(Courvoisier / Photo Courtesy of NYRA)
From the NYRA Media Team:
Regally-bred Courvoisier rang in the New Year with authority, passing his first stakes test in Saturday’s $150,000 Jerome at Aqueduct Racetrack, earning a 73 Beyer Speed Figure with a 1 ¼-length victory in the one-turn mile for sophomores.
Courvoisier, a son of multiple champion-producing stallion Tapit and out of 2014 Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Take Charge Brandi, showed similar tactics from his maiden coup at Aqueduct one month prior.
Courvoisier pressured pacesetter Hagler from the outside down the backstretch over the sloppy and sealed main track, remaining in battle with his foe in upper stretch, ultimately coming out on top while fending off a late rally from Smarten Up. In capturing the Jerome, Courvoisier earned 10 qualifying points toward the 2022 Kentucky Derby.
Finishing in-the-money in his first three starts at maiden level, Courvoisier graduated at fourth asking going nine furlongs before turning back in distance for the one-turn mile Jerome.
Trainer Kelly Breen said Sunday morning that Courvoisier will most likely return to nine furlongs in the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers on February 5 at the Big A, which also offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
“That’s the plan,” Breen said. “Right now, he seems to like the track and the Withers is there, so we’re staying home with him for now.”
John Sikura of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms, who owns Courvoisier in partnership with James D. Spry, expressed delight in seeing the newly turned 3-year-old chestnut win his stakes debut.
“It was very satisfying to see him win,” Sikura said. “It was rather frustrating in his initial starts. We went from having high hopes to moderate expectations, but he ran very determined yesterday. Now the question is will he continue to improve, and we hope that he will.
“We want to be realistic and not get too over the top too early. Every race is a new test,” Sikura added. “The water gets deeper and some 3-year-olds get better with each start. Everyone finds their level. We’ll just let the horse do the talking and hope that he does so loudly.”
Sikura praised Breen for managing the horse effectively.
“Kelly has done such a great job with this horse,” Sikura said. “The best trainers are intuitive people that don’t feel pressure from an owner or other things. So, I’ll let Kelly map out the schedule, but the Withers would be the next logical step.”
Courvoisier hails from the prestigious Take Charge Lady broodmare line, a family which also includes 2013 Champion 3-Year-Old Will Take Charge, as well as Grade 1-winners Take Charge Indy and Omaha Beach. A multiple Grade 1-winning multimillionaire in her own right, Take Charge Lady also produced As Time Goes By, who captured her fourth graded stakes win in the Grade 3 La Canada at Santa Anita on Saturday.
Cooke Creek on to G3 Withers after third-place Jerome effort
Cheyenne Stable’s Cooke Creek will hope for a fast track when he makes his next start in the Grade 3 $250,000 Withers at Aqueduct on February 5. Trained by Jeremiah O’Dwyer, the 3-year-old son of Uncle Mo finished third as the post-time favorite in Saturday’s Jerome going a one-turn mile over the sloppy and sealed Big A main track.
Cooke Creek wrapped up his juvenile campaign with a runner-up effort to Rockefeller in the Grade 3 Nashua at Belmont Park on November 7, ridden from off the pace by Manny Franco to be beaten 2 ¾ lengths.
In Saturday’s Jerome, Franco was forced to keep Cooke Creek closer to the pace than the dark bay colt typically prefers.
“We had to take him out of his comfort zone after watching the earlier races,” O’Dwyer said. “It was very hard for horses to close over that track and the surface became faster and harder throughout the day. We decided that we had to put him closer to the lead to have a chance to win.”
Despite less-than-favorable track conditions and needing to adjust his running style, Cooke Creek was beaten just two lengths in the Jerome.
“He’s got a ton of class and he wasn’t tired afterwards,” said O’Dwyer. “He’s a very honest horse. He did not disappoint us – he ran really well. I just think he’d be better on a fairer track and also going two turns.”
Cooke Creek, who won the Rocky Run around two turns in October at Delaware Park, will again have the chance to run two turns in the nine-furlong Withers, a race O’Dwyer hopes will offer more favorable conditions.
“The extra furlong in the Withers will help him,” O’Dwyer said. “The pace of the race and the dynamic will be different compared to a one turn mile. They go a little steadier and he’ll get a chance to settle in. We can just let him break and get a little time to find his rhythm. Hopefully, it’s just a regular fast track and we see him in a better light.”
O’Dwyer said Cooke Creek, who picked up 2 Kentucky Derby qualifying points in the Jerome, will make his preparations for the Withers at his home base of Laurel Park.
“He might have one or two breezes at the most,” said O’Dwyer. “He just needs maintenance and a light couple of weeks to freshen up and enjoy himself. He’s happy and he knows his job. He’s a forward training horse and we have to be careful he doesn’t overdo it. He’ll do what you want and is a very good horse.”
Smarten Up to wheel back in G3 Withers
Trainer Alfredo Velazquez said Happy Tenth Stable’s Smarten Up, a rallying second in Saturday’s Jerome at the Big A, will return to Ozone Park on February 5 for the nine-furlong Grade 3, $250,000 Withers offering 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
With regular pilot Anthony Salgado up, Smarten Up was bumped leaving the gate – hampering an expected prominent trip – and forced to track behind horses near the back of the pack over the sloppy and sealed main track, before rallying six-wide down the lane to complete the exacta 1 1/4-lengths to Courvoisier.
“We were supposed to be two-to-three lengths off the pace, but when he got bumped leaving the gate, he got cut on his left front and that backed him up,” Velazquez said. “He had never had mud in the face before and that intimidated him for a little while. The jockey had to get after him a little bit because when the mud hit the face, he didn’t want any part of that. But as soon as he took him outside, he started to run. He’s a nice horse.”
Smarten Up, who boasts a perfect in-the-money record of 4-1-2-1, made his first three starts at Parx, finishing second on debut sprinting seven furlongs in September. He followed with a pair of two-turn starts, pressing the pace in a one-mile event in October when third in a race won by Eloquist, who exited that effort to run fifth in the Grade 2 Remsen in December at the Big A.
Smarten Up entered the one-turn mile Jerome from a romping nine-length score traveling one mile and 70 yards on November 22.
Velazquez said he is looking forward to stretching Smarten Up back around two turns at the Big A in the Grade 3 Withers.
“The longer he goes the better it is for him. I can’t wait to run him two turns. If everything goes good, I’ll be there,” Velazquez said.
Velazquez said Salgado is also likely to return for the Withers aboard Smarten Up, who earned 4 Kentucky Derby qualifying points in the Jerome.
“He rides the horse good. It’s better to take the guy that knows the horse,” Velazquez said.
Velazquez conditioned the Canadian-bred Private Zone to Grade 1 wins on the NYRA circuit in 2014, capturing the Vosburgh Invitational at Belmont and the Cigar Mile Handicap at the Big A.
“We were lucky to win the Cigar Mile and Cigar was my favorite horse,” Velazquez said.
The veteran conditioner said he is hopeful of another graded stakes win at the Big A when Smarten Up returns in February.
“He’s going to be tough in that race. If everything goes well, they’re going to have to run to beat him,” Velazquez said.
By American Freedom and out of the stakes-winning Smarty Jones mare Sarah Cataldo, Smarten Up is a half-sibling to multiple sprint stakes winner Tiger Blood. Smarten Up, who matched a career-best 71 Beyer in the Jerome, was purchased for $50,000 from the OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training.
Sea Foam to stay in training this winter, make next start in spring
Trainer Michelle Giangiulio said Ten Strike Racing, Four Corners Racing Stable, Broadview Stables, and Cory Moelis Racing’s Sea Foam, who won the $100,000 Alex M. Robb on New Year’s Eve at the Big A, will continue training this winter at Belmont Park to stay fresh for his next start this spring.
Giangiulio, who currently manages a string of five horses, said she is happy to take her time with the 7-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro.
“He’s doing well and we don’t really have anything planned for now,” Giangiulio said. “We’ll just keep him happy in the coming months and have a fresh horse for the rest of the year. He came out of the race good; he’s happy and eating good. He’s awesome and you can’t ask for a bigger-hearted horse than him.”
Sea Foam was a determined winner of the Alex M. Robb, setting a quick pace for the nine furlongs and digging in to hold off a late bid from runner-up Danny California to earn his second stakes for Giangiulio.
“I thought he was beat in the stretch and he just kept coming,” Giangiulio said. “I thought we were beat for sure and he held them off well. He hadn’t run since October and he wasn’t tired after the race like I thought he would be. He was dragging me around the shed row yesterday and trying to bite everyone.”
Giangiulio said Sea Foam’s professionalism contributed to his win Friday.
“I was concerned with the off-track going into the race, but he doesn’t care what the track is like though,” Giangiulio said. “He gives it his all every time.”
Sea Foam’s win in the Alex M. Robb saw Giangiulio’s record at the Big A winter meet improve to 4-for-4 before Halpert’s third-place finish on Sunday’s card.
Giangiulio said she has worked hard to add quality to her stable after struggling to win claiming shakes throughout the year.
“The claim box has been so tough,” Giangiulio said. “I dropped on eight horses the week of Christmas and only got one. There’s been big shakes on every horse I’ve wanted. But I’m staying at five [horses] and if I get one claimed, I’ve been pretty good at replacing them.”
Among Giangiulio’s wins at Aqueduct this meet were a pair of claiming wins by Eucharist and Alpine Queen, both owned in part by Ten Strike Racing, who gave Giangiulio her first horse to train last February.
Eucharist was a last-out upset winner of a $16,000 claimer on December 16, besting ten rivals by 2 ½ lengths at odds of 18-1.
“He’s doing good and he’s scheduled to run next Sunday,” said Giangiulio. “He was a longshot in his last race and it might have been the most exciting win out of all of them [at Aqueduct].”
Alpine Queen made her way to Giangiulio’s barn this July when she was claimed for $25,000 at Saratoga Race Course. The grey daughter of Reload won in her third start for Giangiulio on December 19.
“She’s back in Thursday and I stepped her up a little bit,” Giangiulio said. “I’m trying a starter allowance because in each race she’s gotten better and better. She keeps getting stronger. She’s changed a lot and grown up and gotten confident. I think she’ll be a really good 4-year-old.”
As Giangiulio looks forward to her second year of training, she reflected on her 2021 accomplishments and her goals for the future.
“I can’t even comprehend it. I just keep thinking ‘am I really four-for-four right now?’ It’s just unbelievable,” said Giangiulio. “You never think you’re going to be able to do that. Everybody wants to win, but to continue to do it is an amazing feeling. It’s very rewarding because I get on my horses and am very hands on. I get on Sea Foam every day and to get to see him and the others run so well is awesome.
“I just hope I can keep going the way I’m going,” Giangiulio added. “All my horses are happy and I healthy. I hope I continue to grow and that we can keep improving horses off the claim and just keep the ball rolling.”
Maiden Beauty could target $100K Biogio’s Rose following Bay Ridge win
Trainer Robert Falcone, Jr. continued his hot streak when John Grossi’s Racing Corp.’s Maiden Beauty notched a gate-to-wire victory off 11 days’ rest in the $100,000 Bay Ridge on December 30 at Aqueduct.
Falcone, Jr. has his the board with nine of his last 10 starters dating back to December 11 at the Big A, posting a record of 4-3-2, including a pair of wins with Maiden Beauty along with scores by Hoopla and Castle Chaos.
The 28-year-old conditioner said he has the one-mile $100,000 Biogio’s Rose for older New York-bred fillies and mares on March 6 at the Big A in mind for Maiden Beauty.
The 6-year-old Revolutionary bay mare was claimed by Falcone, Jr. for $45,000 in June and made her first start for new connections when second in the restricted Saratoga Dew on August 12 at Saratoga. She arrived at the nine-furlong Bay Ridge off a one-turn mile allowance optional claiming win on December 19 at Aqueduct.
Falcone, Jr. admitted some concern with the quick turnaround.
“It’s always concerning, especially when you consider her past performances before I had her,” Falcone, Jr. said. “She had never run back that quickly, but as long as they’re eating up and doing well, which she was, you’ve got to take a shot sometimes. Even though it was quick back, she came out of the race really well.”
Falcone said the option of remaining around one turn at seven furlongs in today’s La Verdad was possible but that the mare’s frontrunning style suited the Bay Ridge. Six of Maiden Beauty’s nine lifetime wins were captured when leading at every point of call, including her last four victories.
“There’s a lot that goes into picking your spots, especially stakes,” Falcone, Jr. said. “We had talked about it. When she gets to the lead, she gets so brave. We figured we had an easier time going a mile and an eighth, than seven eighths so that was a big factor.”
Because of the quick turnaround, Falcone, Jr. said he will go easy on Maiden Beauty for the time being.
“I’ll let her tell me,” Falcone, Jr. said. “She ran quick back, so she’ll get some time in between. Our main goal would be the Biogio’s Rose from here, but she could run in February if it’s the right time.”
Falcone, Jr. spoke volumes of owner John Grossi, complimenting his knowledge and understanding of the sport of horse racing.
“He’s one of those owners that knows and understands the game. He’s intelligent and supports the game very heavily,” Falcone, Jr. said. “He breeds some of his own horses, he claims horses. We went to California last year and he was game to do that. He’s easy to work with and understands the whole game. He’s a great guy, he brings his granddaughter around the barn and she loves it. It’s great to see young people getting involved.”
Aqueduct Racetrack Week 4 stakes probables
Saturday, January 8
$100K Say Florida Sandy (NYB)
Probable: Alpha Chi Rho (Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon), Chestertown (Steve Asmussen), Hold the Salsa (Richard Lugovich), Jemography (Mark Hennig), Lobsta (Gary Sciacca) My Boy Tate (Michelle Nevin), South Africa (Michelle Nevin)
Possible: Saratoga Pal (Chris Englehart), Wudda U Think Now (Rudy Rodriguez)
Sunday, January 9
$100K Rego Park (NYB)
Probable: Agility (Jorge Abreu), Bali’s Shade (Rudy Rodriguez), Barese (Mike Maker), Bustin Pietre (Bruce Levine), G Munning (John Kimmel), Unique Unions (Rick Schosberg)
Possible: Always Charming (Cleveland Johnson), Daufuskie Island (Kelly Breen), Doin’ittherightway (Rob Atras)