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Magic previews the 2022 Artie Schiller Stakes at Aqueduct, then gives his top picks and long shots. Multiple graded stakes winner Decorated Invader could be peaking at the right time as the Christophe Clement trainee makes his third start back from a 16-month layoff. Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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Wertheimer and Frere’s Pao Alto looks to earn his first stateside victory for conditioner Graham Motion in Sunday’s $135,000 Artie Schiller, a one-mile inner turf test for 3-year-olds and up, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Pao Alto, a 5-year-old French-bred son of Intello, will cut back one furlong from his last outing when finishing eighth in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Knickerbocker on October 9 at Belmont at the Big A. Ridden by Jevian Toledo, Pao Alto tracked in eighth-of-10 throughout but never improved position and was defeated four lengths by the victorious King Cause, who went wire-to-wire after setting tepid fractions.
Motion said he is hopeful the mile distance will give Pao Alto a better pace scenario.
“I think he’s doing well,” Motion said. “I think he just had a little too much to do. He was far off the pace and it was hard to close into it. The turf course has kind of favored horses who are more forwardly placed. Hopefully, there’s a little more pace in the race and that will help him.”
Pao Alto was a multiple group winner for former trainer Christophe Ferland in his native France, beginning with a 1 1/2-length score in the 2020 Group 3 Prix la Force at Longchamp. The gelding went on to finish a close sixth in the 1 5/16-mile Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club in his next outing, finishing just 3 3/4 lengths behind the well-regarded Mishriff after stalking from the middle of the 16-horse field.
The $183,008 Arqana Deauville Yearling Sale purchase picked up another group placing when third in the Group 2 Prix Hocquart in August 2020 at Deauville before finding the winner’s circle again eight starts later with a pair of wins to kick off this year’s campaign. After scoring an allowance in January at Cagnes-sur-Mer, he captured the Group 2 Irish Thoroughbred Marketing at Doha in Qatar.
Pao Alto made two more off-the-board finishes this spring before shipping stateside for his first American start in Pimlico Race Course’s Grade 3 Baltimore/Washington International Turf on September 10. There, he rallied from 5 1/2 lengths off the pace to briefly hold a half-length advantage at the stretch call of the one-mile turf test, but was collared by multiple graded stakes-winner Set Piece and defeated 1 1/2 lengths. The effort was awarded a 96 Beyer Speed Figure.
“He ran how you would hope he would,” said Motion. “He’s a horse we’re still learning about, but having said that, he is pretty straightforward. I haven’t had him that long, but they thought highly of him when they sent him over to me, and he sure hasn’t showed me otherwise. He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do.”
Motion said Pao Alto, who has been effective at distances ranging from 7 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles, may want more ground in the future.
“I don’t know what his optimal distance is at this point. At this time of year, you’re at the hands of the condition book,” Motion said. “But speaking to the connections, they felt a mile to a mile and a furlong is within his reach. At some point, we might even stretch him out a little further.”
Trevor McCarthy picks up the mount from post 7.
Trainer Christophe Clement sends out the duo of West Point Thoroughbreds, William T. Freeman, William Sandbrook and Cheryl Manning’s multiple graded stakes winner Decorated Invader [post 8, Kendrick Carmouche] and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Steven Rocco and William Branch’s four-time winner Big Everest [post 3, Joel Rosario].
Decorated Invader, a 5-year-old son of Declaration of War, was last seen winning his second start off a 16-month layoff with a closing 1 1/2-length victory in a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer on October 23 over the Woodbine turf.
“It’s coming back a bit quick, but he’s doing well,” said Clement. “He ran very well at Woodbine. He behaved well and won going away. It was a good race. It’s a much tougher race here on paper.”
Decorated Invader’s biggest victory came over the same course as a juvenile, taking the 2019 Grade 1 Summer traveling one mile before a game fourth-place finish in that year’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita.
The $200,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase is in search of his first stakes victory since a three-race win streak in 2020 that saw him score in the Cutler Bay at Gulfstream Park, the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge at Belmont Park and the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame at Saratoga Race Course. His other start this year was a nose defeat in a one-mile optional claimer in September at Pimlico.
Big Everest vies for his first stakes triumph in his second attempt. The 4-year-old The Gurkha bay was also a last-out winner in optional claiming company on September 29 at Belmont at the Big A where he garnered a career-best 94 Beyer. He finished sixth in last year’s Allied Forces at Belmont in his lone stakes outing.
Clement said Big Everest may have to overcome a wet turf course with showers forecasted this weekend.
“He’s been a very honest horse,” said Clement. “The idea was always to run him in stakes [company]. I’m not sure the soft turf is ideal for him.”
Skychai Racing and David Koenig’s New York-bred millionaire Somelikeithotbrown will try for his third stakes win this year in his 30th lifetime start for trainer Mike Maker.
Bred by Hot Pink Stables and Sand Dollar Stables, Somelikeithotbrown has won at least one graded event each year since 2019. The bay son of Big Brown earned a Grade 1 placing when third in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and kicked off his 2019 campaign with a pair of wins over Turfway Park’s synthetic in the John Battaglia and Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks. He finished a close fourth over dirt in the Grade 2 Blue Grass that April at Keeneland before sitting out the rest of the year.
Somelikeithotbrown established himself as middle-distance turf specialist in 2020, securing graded wins in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch at Saratoga and a frontrunning score against fellow state-breds in the Mohawk at Belmont. Last year, he earned another graded victory in the Grade 2 Dinner Party at Pimilco before landing a repeat score in the Mohawk.
This year, Somelikeithotbrown earned back-to-back victories in an off-the-turf running of the West Point presented by Trustco Bank in August at Saratoga and in the Grade 3 Mint Million in September at Kentucky Downs. His latest effort was a distant 11th in the Grade 1 Coolmore Turf Mile on October 8 at Keeneland. He boasts field-best earnings of $1.65 million through a record of 29-10-6-4.
Jose Ortiz retains the mount from post 9.
Maker will also be represented by Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher’s stakes-placed Shadow Sphinx [post 2, Javier Castellano]. The 7-year-old Pioneerof the Nile gelding enters from a close runner-up effort to graded stakes-winner Wootton Asset in a second-level optional claimer on October 27 at Belmont at the Big A in his first start for his current connections. His lone stakes placing came three starts back when third in the restricted Tapit on September 1 at Kentucky Downs.
Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown will be represented by Klaravich Stables’ dual graded stakes-placed Good Governance [post 6, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] and Peter Brant’s stakes-winning Sifting Sands [post 1, Manny Franco].
Good Governance was last seen posting a game runner-up effort in a one-mile third-level optional claimer on September 29 at Belmont at the Big A. There, he tracked in fifth under Irad Ortiz, Jr. before making his bid in the turn and picking off rivals at the top of the stretch. But the 6-year-old son of Kingman could not manage to run down returning foe Big Everest and came up three-quarter lengths shy of the victory.
The consistent Good Governance has never finished worse than fourth in nine lifetime outings that included a near miss in the 2019 Grade 3 Saranac at Saratoga Race Course where he lost by a neck to Global Access, and a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch the following year at the Spa. He is in search of his first stakes victory in his first attempt since finishing fourth in the Red Bank in September at Monmouth Park.
Sifting Sands, winner of last year’s Better Talk Now at Saratoga, will look to score his second win of the year after landing a gutsy half-length victory in a July optional claimer at Belmont. A 4-year-old son of Dubawi, Sifting Sands was most recently a good fourth in the Baltimore/Washington International Turf, finishing 2 1/2 lengths back of the victorious Set Piece and one length behind Pao Alto.
Completing the field are Woodslane Farm’s multiple graded stakes placed Kentucky homebred Wolfie’s Dynaghost [post 4, Jose Lezcano] for trainer Tom Albertrani; Team Valor International’s Grade 3-placed Homer Screen [post 5, Dylan Davis] for Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale; and Flying P Stable and James F. Schurman’s stakes-winning Dynadrive [post 10, Eric Cancel] for trainer Tom Morley.
Grade 2 Kelso winner Double Crown and multiple stakes placed Plot the Dots are entered for the main-track only for conditioner Lynn Cash, along with Airman for Albertrani.
The Artie Schiller is slated as Race 8 on Sunday’s nine-race program, which also features the $135,000 Winter Memories in Race 6. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.
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