'Underrated' Nucky to take on another Grade 1 stakes task

September 09, 2019 12:07pm

Peter Miller’s newest Grade 1 winner is pointing to another pair of top-flight 2-year-old races this fall.

The trainer said Del Mar Futurity (G1) winner Nucky is on target for Santa Anita Park's Sept. 27 American Pharoah Stakes (G1). That race will match 2-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles over the dirt.

Five weeks later, some of those same horses will go the same trip for a $2 million purse in the Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Nucky needed four tries over three different tracks before breaking his maiden Aug. 21 at Del Mar. Miller ran the Ghostzapper colt back 12 days later Sept. 2 in the Futurity (G1), and he pulled off a 35-1 upset.

Havens Bloodstock Agency purchased the Kentucky-bred Nucky as a yearling last September for $130,000. He’s already surpassed that in earnings for owners Rockingham Ranch, collecting $217,750 over five career starts.

“He’s definitely underrated,” Miller said Saturday at Kentucky Downs. “He acts like he didn’t even run, either, so I’m excited to get him back in hopefully the (American Pharoah) Stakes if everything goes good and then the Breeders’ Cup.”

Nucky’s stablemate, Wrecking Crew, came home second in the Del Mar Futurity. That gave Miller a 1-2 finish in a stakes that boasts American Pharoah, Game Winner and Nyquist among its recent champs.

The 2019 edition of the Del Mar Futurity was chaotic. Favorite Eight Rings and Storm the Court collided early on and threw their jockeys. Second-choice Garth led before suddenly fading -- Bob Baffert later attributed it to an entrapped epiglottis -- and Nucky’s win was ruled official only after stewards ruled an incident between that one and Ginobli didn’t alter the original order of finish.

Miller called his 1-2 finish with Nucky and Wrecking Crew “really gratifying,” even under the unusual circumstances.

“They’re both very nice horses,” Miller said.

As for Wrecking Crew, Miller said he’ll bypass the American Pharoah Stakes and point toward November. 

The Sky Kingdom colt – an $875,000 purchase earlier this year for Rockingham Ranch – won on debut July 27 at Del Mar and has since run second in both the Best Pal Stakes (G2) on Aug. 10 and the Del Mar Futurity.

“We’re going to skip the next one and train him up to the Breeders’ Cup,” Miller said, to “have a fresh horse for the Breeders’ Cup.”

In the American Pharoah, Nucky figures to get a rematch with Eight Rings and Storm the Court, while Best Pal (G2) winner Collusion Illusion joins the mix. The race, in addition to leading to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, awards qualifying points toward the 2020 Kentucky Derby.


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