OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Shadwell Stable’s undefeated Grade 3 Gotham hero Shagaf came out his 1 ¼-length victory in good order, according to trainer Chad Brown at Aqueduct Racetrack on Sunday afternoon.
“He looks great this morning, he ate up well,” he reported. “He looks sound, very happy.”
Although Shagaf’s come-from-behind Gotham score awarded the colt 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, virtually locking down a spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May, Brown said the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial on April 9 is still the next target for the bay son of Bernardini.
“He took plenty of dirt in the race, which will hopefully serve him well down the road,” he said of the Gotham win. “I think he gained a lot of experience, it was only his third start and this horse has done everything we asked him to do. I don’t think he could’ve run any better in any of the three races for what we want him to do. I’m very happy with the result and I’m happy with the education he got.”
“We’ve got a ways to go but he’s at least cleared one hurdle,” he added. “He’s emerged from the race alright and he’ll stay here and train. This is his home base, he likes it here.”
Klaravich Stable and William Lawrence’s Grade 3 Jerome winner Flexibility breezed this morning at Brown’s Belmont Park base, covering a half-mile on the dirt training track in 48.75 seconds. The Bluegrass Cat colt, who skipped the Gotham after finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Withers, could be pointed to either the Wood or the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland, the conditioner said, depending on how the Klaravich-owned Economic Model fares in next Saturday’s Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby.
“Flexibility went really well,” Brown said of the Sunday morning move. “We’re giving him a little breather between starts, which we had always planned to do after the Withers. A lot of the decision about [his next race] will be made based on how Economic Model runs, because right now, tentatively, Economic Model could end up in the Blue Grass so Flexibility is still a possibility for the Wood as well. All races are still in play.”
Sheep Pond Partner’s multiple Grade 1 winner Lady Eli is continuing her progress towards a much-anticipated 4-year-old campaign, recording her first official breeze last week. Brown’s star filly returned to training earlier this winter after overcoming laminitis after her impressive victory in the Belmont Oaks last July.
“She’s doing very well,” said Brown. “She’s going to have her second breeze tomorrow morning so I’m heading down to Florida tonight. Her first breeze was terrific, just what we wanted, and she came out of it good. She’s been training super.”
Brown said that the connections are in no rush for her comeback, adding that, “We’re just taking it week by week. She’s made it so far now, we couldn’t be happier.”
Grade 1 Sword Dancer winner Flintshire arrived at Brown’s Belmont barn from European-based trainer Andre Fabre Saturday following the standard quarantine procedure for international horses.
Now 6, Flintshire has posted five wins and 10 seconds from 19 starts, with his most high-profile starts coming in back-to-back runner-up efforts in the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The British-bred son of Dansili has not raced since finishing second in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase in December.
“We let him jog a mile under tack today and he looked great,” Brown reported. “The horse came from Andre Fabre in outstanding shape. We’re so thankful they sent us this horse to begin with and even more thankful he’s in such outstanding condition. He’s a remarkable looking horse, a picture of health right out of quarantine. We’re excited about him.”
Like Lady Eli, Brown said, the connections have no plans to rush Flintshire towards his 2016 campaign.
“We’re going to take some time to get to know the horse and pick up his training a little bit, then hopefully we’ll start to map out a schedule for him.”
G1 Wood Memorial ‘in consideration’ for Matt King Coal
Making his sophomore debut after breaking his maiden in this third career start in an Belmont special weight, where he received a 96 Beyer Speed Figure, the Linda Rice-trained Matt King Coal returned off a four month layoff and promptly placed himself on a potential course on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Breaking alertly from post 5 under jockey Jose Ortiz, Lady Shelia Stable’s son of Cool Coal Man went wire-to-wire in his return the races completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:44.92 to best an impressive field of five fellow 3-year-olds in an optional-claiming allowance on Sunday at Aqueduct.
“I thought he might be a little short today and that he really might need this race, so we’re delighted to get the win,” said Rice. “He broke his maiden on October 29 [at Belmont] and we had pointed towards the Jerome and he had gotten sick he had to take some time off and we were kind of struggling getting him back going again but it’s absolutely a step in the right direction towards facing graded stakes level competition.”
Opting to enter in Sunday’s allowance race instead of Saturday’s Grade 3 Gotham, Rice was pleased enough with the performance to keep sights of a start versus graded stakes level competition and the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 9 a strong possibility.
“We’re going to take it race by race but it’s absolutely a step in the right direction towards facing graded stakes level competition,” she said. “Obviously, the race right here at home the Wood Memorial is a big consideration but there are a lot of races around the same time to choose from [but] the Wood Memorial would be the most probable.”
Aqueduct Hosts Handicapping Tournament April 2
Aqueduct Racetrack will host a live-money handicapping tournament on Saturday, April 2, when guests will be able to experience the thrill of tournament play and compete for prize money, two seats to the National Handicapping Challenge, and one seat to the Breeders’ Cup Handicapping Challenge.
Taking place in the Manhattan Terrace lounge at the Big A, the breakdown of the $500 entry fee is as follows: $200 goes to the prize pool and the remaining $300 comprises the entrant’s bankroll for the day. Participants are eligible to place win, place, show, and exacta and trifecta wagers.