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Greeley and Ben, winner of the Dave’s Friend on December 23 at Laurel Park, will look to secure millionaire status in Saturday’s Listed $150,000 Gravesend, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Gravesend is slated as Race 3 on Saturday’s nine-race card. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.
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Trained by Horacio De Paz for owner Darryl E. Abramowitz, the 9-year-old Greeley’s Conquest gelding has banked $981,138 through a 42-25-7-2 record that includes five stakes wins topped by a victory in last year’s Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap here at Aqueduct.
Greeley and Ben raced for six different trainers before joining the De Paz stable this year. He has made three 2023 starts at Laurel Park, finishing a distant sixth off a nearly one-year layoff in November before last-to-first wins traveling six furlongs in a December 2 optional-claimer and the aforementioned Dave’s Friend.
“He’s thriving. He’s in a good movement right now,” De Paz said. “When we ran him the first time, we had to train him and breeze him a few times to get him ready for the race. He’s a big, compact horse and carries good flesh, so he had to work some of that off.
“Now, it’s just a matter of maintaining his fitness without overdoing it,” continued De Paz. “If you go back and look at his past performances, he’s a horse that always ran back-to-back races. He’s been doing that awhile, so I think when he’s in a good moment you have to not take it away from him. Younger horses might need more time, but he seems to thrive off it.”
De Paz said Greeley and Ben, who took the Fall Highweight at Aqueduct on two weeks’ rest and won 15-of-17 races between April 2021 and September 2022, is a natural athlete.
“I’d compare him to Mike Tyson – someone that still looks like he could step in the ring, just very athletic naturally,” De Paz said. “That’s the way this horse is. He’s just a pro and physically, the way he carries himself, he’s very light on his feet for as old as he is.
“He’s very solid, very mature,” added De Paz. “I have horses that are 4-years-old that probably hit the ground harder than he does. He’s very athletic looking.”
Although Greeley and Ben closed from last in each of his recent two outings, including from 10th and 8 3/4-lengths off the pace in the Dave’s Friend, De Paz said the hard-knocking bay has considerable form to be closer to the pace if needed.
“I didn’t expect to be as far back as we were last time,” De Paz said. “He broke and left himself where he was at with the field running away from him. He came with a good run at the end. I don’t mind closing sprinters – sometimes I like them a bit more than sprinters who go to the lead and get in a dogfight and faze each other out because they go too fast.
“He’s done it every way and right now he seems to be running good from behind,” continued De Paz. “As he runs a little more, he’ll probably get a little sharper.”
Dylan Davis, who guided Greeley and Ben to a prominent allowance score here at Aqueduct last November, has the call from post 3.
Pantofel Stable, Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber’s New York-bred Bold Journey [post 4, Eric Cancel] will look to double up on stakes score for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
The 4-year-old Hard Spun colt made the grade last out in the six-furlong Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap on November 24 here with a last-to-first charge to best returning rivals Durante and Rotknee. With Jose Ortiz up, Bold Journey settled in fifth as Durante led through splits of 22.68 seconds and 46.06 over the fast main track. He was given his cue at the quarter-pole and tipped out eight-wide to score under a drive by one length over Durante in a final time of 1:10.91.
The victory marked the first stakes score for the Fred W. Hertrich, III and John D. Fielding-bred chestnut, who has banked $486,243 through a 19-6-6-0 record.
Trainer David Jacobson will saddle a pair of contenders in Durante [post 5, Manny Franco] and Stage Left [post 1, Ruben Silvera].
Durante, co-owned by Jacobson with JKX Racing, has won five of his last seven starts led by a frontrunning score in the six-furlong Grade 3 Bold Ruler on October 27 at Belmont at the Big A.
The 4-year-old Distorted Humor bay, previously trained in California by Keith Craigmyle, won from off-the-pace after stumbling at the start of his August debut for Jacobson at Penn National but has utilized a blistering pacesetting approach since.
Stage Left, by Congrats and out of the multiple graded stakes-winning Repent mare Diva Delite, is a half-brother to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Midnight Bisou. The 7-year-old dark bay gelding joined the Jacobson barn in March and has won 4-of-13 starts since, including scores in the off-the-turf King T. Leatherbury in April at Laurel and the Rumson in September at Monmouth Park.
Stage Left finished fourth in the Bold Ruler and arrives from a close sixth-place finish in the Dave’s Friend where he rallied seven-wide after exiting the outermost post 10.
Rounding out the field is William J. Butler’s New York-homebred Rotknee [post 2, Jose Lezcano], who has won 3-of-7 starts at Aqueduct led by a score in the state-bred Hudson in October over muddy and sealed going.
Trained by Mike Maker, the 4-year-old Runhappy colt earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure for his prominent effort in the Hudson where he opened up by 5 1/2-lengths at the stretch call en route to a one-length score over the late-running Grade 1-placed Ny Traffic, who is entered in Saturday’s Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream Park.
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