Gotham hopefuls out in force over the weekend
Edited Press Release
Sunny Ridge took to the fast Belmont Park training track Friday morning for his second breeze since his Withers (G3) victory last month for trainer Jason Servis.
The gray Holy Bull gelding covered four furlongs in :51.80, nearly matching his half-mile breeze in :52.80 on February 15, ahead of his expected start in next Saturday’s $400,000 Gotham (G3).
"It's just maintenance you know," said Servis. "He doesn't have to go lights-out but he went well. He's doing OK. We're ready."
Sunny Ridge finished second in both the Champagne (G1) and Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) to close out his juvenile campaign.
Shadwell Farm's homebred Shagaf wrapped up his training for the Gotham on Saturday, working four furlongs in :48.95 over the fast dirt at trainer Chad Brown's winter base, the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida.
"He's doing well," Brown said by phone about the son of Bernardini. "We'll have to wait and see where he draws in the race but from what we've seen so far he certainly has the ability to adapt to any kind of pace in the race."
Making his debut last November, Shagaf drew away after racing five-wide in the stretch to impressively win by six lengths at Aqueduct. He followed up with a two-length allowance/optional claiming victory on January 29 at Gulfstream Park.
Grade 3-placed Laoban enjoyed a six-furlong move Saturday morning at Aqueduct after arriving from his Southern California base on Tuesday. According to trainer Eric Guillot, the early arrival was scheduled to allow the first-time shipper ample time to adjust to the cooler New York climate and get a feel of the Aqueduct inner track.
Laoban, a Mandarin Chinese term meaning "boss,” went the distance in 1:15.06.
"He worked good," Guillot reported. "He went 24 for the last quarter and galloped out in 1:27 and 3. He's pretty fit; I just wanted to get a work over this track. I really wasn't worried about time."
The Uncle Mo colt stepped up into the January 9 Sham (G3) at Santa Anita following a second-place showing in a December maiden special weight, which was his second career start and first race wearing blinkers.
"He is still a maiden but he's a nice horse," Guillot added. "In the Sham, he got slammed out of the gate, got a little rank, went wide and still ran third. I really think he might've been the best that day."
Laoban had been entered earlier this month in the February 6 Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita but was scratched the morning of the race after the dark bay developed a fever. Guillot thought Fair Grounds’ Risen Star (G2) on February 20 came up too soon, opting instead to brave the colder temperatures on the East Coast for the Gotham.
"He's still got a summer coat on him so he's got a big blanket on him," Guillot said of the adjustment. "But horses are cold weather animals by nature so he hasn't seemed worried about it."
Trainer Linda Rice, meanwhile, is weighing Matt King Coal's options for his sophomore debut. Unraced since his front-running maiden victory at Belmont on October 29, the Florida-bred son of Cool Coal Man has worked steadily since returning to Rice's barn in early February.
Matt King Coal has had a trio of works since February 7, most recently earning an official six-furlong time of 1:14.60 Tuesday morning on the Belmont training track.
"We've had three strong breezes in him, and the last two were pretty nice," Rice said. "I got him going seven-eighths in 1:28 the other day so we're close. I just don't know if I want to find the toughest race out there. I wouldn't mind having one more work but I think I might just run him fresh. I just haven't quite decided yet which way we're going to go yet."
Tentatively scheduled to fly from South Florida on Tuesday, Todd Pletcher's contender Rally Cry completed his major preparations at the trainer's winter base in Palm Beach Downs. The dark bay son of Uncle Mo breezed a half-mile in :48.60 Saturday morning.
Likewise, Adventist, Governor Malibu and Conquest Big E all continued their training over the weekend for next Saturday's race.
Also checking in from Florida, stakes winner Governor Malibu completed five furlongs in 1:02.60 on Friday morning for trainer Christophe Clement's stable at Payson Park, while Holy Bull (G2) fourth-placer Conquest Big E got a half-mile mile in :49 in his last move for trainer Mark Casse on Friday at Palm Meadows Training Center.
Working over the Belmont training track Saturday, Wither third-placer Adventist earned a bullet designation for his five-furlong move in 1:01.20, the fastest of 34 at the distance.
Sunny Ridge photo courtesy of NYRA/Chelsea Durand/Adam Coglianese Photography