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2023 Union Avenue Handicap Preview | At Saratoga, A Rematch For Kant Hurry Love, Grannys Connections
Kant Hurry Love (NYRA)

2023 Union Avenue Handicap Preview | At Saratoga, A Rematch For Kant Hurry Love, Grannys Connections

Ken Wheeler, Jr.’s Kant Hurry Love and Orpen Horses, Jack Hardin Towell, Jr. and Alan Griffin’s Grannys Connection, the respective one-two finishers in the $125,000 Dancin Renee on June 25 at Belmont Park, will square off once again in Friday’s $125,000 Union Avenue Handicap, a six-furlong main track sprint for New York-bred fillies and mares aged 3-years-old and up, at Saratoga Race Course.

The Union Avenue is slated as Race 4 on Friday’s 11-race card, which also features the rescheduled Grade 2, $500,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in Race 8 and the $125,000 Evan Shipman Handicap in Race 9. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

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Kant Hurry Love, trained by David Duggan, came out on the winning end of a tight photo finish with Grannys Connection in the six-furlong Dancin Renee, where the latter set the tempo with the former keeping close in second under returning rider Trevor McCarthy. Grannys Connection dug in gamely in the final sixteenth, but Kant Hurry Love found enough late to get her nose down first in a final time of 1:10.40.

“She’s training very well and there’s been no glitches,” said Duggan. “We’re exposed and we’ve got no secrets. She’s training good enough to repeat and I don’t see why there would be a regression. She’s been given enough time. I think it’s a competitive field.”

The 4-year-old Kantharos bay made her first 11 starts for conditioner Christophe Clement before moving to Duggan’s care in February. Since then, she has finished in-the-money in all five of her starts, including her Dancin Renee triumph and a victory against open allowance company in March at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Duggan, who is 1-for-3 at the Saratoga meet after scoring with Tie Breaker on July 21, said it is an indescribable feeling to saddle a prime contender in a stakes event at the Spa.

“Awesome. It’s just great. There’s no way to describe it without a curse word,” said Duggan, with a laugh. “Just to be here is a bonus, to have one that’s live is a bonus, and to win one is an even bigger bonus.”

Kant Hurry Love, bred by Dr. John McDermott and Laura McDermott, will emerge from post 5 in rein to McCarthy [122 pounds].

Trainer Tom Morley is hopeful the speedy Grannys Connection can turn the tables on her familiar foe after having a four-race win streak end in the Dancin Renee. The daughter of Connect won her first four outings this year in pacesetting fashion by a combined 27 1/4 lengths, led by an open optional claiming coup two starts back on May 28 at Monmouth Park.

Grannys Connection breezed three furlongs in 37.05 seconds Saturday in preparation for the Union Avenue.

“She looks unbelievably well. I’m really excited about it,” said Morley, who won two races on the July 28 card here. “I know she lost last time, but I think she’ll have learned a lot from that as it was the first time she’s been battle tested. She had to run all the way to the wire in the Dancin Renee, and she stuck her head out and fought hard. She had been winning races so comfortably before, I wonder if we’ll get more improvement from her.”

Bred by Paul Pompa, Jr., Grannys Connection was a $57,000 purchase at the OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training. With her regular pilot Eric Cancel sidelined by injury, Grannys Connection will emerge from post 2 with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano [120 pounds] in the irons for the first time.

Cloud Nine Stable’s multiple stakes-winner Betsy Blue [post 1, Jose Lezcano, 123 pounds] makes her second start off a four-month respite that ended with a fourth in the Dancin Renee one length back of Kant Hurry Love and Grannys Connection. Trained by Linda Rice, the Tonalist dark bay notched a pair of open-company stakes triumphs this winter in the Garland of Roses and Interborough, the latter of which came on just one week’s rest after finishing third in the Grade 3 Go for Wand.

Bred by Blue Devil Racing Stable, Betsy Blue was haltered for $50,000 by Rice out of a win in March 2021 and has finished in-the-money in 17-of-20 starts since. She boasts field-best earnings of $687,010 through a lifetime record of 23-10-8-2.

Betsy Blue is cross-entered in Wednesday’s Johnstone Mile Handicap at the Spa.

Completing the field are:

  • Tempermental [post 3, Dylan Davis, 116 pounds], a three-time winner who makes her first start off the claim for trainer Rob Atras
  • Last-out optional claiming winner Vallelujah [post 4, Jackie Davis, 117 pounds] for conditioner Robbie Davis
  • Defending Union Avenue-winner Bank On Anna [post 6, Luis Saez, 120 pounds] for trainer Phil Serpe