If it had been forty or fifty degrees warmer, and if there had been another twenty or so thousand people around, Aqueduct might have been Saratoga. We’re still on the turf—for three races yesterday—and both the fourth and the sixth races featured beautifully bred two year olds maidens, with progeny of Storm Cat, Awesome Again, Dynaformer, Fusaichi Pegasus, and A.P. Indy all taking to the track.
The fourth race featured horses trained by Albertrani, Pletcher, and Mott; Contessa, J. Jerkens, and Kimmel also had entries, but it was the Pletcher entrant, Swinging Bernie, who won; a length back was Rick Violette’s long shot Sweat Shop, completing a $339.40 exacta.
The sixth race brought us Zito, Mott, McLaughlin, McGaughey, Albertrani, Tagg, and Asmussen et al., but it was Big Brown’s original connections, Paul Pompa and Pat Reynolds, who sprung the $65 surprise. The aptly-named Well Positioned went to the lead and never looked back under Javier Castellano, winning by nearly fifteen lengths. Though this race was on dirt, one couldn’t help recalling Big Brown’s dominating win as a long shot at Saratoga in his first start at Saratoga last August. Are Pompa’s and Reynolds’s phones ringing tonight? Update: The answer is yes.
“Watch out for New York breds!” said Gary Contessa as he entered the winner’s circle following the Grade III Discovery, won by his Wishful Tomcat by nearly two lengths. Heavily favored Lieutenant Ron finished fifth, providing credence to the theory of never betting on a favored horse to do something he’s never done before.
Wishful Tomcat runs his record to five wins in eleven starts, and those wins have come twice on the turf, once in the slop, once on a fast dirt track, and once on Aqueduct’s inner dirt track, over which he broke his maiden by seventeen lengths last December. It took Wishful Tomcat six starts to get to the winner’s circle, but once there, he obviously decided he liked it, as in his five starts since, he’s won four times. “He’s the kind of horse a trainer dreams of,” said Contessa.
While many folks today were decrying the early arrival of frigid winter temperatures, Contessa was virtually rubbing his hands in delight (not to keep them warm) as he looks forward to Aqueduct’s winter meet with his state-bred star. “I’d like to see him dominate the stakes races here this winter,” he said, adding (Wishful Thinking?) that perhaps these cold temperatures will drive some of the other trainers south a little sooner than planned.
The pleasures of a cold Big A Saturday were considerably heightened by the presence of Ernie Munick and new Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance writer Keith of Triple Dead Heat, down from Canada for the weekend. No doubt, each will soon post further thoughts on yesterday’s day at the races.