(Perfect Munnings / Coglianese Photo & Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

JP Racing Stable’s Perfect Munnings has lived up to his name through two career starts and will put his unblemished record on the line in Sunday’s eighth running of the $100,000 Gander at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The one-turn mile for sophomores bred in the Empire State honors Gatsas Thoroughbreds’ 2000 New York Horse of the Year and New York Champion Older Horse from 2000-02. Trained by John Terranova, the recognizably gray son of Cormorant put together a 60-race resume, including five Grade 1-placings and six stakes triumphs amassing over $1.8 million in earnings.

Perfect Munnings has already displayed versatility at the Big A, winning his debut over turf before switching to the main track for the January 10 Rego Park going six furlongs for trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the inaugural running of the Gander with Carminooch in 2005.

In his stakes-winning effort, the Munnings colt was 1 ½ lengths off pacesetter and stable mate Storm Shooter and came under a drive in upper stretch before taking command just inside the sixteenth pole. Perfect Munnings produced an 81 Beyer Speed Figure for the victory.

Perfect Munnings breezed a half-mile in 48.82 seconds on February 6 over the Belmont Park training track.

“His breezes have been well since,” said Pletcher’s assistant Byron Hughes. “He got good trips in both races and it was nice to see him take well to both surfaces. He’s not one that’s really going to take you anywhere, he needs a rhythm to him. We’re happy with how relaxed he is and how he does everything.”

Bred by Tammy Klimasewski and Robert Klimasewski, Perfect Munnings is out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Our Perfect Ten and was purchased for $50,000 from the 2019 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred Yearling Sale.

Perfect Munnings will emerge from post 4 under jockey Manny Franco.

Pletcher also sends out Mathis Stable’s Uno, who was a late-closing fourth to Perfect Munnings in the Rego Park last out. The son of Laoban was the post-time favorite for the Rego Park but was compromised at the break and unable to secure the prominent running style he displayed in his debut triumph.

Despite unfavorable circumstances, Uno was able to produce a bold rally in the stretch to finish fourth, just missing the trifecta by a nose.

“He came out of the gate a little slow and got pinched a little bit,” Hughes said. “He didn’t like the dirt hitting him in the face, but he was able to make a run for it and was able to get fourth and came very close to getting third. All things considered; he ran a good race that day.”

Uno was bred by Spruce Lane, Built Wright, Lynn Farm, Will Robbins and Copper Beach.

Jockey Jorge Vargas, Jr. will pilot Uno from post 6.

Trainer Jonathan Thomas will saddle debut victor Nicky the Vest, who made his first start a winning one in wire-to-wire fashion by 3 ¼ lengths.

Owned by Robert LaPenta, the son of second-crop sire Runhappy broke his maiden on December 18 over a fast main track at the Gander distance, garnering an 83 Beyer for the win.

“Everything has gone well from a training perspective,” Thomas said. “The horse has done well, hopefully the weather complies.”

Thomas said Nicky the Vest showed speed in his gate works leading up to his debut, indicating that he would be forwardly placed.

“First time out, we just kind of play it at the break and go off whatever the horse’s inclination is,” Thomas said. “We really try to learn first time what they’re about, not force them to do anything. But also, with his gate works, we figured he would be somewhat prominent, we just didn’t think he would do it that easily.”

Although Thomas said he is taking it one race at a time, he expressed interest in facing open company with Nicky the Vest should he display a strong effort on Sunday.

“If he were to step up and runs super in the Gander, it could give us an excuse to get brave once,” Thomas said. “You just have to see what you got this time of the year. It’s fun having a nice 3-year-old this time of year and the New York bred element helps too.”

Bred by Highclere, Nicky the Vest is out of the Cat Thief mare Tazarine and was purchased for $110,000 from the OBS October Sale in 2019.

Leading rider Kendrick Carmouche, who rode Nicky the Vest on debut, will return to the saddle from post 5.

“With a nice forward horse like him, Kendrick has shown time and time again that he has a great knack for getting out of a horse’s way and letting them do their thing, or at least encouraging that without overdoing it,” Thomas said.

J and N Stables and Diamond M Stable’s Dancing Buck will try to replicate a winning effort over a sloppy Big A main track on December 31 for trainer Michelle Nevin.

After finishing second to Perfect Munnings on debut over the grass, the son of War Dancer broke his maiden by 2 1/4 lengths when slightly more forwardly-placed.

“He ran well on both surfaces,” Nevin said. “First time he might have been a bit green. He came back and ran a nice race on the dirt, so we’re adding more distance and we’ll see how he does.”

Dancing Buck is from the same family as Our Last Buck, who gave his owners their first stakes triumph in the January 9 Say Florida Sandy. The dam of Dancing Buck is multiple stakes-placed Frivolous Buck, whose half-sister Buck Mountain produced Our Last Buck – also trained by Nevin.

“They’re both pretty nice horses and seem pretty versatile,” Nevin said. “They can go a little bit of distance but also have enough gas to sprint. I’m hoping he’s along the same lines as Our Last Buck.”

Jockey Trevor McCarthy will pilot Dancing Buck from post 2.

Eddie F’s Racing’s Lobsta is a full brother to last year’s Gander champ Chowda. Trained by Gary Sciacca, the Emcee colt enters off a 5 3/4-length maiden score in a one-turn mile versus fellow state-breds on January 16 at the Big A.

Bred in New York by Fedwell Farm, Lobsta is out of the Chief Seattle mare Salty Little Sis. Eric Cancel retains the mount from post 3.

Completing the field are Horn of Plenty [post 1, Pablo Morales], and Re Created [post 7, Dylan Davis].

The Gander is slated as Race 8 on Aqueduct nine-race program, which has a first post of 1 p.m. Eastern.