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Breeders' Cup 2017

McGaughey Finds Spot For Air Support

mcgaughey main
Photo: NYRA

With Point of Entry and Boisterous respectively targeting the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational and Grade 1 Arlington Million on August 18, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey was hoping to find a different spot for three-time graded stakes winner Air Support, who will head postward as the 2-1 morning-line favorite in Monday’s ninth race, a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer on the turf.


Air Support enters Monday’s race off a pair of seconds behind front-running Turbo Compressor in the Colonial Turf Cup on June 16 at Colonial Downs and the Grade 1 United Nations on July 7 at Monmouth Park.


“I was looking for a place to run him, and I thought [Monday’s race] was a decent spot,” said McGaughey. “His last two races were very good. I think he’ll have more pace to run at [on Monday]. The one horse [Freud’s Honor] that you knew was going to [challenge Turbo Compressor for the early lead in the United Nations], the rider [Angel Serpa] took back. There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s disappointing when you have a horse that runs that good and you finish second. It’s the way it goes.”


Air Support, owned by Stuart S. Janney, III, seeks his first win since taking the 2011 Grade 2 Virginia Derby. Alex Solis has the assignment.


McGaughey’s next graded stakes foray will come in Saturday’s Grade 2, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap with Janney’s Data Link, who sizzled four furlongs in 46.36, breezing, on the Oklahoma training track on Sunday.


Data Link earned his first stakes win in April when he captured Keeneland’s Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile, then was fifth 22 days later in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. He took advantage of a fast pace in his most recent start, the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes on June 10, to prevail by one length over fellow Fourstardave contender Get Stormy.


“[The Fourstardave is] going to be a solid race, but he’s a solid horse,” said McGaughey. “It will be the kind of race where whoever gets the best trip will probably win. They’ll be cooking in this race, too, with Wise Dan, Get Stormy, and some others.”


McGaughey said Janney’s Hymn Book exited his fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Whitney in good shape and could make his next start in the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational on September 29 at Belmont Park.


“The winner [Fort Larned] is a pretty good horse,” said McGaughey. “He was four [lengths] in front at the eighth pole. I have to say I was a little disappointed in Hymn Book’s performance, but still he was fourth, defeated only three lengths. The horse who won it is obviously an up-and-coming handicap horse, and the horses who finished second and third [Ron the Greek and Flat Out] were proven horses. We were wide, but that was my strategy.”


Hymn Book, who won the Grade 1 Donn Handicap in February, overcame a stumble at the break to finish second to Mucho Macho Man in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap on July 7 at Belmont Park.


“I don’t know if [Hymn Book] reacted coming off his race in the Suburban, coming back in a month,” said McGaughey. “Maybe he needs a little more time between races. We’ll just have to see. Sitting here right now, everything being equal, I’ll point him toward the [Jockey Club] Gold Cup and take one big chance with him. He likes Belmont. That will give him plenty of time between races, and we’ll just see from there.


“I do think he’s good enough [to win Grade 1 races],” continued McGaughey. “I’m not saying he’s good enough to win every time we go over there, but I do think he’s good enough where if he does fire he can win one of those races. Last year in the Suburban he was second to Flat Out, who freaked that day, and this year he was second to Mucho Macho Man, who ran huge. He needs to find a race he can run a 104 [Beyer Speed Figure] and the others 100 instead of a race where the winner runs a 110.” 


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