From the NYRA Media Team:
Trainer Simon Callaghan said Roman Centurian, bred and co-owned by Don Alberto Stable with Qatar Racing Limited, is likely to make his next start in the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on April 3 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Wood Memorial card features the first Grade 1 of 2021 on the NYRA circuit in the $300,000 Carter Handicap, a seven-furlong sprint for older horses. The stakes-laden day also features the $250,000 Gazelle at nine furlongs for sophomore fillies offering 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-four finishers; the $200,000 Bay Shore, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores; and the $150,000 Excelsior at nine furlongs for older horses.
By Empire Maker and out of the Bernardini mare Spare Change, Roman Centurian finished fourth last out to the victorious Life Is Good in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 San Felipe at Santa Anita Park.
The dark bay colt, a $550,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, breezed back for the first time Thursday at Santa Anita covering a half-mile in 50.40 seconds.
“I think there’s a very good chance that we will ship to New York,” said Callaghan. “He breezed very well yesterday and we were happy. He’ll breeze again next week and it’s looking more likely that we’ll come.”
After a debut fourth sprinting in a maiden event won by Life Is Good in November at Del Mar, Roman Centurian stretched out to 1 1/16-miles for his second-out graduation on January 3 at Santa Anita. He exited that effort to finish a good second in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita, rallying from last-of-6 to miss by a neck to Medina Spirit in the 1 1/16-mile test.
Roman Centurian is currently 33rd on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 9 points. Callaghan said a trip to New York for the Wood Memorial, which offers 100-40-20-10 points to the top-four finishers, will suit the improving horse more than a return engagement with Life Is Good in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 3.
“Life is Good is looking like a pretty formidable horse right now and I think that the track at Aqueduct will be more to his liking,” said Callaghan. “We’ve always liked him. He made good progress from his maiden win to running a close second to Medina Spirit.
“I don’t think the race set up very well for him last time,” added Callaghan. “We’re hoping that with another race under his belt and moving to a track that we think will be more to his liking, that we’ll see a good performance to move him forward.”
The Callaghan-trained Firing Line, who was also a runner-up in the Robert B. Lewis, finished second in the 2015 Kentucky Derby. The veteran conditioner, a native of Great Britain who set up his stable in Southern California in 2009, said Roman Centurian should appreciate the added distance in the nine-furlong Wood Memorial.
“He’s a big, scopey two-turn kind of horse,” said Callaghan. “I think he’s got some progression in him. He’s a nice framed horse who is going to strengthen as the year goes on. We’re hoping we can have a good 3-year-old year with him.”
A winner with 2-of-3 starters at the Big A, Callaghan scored with Taris in the 2015 Grade 3 Go for Wand and with Out of The Flames in the 2018 Mizdirection. He sent out Americanize to finish fourth in the 2017 Grade 1 Cigar Mile.
Callaghan said a local rider is likely to pick up the Wood mount aboard Roman Centurian.
A probable list of Wood Memorial contenders includes Brooklyn Strong (Daniel Velazquez), Crowded Trade (Chad Brown), Dynamic One (Todd Pletcher), Nicky the Vest (Jonathan Thomas), Overtook (Pletcher), Risk Taking (Brown), and Weyburn (Jimmy Jerkens). Also under consideration are Prevalence (Brendan Walsh) and Rombauer (Michael McCarthy).
Weyburn on target for G2 Wood Memorial
Chiefswood Stables homebred Weyburn returned to the work tab on Wednesday with an easy half-mile move in 50.93 seconds over the Belmont Park training track in preparation for the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino.
The dark bay son of Pioneerof the Nile pleased trainer Jimmy Jerkens in his first work back from the Grade 3 Gotham on March 6 at the Big A, where he pulled off a 46-1 upset fighting gamely along the rail to get a nose to the better of Crowded Trade.
“He just ran hard [in the Gotham] and he’s not the heaviest horse in the world, so he didn’t really need anything more than what he did on Wednesday,” Jerkens said of the breeze.
A strong performance in the Wood Memorial would likely propel Weyburn to the Kentucky Derby, for which he earned 50 qualifying points after winning the Gotham. Jerkens’ lone Derby starter to date was Wicked Strong, who ran fourth in 2014 after capturing that year’s Wood Memorial.
Weyburn, bred in Ontario, was recently made the 3-1 early favorite for the $1 million Queen’s Plate on August 22 at Woodbine – Canada’s premier horserace restricted to those bred in Canada. Jerkens won the 2017 Queen’s Plate with Stronach Stables’ homebred Holy Helena
Weyburn is out of the A.P. Indy mare Sunday Affair, who also produced graded stakes winner Yorkton. His third dam was Grade 1-winner Maplejinsky who produced 1994 Champion Older Filly Sky Beauty.
Jerkens will saddle Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds homebred King James for his career debut in Race 4 on Sunday at the Big A, a six-furlong maiden special weight featuring a field of seven. Luis Cardenas has the call aboard King James from post 6.
The 3-year-old son of second crop sire Nyquist is out of the six-time stakes winning Unbridled’s Song mare Inspired – a turf sprinter.
Jerkens initially trained the dam of King James, but she was ultimately transferred to several other trainers before going to Allen Iwinski.
“We’re hoping he’ll be a nice one. He’s a bit of a shrimp of a horse,” Jerkens said. “I had his mother for a little bit as a 2-year-old in Saratoga but never got to run her. She had an ankle issue. She went to several other trainers but she did her best running for Iwinski. He did by far the best with her.”
Bred in Kentucky, King James comes from a long line of Blum homebred mares including black type producers Lady of Choice, Chosen Lady and Mine Only.
First post on Sunday’s eight-race card is 1:20 p.m. Live coverage will be available on America’s Day at the Races which will broadcast Sunday from 2-6:30 p.m. Eastern, with coverage on FS2 from 2-2:30 p.m. and four hours of coverage – 2:30-6:30 p.m. – on FS1.
Centennial Farms’ Mihos earned his first trip to the winner’s circle in 11 months, when coming from of the pace under Trevor McCarthy to win by 1 ½ lengths on Saturday at the Big A in a 6 ½ furlong allowance optional-claiming tilt.
The son of Cairo Prince won the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park in January 2019 before a string of unplaced graded stakes performances. He returned to winning form going seven furlongs at the South Florida oval last April.
“That was nice,” Jerkens said. “We tried to freshen him up a bit and gave him a sharp gate work. We finally got a race that looked like it set up for him with some speed ahead of him. Trevor is strong so he was able to get his mind on his business and tipped him out real well. His races are hard to gauge because he’s so particular about how the race sets up for him. He’s hard to figure out.”
H. James Bond’s stakes-veterans back on work tab in preparation for 2021 debuts
William L. Clifton’s Prioritize has been making steady progress on the work tab as he looks to capitalize on a freshening before commencing his 6-year-old campaign.
Trainer H. James Bond said he’s been pleased with the Tizway gelding, who ended 2020 with four consecutive starts in which he registered Beyer Speed Figures of 93 or better, including a 99 for his third-place finish in the Grade 1 Woodward going 1 1/4 miles on September 5 at Saratoga Race Course.
Prioritize ran fourth in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 10 at the same distance at Belmont Park before being sent to Bond’s Song Hill Farm in Saratoga County. His conditioner said the respite has done the Kentucky-bred well and should facilitate a strong 2021 campaign.
But his year will likely not commence with the Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior on the Wood Memorial Day undercard on April 3. After Prioritize worked four furlongs in 50.07 seconds on Thursday over the Belmont dirt training course, Bond said he will likely take it more slow before bringing Prioritize back, keeping prestigious races such as the Grade 1 Whitney during the summer meet at the Spa in mind.
“That race [the nine-furlong Excelsior] might be a little too quick,” Bond said. “I’m not sure if he’s up for that yet. He’s training great though. I think he’s a little more focused now and I got him on the right surface. He hadn’t had a rest in a couple of years, so hopefully it helps him and we’re looking for a real positive year from him. Hopefully, it’ll be in graded stakes. We’ll point him towards the Whitney and races like that and see what’s going at that time of year.”
Bond started Prioritize on turf through his first nine starts before making the surface change to the main track in December 2019. He compiled a 2-2-1 record in six starts on dirt, with his only off-the-board effort coming against a loaded JCGC field in which he still netted a 93 Beyer.
On Thursday, Bond also saw Rinaldi work four furlongs on the Belmont training track, breezing four furlongs in 50.07 seconds. Rinaldi, who Bond also owns, last raced when fourth in the one-mile Artie Schiller on November 19. Bred in New York by Barry Ostrager, Rinaldi is 4-1-1 in nine career starts, all on turf, as he gears up for the return of racing on grass with the impending warmer weather in the Empire State.
“They both had a nice rest and I sent them to my farm and gave them a few months off and they seemed to have enjoyed it and are coming back really well,” Bond said about his stakes-tested duo. “I don’t really have spots picked out for them yet, but they are training nicely.”
Rinaldi won two of his four starts as a 4-year-old in 2020, including a 1 1/2-length score in the West Point going 1 1/16 miles on September 4 at the Spa.
“He’s a solid horse and he shows up,” Bond said. “I’m not so sure he’s a Belmont-type horse. I think he’s better around two turns; that’s the only negative with him. He likes to rattle his feet and when it gets a little soft, he’s not as good as when he’s on a firm course.”
Bond said he’s excited about his stable of juveniles, with a mix stabled at Belmont and on his farm where his sons Kevin and Ryan also work with them as part of Bond’s family-run operation.
“We have so many nice ones, it’s a lot of exciting to have a lot of homebreds, and I’ve never had this many 2-year-olds at Belmont,” Bond said. “There are a lot of January and February foals and it’s just an exciting bunch. I’ve always been lucky to have some nice ones, but to have this many now, it’s a gift. I’m like a kid in a candy store.”
Aqueduct winter meet Week 14 stakes probables
Sunday, March 28
Probable: Bankit (Steve Asmussen), My Boy Tate (Michelle Nevin), South Africa (Nevin), T Loves a Fight (Orlando Noda)
Possible: Yankee Division (Rudy Rodriguez)
$100,000 East View
Probable: Brattle House (Christophe Clement), Laobanonaprayer (Daniel Velazquez), Secret Love (John Kimmel)
Possible: Make Mischief (Chris Englehart)