Weekend Takeaways: Ubillo placed Highway Star in right spot

November 10, 2018 09:19pm
Highway Star_NYSS Staten Island 2018 2_615x400
Photo: Joe Labozzetta/NYRA

Highway Star won Sunday’s $125,000 New York Stallion Series Staten Island Stakes under wraps. A win was expected with the class drop to state-bred competition, but the win was an impressive feat considering she ran in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs only eight days earlier.

“Coming back here after the race, it felt like she didn't run,” trainer Rodrigo Ubillo said. “She was jumping and kicking, and this race was coming up. I decided to enter and had a few days. We could scratch the morning of...but it worked out good and I can sleep good tonight.

Returning in the Staten Island seemed like a hard task. Yes, there was the class drop that helped, but Highway Star had just over a week to ship back to New York from Kentucky and have the energy to race again.

Like Ubillo said, he could scratch, but he listened to his horse and she proved him right. After settling near the back, Highway Star picked off her rivals with ease once Irad Ortiz Jr. asked her to go. She won by four lengths under wraps and was by far the best.

Big pedigree. Big future?

Tacitus has the right pedigree and the right connections. After breaking his maiden second time out, the 2-year-old colt has the chance to progress into tough competitor.

Juddmonte Farms bred their champion mare Close Hatches to Tapit and gave the colt to trainer Bill Mott, who also trained Close Hatches to Grade 1 wins in the Mother Goose, Cotillion, Apple Blossom, Ogden Phipps and Personal Ensign.

Tacitus has had jockey Jose Ortiz aboard for both starts. He had a tough debut at Belmont Park where he was caught wide, shied and bumped with another horse to finish fourth. He came back stronger at Aqueduct, rallying to a neck victory at a mile. Tacitus had to go three wide in the turn for home and fought in close range with a competitor. When it looked like Tacitus might have given in, he responded to Ortiz and stuck his head back in front.

It’s a long road ahead to the 2019 Kentucky Derby. Tacitus would have to earn enough points through stakes races to get in and he’s only faced maidens so far. These connections play at the top level though and, as they showed with Grade 1-placed Hofburg this year, they’re not afraid to face the favorites in the 3-year-old division.

While there’s still a lot to prove, Tacitus is one to keep an eye on.

Mr. Jordan set up for Sunshine Millions

If you look at
Mr. Jordan’s record, it seems Gulfstream Park West is his favorite spot. He is undefeated in five starts there and has won the Millions Classic Preview for Florida-breds three years in a row now. The victory should set him up for a good shot at the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park in January.

“He’s a little on the slow side breaking, but Paco (Lopez) got him up there and on the turn he had him in good position. (Jay’s Way) dictated the pace and it looked like Paco was in a little tight around the three-eighths pole,” trainer Eddie Plesa said. “When he had no place to go, he swung him to the outside and he ran the horse down. It was a great effort on the second horse’s part. It was a greater effort on our part. He loves this racetrack.”

The 6-year-old gelding has thrived in Florida and at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, hitting the board in 24 of 34 starts. At 3, Mr. Jordan won the Pegasus Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park and has placed in multiple other graded stakes, but his best races have come in his home state of Florida.

He’s a consistent force against other Florida-breds and has finished second the two times he’s competed in the Sunshine Millions Classic. If he continues to race at 7, his Preview effort sets him up for a good start to 2019.

Hot Springs loves Churchill Downs 

Hot Springs
picked up back-to-back stakes scores when winning Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Commonwealth Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs. The 3-year-old colt also defended his turf by remaining undefeated in four starts under the twin spires. 

Woodford Racing’s Hot Springs has shown a liking to the turf, especially the grass at Churchill Downs. He broke his maiden there second time out and followed that with an allowance win. He was then second in the Kent Stakes (G3) before running over a “good” course in the Saranac (G3).

Back at his home track, the son of Uncle Mo scored in the Jefferson Cup Stakes before taking the Commonwealth. 

Hot Springs was a $750,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland September and all seven of his career starts have come in 2018 and has earned $248,480 on the track. If he can continue to improve against older horses at 4, he’ll start earning back that purchase price even faster. He’ll also still have his Churchill Downs base.


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