(War Stopper will run next in G3 Gotham in early March / Coglianese Photo & Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Salerno Stables’ War Stopper could parlay a maiden-breaking victory at fourth asking on January 11 at Aqueduct into his stakes debut, with trainer Rudy Rodriguez saying the G3, $300,000 Gotham on March 7 could be the next target.

War Stopper, who finished out of the money on turf in his first two starts, ran fifth in his main track debut at one mile at the Big A on December 7. Making his 3-year-old debut, the son of Declaration of War rebounded to lead a six-horse field gate-to-wire for a four-length score at one mile earlier this month, earning a 94 Beyer Speed Figure.

That effort set up a potential quick turnaround for the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers on Saturday at Aqueduct, offering 10-4-2-1 qualifying points to the top-four finishers to the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby. But Rodriguez said he prefers the extra time and would target the Gotham, a one-turn mile that will offer 50-20-10-5 qualifying points.

“Right now, we’re not looking at the Withers, but you never know. Maybe the owners will change their mind, but right now, we’re looking at the Gotham,” Rodriguez said. “He was very good last time. We think the blinkers helped him a lot and we’re just looking for him to keep improving.”

In his first official work since his victory, War Stopper breezed four furlongs in 53.03 seconds over the Belmont Park dirt training track Thursday.

E.V. Racing Stable’s Water White could return to stakes action even sooner, with Rodriguez saying she has been training well heading into the $100,000 Busanda for 3-year-old fillies on Sunday, February 2.

A prep race for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, the 47th running of the 1 1/8-mile Busanda will offer 10-4-2-1 qualifying points. Water White, who broke her maiden at third asking on November 5 at Aqueduct, will make her sophomore bow following a fifth-place finish in her stakes debut in the Grade 3 Demoiselle on December 7.

“The Busanda is the plan for her. She’s ready to go,” Rodriguez said. “She’s been training good. She’s going to have step up big time because the competition is going to get better and better. I’ve been very happy with her training.”

Water White made her career debut on August 18, running fourth in a 6 ½-furlong sprint at Saratoga Race Course. She earned runner-up status and a personal-best 80 Beyer Speed Figure in her next start, finishing 1 ¼-lengths back to Maedean on October 5 at Belmont.

Following her win at one mile, the Conveyance filly was stretched out to the Busanda distance for the first time in the Demoiselle, where she rallied from seventh and battled in the stretch before being outkicked.

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Truth Hurts on point for $100K Busanda and Canadian Triple Crown

Chad Summers and J Stables’ undefeated Truth Hurts will make her stakes debut in the $100,000 Busanda on Sunday at the Big A, a key stepping stone towards the Kentucky Oaks.

The talented Ontario-bred Summers trainee will also be nominated to the Canadian Triple Crown, which features the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks on June 6 and the $1 million Queen’s Plate on June 27. Holy Helena, in 2017, was the last filly to win the Woodbine Oaks and go on to defeat the boys in the Queen’s Plate, first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

“She will be Canadian Triple Crown nominated,” said Summers. “It seems like fillies have done really well lately in the Queen’s Plate up there.”

Wonder Gadot (2018) and Lexie Lou (2014) are among the 37 fillies to have won the Queen’s Plate in 161 runnings.

Bred in Ontario by Bill Graham, the Tonalist bay was purchased for $35,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

“The day we bought her it was pouring down rain and yearlings tend to be jumping around in that weather, but this filly walked out and couldn’t care less,” said Summers. “She had a presence about her. She was on the small side and I think that’s why we were able to get her at that price.

“She got started out with Randy Bradshaw in Ocala and then moved over to Susan Montanye, who broke Mind Your Biscuits for me,” said Summers, in reference to his multiple Grade 1-winning New York-bred now standing stud in Japan. “We took her to the Two-Year-Olds In Training Sale at Timonium to gauge the interest and she worked in 10 and 3, which was the same time Mind Your Biscuits worked. We liked her too much and took her out of the sale and trained her for a little while.”

Truth Hurts trained up at Belmont and through the summer at Saratoga before Summers stopped on the filly.

“She was doing well but she hit the wall at Saratoga,” said Summers. “With her pedigree, we thought she’d be better in route races so we sent her to the farm for 45 days and she came back a different horse. She’s trained forwardly ever since and hasn’t missed a beat.”

Truth Hurts was sent to post at 11-1 in her December 8 debut at the Big A and rallied to a half-length score in a 6 1/2-furlong sprint. With Luis Rodriquez Castro up, Truth Hurts overcame brushing the gate and won a rousing stretch battle with the David Duggan-trained favorite Halo City.

“She was a little green turning for home and she was a little distracted, but Luis did a great job with her,” said Summers. “The big thing is she has a will to win and to fight horses. Every time she breezed, she always won the breeze. Once you get her into a fight, we thought she would respond. The Duggan horse was in front of her by three lengths at the eighth pole, and she was able to reel her in.”

She followed up with a smart two-length score when stretched out to a mile in a January 5 Aqueduct allowance, besting stakes-placed foes Autonomous, a well-bred Chad Brown-trainee, and likely Busanda rival Quality Heat.

“She ran against two stakes-placed horses and it was a great race experience for her to drop in between horses and re-rally,” said Summers. “She put Autonomous away and really galloped out strong at the end.”

Summers said he is looking forward to Sunday’s nine-furlong test for his undefeated filly.

“The Busanda has been circled on our calendar since she came back and the first start worked well as a step to getting her to a mile,” said Summers. “It’s still only the third start of her career. Going a mile and an eight is a difficult thing to do for 3-year-old fillies, but we think we’ll be ready for the distance.”

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Ankle Monitor pointing to $100K Busanda

Following a last-out victory over a sloppy main track at Laurel Park, Magic Stable’s Ankle Monitor will attempt her first stakes victory in the Busanda.

Trained by Claudio Gonzalez, the daughter of Raison d’Etat is heavily raced for a sophomore having recorded eight starts, four of which were wins. After breaking her maiden for a thrifty $16,000 tag, she defeated winners at Parx Racing in September, where she registered a career best 78 Beyer Speed Figure.

Never off the board in her last six starts, Ankle Monitor crossed the wire fourth in the Tempted at the Big A but was elevated to third via disqualification. She acquired more black type two starts back when running second as the lukewarm favorite in Laurel Park’s Gin Talking.

Ankle Monitor will make her first start going 1 1/8 miles in the Busanda, but Gonzalez said his filly will be able to handle the distance.

“She’s doing very well,” Gonzalez said. “I like the distance of this race. I think that it should suit her and she proved last time that she could handle the slop.”

Bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, Ankle Monitor is out of the stakes winner Misty Michelle and was purchased for $3,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

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Rice sets stakes assignments for Max Player and Newly Minted

With 28 victories entering Sunday’s live racing card to lead the Aqueduct Winter Meet trainer standings, conditioner Linda Rice, who recently surpassed 2,000 wins, has no plans slowing down heading into the month of February.

Rice will look to enter George Hall’s Max Player in Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Withers which offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the first four finishers.

The 3-year-old Honor Code colt finished second on debut going a mile on November 12 at Parx after breaking from the outermost seventh post. He returned to break his maiden at second asking over a sloppy track sporting blinkers for the first time on December 17 at Parx, drawing off to win by 4 ¼ lengths.

Max Player breezed five furlongs in 1:02.88 over the Belmont training track on Friday and Rice said the Withers would be a good test to see where he stands among the 3-year-old crop.

“He’s actually been a bit green in his races,” said Rice. “He definitely needs more seasoning but I was happy with his work this week. He’s starting to behave a little more professionally and we’re planning to run him in the Withers. He’s getting better and will be a good test to see where he stands.”

Rice also reported Beach Haven Thoroughbreds multiple stakes-winning New York-bred filly Newly Minted will be pointed to the $100,000 Biogio’s Rose on Sunday, February 9.

The 3-year-old Central Banker filly has amassed over $400,000 in earnings in only eight career starts with five victories, including New York-bred stakes wins in the Park Avenue, Bouwerie and Fleet Indian as a juvenile. Most recently, she captured an allowance race by 7 ¼ lengths on December 22.

Rice said Newly Minted remains in top form having posted a half-mile breeze in 51.88 seconds over the Belmont Park training track last Friday.

“She’s continuing to do well,” said Rice. “She came out of her last start in good shape and we’re excited to get her campaign started. She exited her breeze in good order and if all continues to go well that will be in the Biogio’s Rose.”

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Vanzzy to ship in for G3 Withers

Vanzzy, trained by Michael Pino for Smart Angle, will enter the Grade 3 Withers off of a driving half-length score in the Display at Woodbine Racetrack.

The Verrazano bay breezed a half-mile in 49.27 seconds on January 24 on the Parx main track in his third breeze back following the two-turn score over the Woodbine Tapeta.

“The Withers is the plan,” said Pino. “He worked in really good company the other day and galloped out strong. We’re pretty happy with him.”

Vanzzy, bred in Kentucky by Alexander-Groves Thoroughbreds, is out of the multiple stakes-winning dam Selva. He was purchased for $70,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale.

“He showed good balance and was a nice looking horse. He had all the things you look for in a young horse and he looked like he would route,” said Pino.

Vanzzy, who made his first three starts at his Parx base, debuted in September in a strong maiden tilt won by the undefeated graded-stakes winner Independence Hall. He graduated at second asking in a one-mile maiden event on October 14 and was second to Mischievous Alex on November 5 in the Parx Juvenile after bobbling at the start from the inside post.

“He was inside and had a tough start, but we weren’t beating the winner that day. We might have been a closer second,” said Pino.

Vanzzy made all the running in the Display on December 14 at Woodbine under Patrick Husbands.

“He was first-time blinkers last time and the added ground helped,” said Pino. “He’s mature but he’s a slow maturing horse. He’s not a crack sprinter type horse. Hopefully, he can step up and learn again next out.”

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Mr. Buff in fine fettle following Jazil victory

One day removed from successfully kicking off his 6-year-old campaign with an impressive five-length victory in the Jazil, Chester and Mary Broman’s homebred Mr. Buff was in fine fettle on Sunday at Belmont Park.

The multiple stakes-winning New York-bred captured his seventh New York-bred stakes breaking alertly from post 3 as the 3-5 favorite and never relinquished his lead over the sloppy main track.

Now unbeaten in his last five starts against New York bred competition dating back to a third-place finish in the Commentator in May, conditioner John Kimmel said he would continue to look for opportunities run the ultra-consistent Mr. Buff in New York.

“Looking forward, we’ll probably nominate him to the [$100,000] Haynesfield [February 22] and the [$150,000] Bernardini [February 29],” said Kimmel from his Florida base. “All reports so far is that he came out of the race in good shape and he’s eaten up all his feed. He certainly continued to show us the class and quality he possesses yesterday being able to win the way he did especially on an off track. Junior has a great rapport and did another fine job yesterday, so we’re happy we’ll continue to move forward from here.”

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Aqueduct Winter Week Stakes Probables

Saturday, February 1

Grade 3, $250,000 Withers
Probable: Bourbon Bay (Mark Hennig); Hail to the Chief (Wesley Ward); Monday Morning Qb (Butch Reid); Portos (Todd Pletcher); Shotski (Jeremiah O’Dwyer); Vanzzy (Michael Pino); Max Player (Linda Rice)
Possible: War Stopper (Rudy Rodriguez)

Sunday, February 2

$100,000 Busanda
Probable: Ankle Monitor (Claudio Gonzalez); Fiftyshays Ofgreen (John Servis); Persisto (Kelly Breen); Quality Heat (Mark Casse); Truth Hurts (Chad Summers); Water White (Rudy Rodriguez)