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Alifyfe Racing’s Grade 2-placed Fingal’s Cave is poised to return from a more than one-year layoff in the $100,000 Bay Ridge, a one-turn mile for New York-bred fillies and mares 3-years-old and up slated for Thursday, December 28, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Bay Ridge is slated as Race 7 on the eight-race Thursday, December 28 card. First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.
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Trained by David Donk, the 4-year-old Carpe Diem bay won her first four outings, spanning a state-bred maiden win traveling six furlongs against elders in May 2022 at Belmont Park to a half-length score in the state-bred Fleet Indian going nine furlongs that August over a muddy and sealed main track at Saratoga Race Course.
Fingal’s Cave was last seen finishing a game second in the Grade 2 Raven Run in October 2022 at Keeneland where she was bumped at the break and squeezed back before closing from last-of-9 and 9 1/4-lengths off the pace to finish second, defeated four lengths by Wicked Halo.
“It was a big effort at Keeneland which was a speed-favoring racetrack at the time,” Donk recalled. “Once she broke, I didn’t think she had any chance to hit the board so I thought it was a really huge effort.
“We put her away and later on she was diagnosed with a little bone bruising,” added Donk. “She was back in training in Kentucky over the summer/fall and had some foot bruises, so she was a little delayed getting to me but she came in great shape. She’s done really well since she’s been here.”
Fingal’s Cave has worked four times over the dirt training track at Belmont Park, including a bullet five-eighths breeze from the gate Saturday in 1:00.66.
“She went in a minute and three-fifths which is a fast time over that track and she galloped out really well,” Donk said.
Fingal’s Cave utilized prominent trips to win against elders in both a seven-furlong state-bred allowance in June 2022 at Belmont and an open-company allowance traveling nine furlongs one month later at the Spa.
Donk said he is confident Fingal’s Cave will handle a one-turn mile on her return to racing action.
“She has a really nice cruising, tactical style,” Donk said. “It’s a starting point, but the way she breezed I’m pretty comfortable with her going a mile.”
The $75,000 purchase from the 2021 OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training is out of the winning Mineshaft mare Barbie On a Budget, who is a full-sister to multiple stakes-winner Mineralogist. Fingal’s Cave’s second dam is Grade 2-winner Seeking the Ante, a half-sister to Grade 1-winner Friends Lake.
Fingal’s Cave, assigned 121 pounds, will exit post 2 under Jose Lezcano.
Trainer Jorge Abreu will saddle a pair of contenders in stakes-winner Cairo Sugar [post 1, Isaac Castillo, 120 pounds] and the multiple graded stakes-placed Venti Valentine [post 3, Manny Franco, 126 pounds], who will look to defend her title in this event.
NY Final Furlong Racing Stable and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ Venti Valentine has banked $701,600 through a record of 16-6-2-4 that includes graded placings traveling nine furlongs at the Big A in the 2021 Grade 2 Demoiselle [2nd] and 2022 Grade 3 Gazelle [3rd], as well as a last-out third behind the victorious Dr B in the Grade 3 Go for Wand on December 2 traveling a one-turn mile over a muddy and sealed main track.
The 4-year-old Firing Line chestnut, bred by Final Furlong Racing Stable and Maspeth Stable, is a four-time stakes winner with scores last year here in the one-mile Busher Invitational versus open company and a dominant 3 3/4-length win over returning rival Know It All Audrey in last year’s Bay Ridge contested over a muddy and sealed main track.
Venti Valentine, who finished third to the victorious Know It All Audrey in the nine-furlong Empire Distaff in October here, added state-bred scores in the Spa’s Johnstone Mile Handicap and the 1 1/16-mile Jack Betta Be Rite at Finger Lakes to her ledger this year.
Dan Zanatta, co-managing partner of Final Furlong Racing Stable, praised Venti Valentine for her trademark consistency.
“Coming out of Saratoga, we put together a long-term plan for her to run in the Empire Distaff, Go for Wand and come back to defend her title in the Bay Ridge,” Zanatta said. “So, we’ve been able to meet all those challenges and compete well.
“I thought she ran a very strong race in the Go for Wand,” added Zanatta. “She was definitely running against the bias of the racetrack last time. That track was favoring speed on the front end and she was obviously coming from off-the-pace. She never really got to be on the outside of horses and was stuck on the rail the whole time, but she still got up for third as the longest shot on the board, so we were happy with the effort.”
Venti Valentine, out of the winning Medaglia d’Oro mare Glory Gold, is a half-sister to multiple stakes-winning New York-bred Espresso Shot, a Mission Impazible bay who banked $516,625 through a 24-5-3-4 ledger while campaigned by NY Final Furlong Racing Stable in partnership with Maspeth Stables and Parkland Thoroughbreds.
Espresso Shot, who won three one-turn mile stakes at the Big A as well as a seven-furlong score in the NYSSS Staten Island, sold for $300,000 at the conclusion of her 5-year-old campaign at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Mixed Sale as part of the “Night of the Stars” showcase.
On Saturday here, Landed, a 2-year-old half-sister by Omaha Beach, graduated by 5 1/2-lengths at second asking when stretched out to a one-turn mile. The Wesley Ward trainee, bred by Final Furlong Racing Stable and Maspeth Stable, was purchased by Lael Stables for $500,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale.
Zanatta, who noted the family’s impressive talents at a one-turn mile, said the team plans to bring back Venti Valentine for a 5-year-old campaign and then sell her at the Night of the Stars program in 2024.
“They all seem to do their best running at a one-turn mile. Regardless of their breeding, that seems to be what they want to do,” Zanatta said. “Espresso Shot fooled us and showed some ability [at other distances] at various times of her life, but always ran her best at a one-turn mile. Venti has shown the same as well, although she has been able to get two turns more successfully than her older sister did – but it seems a one-turn mile is where she does her best running and where she gets her best speed figures. That’s why running in the Go for Wand and coming back in the Bay Ridge was very enticing for us.
“I would never have thought Landed would be another one-turn mile horse, but she really seemed to improve on the stretch out yesterday,” Zanatta added. “She was a different-looking foal. She was more athletic and a little smaller, better balanced and had a better head than Espresso and Venti did. I thought she might be a better sprinter, but to see her stretch out and win so impressively was nice to see.”
AP Stable’s Cairo Sugar posted a 27-1 upset in the state-bred Maddie May here in February, scoring by 1 1/4-lengths in gate-to-wire fashion in the one-turn mile with Andrew Wolfsont up for her former conditioner Alan Bedard.
The sophomore daughter of Cairo Prince, bred by Kaz Hill Farm, joined the Abreu barn following back-to-back victories against open-company winners when besting elders at Parx in July and Delaware Park in October. Cairo Sugar has made two starts here for Abreu, landing fourth in the state-bred Iroquois on October 29 and fifth in an open optional-claimer on December 1.
Trainer Linda Rice, who leads the Big A fall meet with 16 wins, will saddle the multiple stakes-placed Bustin Bay [post 5, Kendrick Carmouche, 121 pounds].
Winning Move Stable’s Bustin Bay, a 5-year-old Bustin Stones dark bay, was last seen on December 3 finishing second to Morning Matcha in the NYSSS Staten Island contested at seven furlongs over a sloppy and sealed Big A main track.
Bred by Robert D. Rosenthal, Peter Rosenthal and Martin Greenberg, Bustin Bay boasts a career record of 38-11-8-5 for purse earnings of $616,960 with six of those wins on the Big A main track
Rice, in search of her first Bay Ridge win, is enjoying a tremendous season with 161 NYRA circuit wins on the year. With four racing dates left on the NYRA calendar in 2023, Rice is chasing the record of 164 wins set by conditioner David Jacobson in 2013.
Know It All Audrey [post 6, Dylan Davis, 126 pounds], who was scratched from the Grade 3 Go for Wand here on December 2, will make her first start since her aforementioned Empire Distaff score on October 29.
Trained and co-owned by Oscar Barrera, III with Three Player’s Stable, the 4-year-old Shackleford bay, bred by Geraldine Mazza, provided the conditioner with his first stakes win with the 2 3/4-length victory over Ichiban.
All seven of Know It All Audrey’s wins have come on the Big A main track where she boasts a 16-7-5-1 record.
Rounding out the field is Marjorie Krohn’s stakes-placed Sweetie [post 4, Romero Maragh, 121 pounds] for trainer Gary Sciacca; and Gallagher’s Stud’s homebred Sweet Mystery [post 7, Trevor McCarthy, 121 pounds], a three-time winner for trainer Pat Quick.
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