesday at Parx.
Owned by Robert Bone and Edward Brown, the 6-year-old graded stakes placed son of Warrior’s Reward boasts a record of 41: 8-8-5 with purse earnings of $625,075.
A turf sprint specialist the past two seasons, Battle Station enters from an optional-claiming score over the Laurel Park dirt on Nov. 14.
“I need a barn full like him. He's awesome,” Velazquez said.
Listed at 8-1 on the morning line, Battle Station will emerge from post 13 under Angel Cruz.