Inherit The Gold Faces Four in Excelsior

The New York State motto, Excelsior, means “ever upward” in Latin. Saturday afternoon at Aqueduct Racetrack, a select field of older horses will strive for Grade 3 honors in the $100,000, 1 1/8-mile Excelsior, the first graded race to be run over the main track at Aqueduct this year.


The 5-year-old New York-bred Inherit the Gold was undefeated in four starts over Aqueduct’s inner track this winter and looks to transfer that form to the main track as he steps into graded stakes company for the first time in his career. Most recently, the son of Gold Token drew clear to post a two-length victory over fellow statebreds in the Kings Point at Aqueduct on March 12.


Trainer Jim Hooper said after the Kings Point that he hoped to make the Excelsior with Inherit the Gold, but was unsure whether the gelding would be ready to run back just three weeks after earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 in the 1 1/8-mile race.


“My number one concern is always what’s best for the horse,” said Hooper, who trains Inherit the Gold for Glas-Tipp Stable and Susanne Hooper. “But he came around and he wants to race right now. He’s one of the most intelligent horses I’ve ever been around, and if you watch him carefully, he pretty much tells you what he wants to do.”


While Inherit the Gold excelled over the inner track this winter, easily winning an overnight stakes and two optional claimers in his three races prior to the Kings Point, Hooper doesn’t believe the surface switch will negatively affect the gelding.


“I’ve always said the main issue is [keeping him around] two turns,” said Hooper. “I think he’ll run on any track.”


Eddie Castro, who guided Inherit the Gold to all of his inner track triumphs this winter, retains the mount aboard the 9-5 morning-line favorite from post position 2.


Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out a pair of Excelsior entrants in Modern Cowboy and Understatement, both of whom exit short layoffs.


Paul Pompa’s Understatement raced most recently in a second-level optional claimer over the inner track on January 23, losing by a head to Marilyn’s Guy and earning a Beyer of 101 in the process. A 6-year-old son of Distorted Humor, Understatement turned in a pair of sharp efforts during last year’s inner track meet, including a 4 ½-length romp in the January 2010 Evening Attire Stakes, for which he was given a Beyer of 115.


“He runs well off a layoff and is training really well,” said Jonathan Thomas, Pletcher’s assistant. “His natural aptitude is to make the lead and kind of run them into the ground, but he is capable of laying off of a horse. Whatever needs to be done, he’s capable of doing. This year he’s run some very good races in defeat - last time he just got nipped by Marilyn’s Guy who was beaten a half-length in a stake at Laurel over the weekend.”


Modern Cowboy, a Tiznow colt campaigned by Green Hills Farm, Inc., capitalized on a front-end duel and took command in the stretch to win the one-mile Bald Eagle overnight stakes over the inner track by four lengths on January 29, then was briefly sidelined.


“He had a minor foot issue, but timing-wise it kind of knocked us off course,” Thomas said. “He’s had a real good, steady series of works and he’s training well. His work Sunday [5f breezing over the Belmont training track in 1:01.80] was textbook for him, he did it well, and it should set him up nicely.”


David Cohen will ride Understatement, the 5-2 morning-line third-choice, from the rail, while Ramon Dominguez has the call on Modern Cowboy, second choice on the morning line at 2-1 from post 5.


Stymie winner Goombada Guska will make his first start for new trainer Steve Asmussen in the Excelsior. Privately purchased by Turtle Bird Stable after his half-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile race for previous trainer Scott Volk and owner Navesink Breeders, the son of Yonaguska has already impressed his new connections.


“I thought he had a lot of potential,” Toby Sheets, assistant to Asmussen, said of the acquisition. “He’s had three breezes with us, he’s breezed very well and I’m happy with him.”


Cornelio Velasquez, aboard the colt for the first time, will break from post 3 at 6-1 on the morning line.


Completing the field is veteran More Than a Reason, who will make his 67th career start in the Excelsior. In the Stymie, Goombada Guska narrowly held off the 6-year-old son of More Than Ready who commenced a four-wide rally into the stretch and was beaten just a half-length at the wire. More Than a Reason most recently visited the winner’s circle on December 11, when he picked up his first graded stakes victory in the Grade 3, 1 3/16-mile Queens County.


Trained by Randi Persaud for Anthony Calabrese, More Than a Reason will have the services of Channing Hill from post 4.


The field for the Grade 3, $100,000 Excelsior Stakes:








Understatement (KY)

D Cohen


T A Pletcher



Inherit the Gold (NY)

E Castro


J Hooper



Goombada Guska (NJ)

C H Velasquez


S M Asmussen



More Than a Reason (KY)

C Hill


R Persaud



Modern Cowboy (KY)

R A Dominguez


T A Pletcher







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