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Rego Park Stakes 2024 | Aqueduct Picks
Antonio of Venice (Joe Labozzetta / NYRA)

Rego Park Stakes 2024 | Aqueduct Picks

Michael Imperio, Robert Cotrone, Hibiscus Stables and trainer Rudy Rodriguez’s Antonio of Venice will look to build upon a last-out score in the December 16 NYSSS Great White Way when taking on six rivals in Sunday’s $100,000 Rego Park, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for New York-bred sophomores, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The Rego Park is slated as Race 9 on Sunday’s 10-race program. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern. 

The 6 1/2-furlong Rego Park for New York-bred sophomores saw four of its five original entrants, plus two new contenders, re-enter after the race was canceled last Sunday due to arctic temperatures in the New York metropolitan area.

The field will include returning entrants Mischief Joke [post 2, Dylan Davis], Antonio of Venice [post 3, Manny Franco], Detective Tom [post 4, Trevor McCarthy] and Always a Warrior [post 5, Eric Cancel], as well as new additions Thirteen Red Flags [post 1, Madison Olver] for conditioner Amira Chichakly and Allied Attack [post 6, Isaac Castillo] for trainer Mike Maker.

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“He’s doing good,” Rodriguez about Antonio of Venice. “I wish I had a little more time between races, but he’s good and he’s putting everything together. We’re taking a chance. He’s cutting back a little, which is OK.” 

The Laoban bay scored his first stakes triumph last out in the seven-furlong $500,000 Great White Way with a stalking trip under Manny Franco, racing a half-length off the pace set by stablemate Heavyweight Champs through splits of 22.49 seconds and 45.78 over the fast main track.

Antonio of Venice attempted to make a move along the inside in the turn, but angled out and pinched an advancing The Big Torpedo while losing ground.

A resolute Antonio of Venice re-rallied on the outside to inch clear to a three-quarter-length score over the wide-rallying Brick Ambush in a final time of 1:24.40.

The eventful stretch run resulted in the disqualification of Brick Ambush from second to last, and the elevation of The Big Torpedo from fourth to third. The Big Torpedo returned Saturday at the Big A to post a dominant 10-length victory in a state-bred maiden special weight for conditioner Tom Morley.

“That horse ran very good,” Rodriguez said of The Big Torpedo. “The last race was [solid], so let’s see how we run. Hopefully, we run the same way.”

Antonio of Venice made his first two outings sprinting five furlongs at Belmont Park before graduating when stretched out an extra sixteenth in a restricted maiden tilt in July at Saratoga Race Course where he posted a decisive 4 1/4-length victory over next-out winner Catire Vizcaya.

He made his next two starts in stakes company when finishing off-the-board in an off-the-turf edition of the Skidmore at the Spa and a pacesetting fourth in Finger Lakes Racetrack’s Aspirant where he was beaten just 1 1/4 lengths.

Antonio of Venice has worked back three times over the Belmont Park training track, most recently covering a half-mile in 49.77 seconds Monday.

“He’s a straightforward, nice, easy horse to deal with,” said Rodriguez. “He does his job very well, and nothing bothers him. He’s good. We’re just hoping for the best.”

Bred by Cypress Creek Equine, Antonio of Venice was purchased for $35,000 by Rodriguez at last year’s OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training. He is out of the winning Trappe Shot mare Stella Performance, a half-sister to Irish stakes-winner Bebhinn.

Franco retains the mount from post 2.

Paradise Farms Corp., Parkland Thoroughbreds, Barry Fowler and Angelo Carlesimo’s stakes-placed Mischief Joke [post 4, Dylan Davis] brings the most seasoned resume to the field as he makes his 10th lifetime outing for conditioner Mike Maker.

The Practical Joke dark bay enters from a hard-trying runner-up effort to Elysian Meadows in a local state-bred optional claimer sprinting six furlongs on December 15 that saw returning rivals Always a Warrior and Detective Tom finish third and fourth, respectively.

Mischief Joke tracked 1 1/2 lengths off the pace through the initial stages and tipped five-wide in the turn to put a head in front of Detective Tom and take up second position as he set his sights on Elysian Meadows.

Mischief Joke put in his best run in the stretch and inched closer under steady urging, but could not reel in his rival and was defeated three-quarter lengths.

Mischief Joke makes his third attempt at his first stakes victory, his best effort a third-place finish to Whatchatalkinabout in the six-furlong New York Breeders’ Futurity in October at Finger Lakes.

His lone victory came in a sixth-out graduation in September here when scoring by 4 1/4-lengths over next-out winner Perliano after hitting the board in his first five starts.

Bred by Pine Ridge Stables, Mischief Joke owns a consistent lifetime record of 9-1-5-2 and total purse earnings of $149,595.

Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Steven Rocco’s Big Prankster [post 3, Ruben Silvera] steps up to stakes company for the first time off an open-lengths graduation at third asking on December 2 here after finishing second to Elysian Meadows in November.

Trained by Christophe Clement, the Practical Joke chestnut led at each point of call in the six-furlong sprint over muddy and sealed footing to extend his margin to four lengths at the stretch call and 4 3/4 lengths at the wire to complete the course in 1:11.25. He was awarded a 69 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.

Bred by Annemarie Toomey, Big Prankster was a $230,000 purchase at the OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training where he breezed an eighth of a mile in 10 seconds. He is out of the Big Drama mare Big Thrill, a half-sister to multiple stakes-winner Determinato.

Blue Lion Thoroughbreds’ stakes-placed Detective Tom [post 5, Trevor McCarthy] returns to stakes company after his last-out fourth in the aforementioned optional claimer won by Elysian Meadows.

Trained by Michelle Nevin, the The Factor bay finished a close second in the six-furlong Notebook on November 18 in his first start for Nevin with a pacesetting trip under McCarthy. There, he coasted through splits of 23.28, 47.04 and 59.22 dug in gamely down the lane to maintain his advantage to the sixteenth marker, but could not fend off Works for Me and was defeated by a head.

The $90,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Preferred New York-bred Yearling Sale purchase graduated by a head in his August debut sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf at Saratoga when in the care of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. He was bred by Twin Farms, Thomas N. Mina and Walter S. Borisenok.

Completing the field is Mr. Amore Stable’s homebred Always a Warrior [post 1, Eric Cancel], who was last seen finishing third in the December 15 optional claimer for trainer Carlos David. The Poseidon’s Warrior dark bay is in search of his first trip to the winner’s circle since a debut victory in July at Saratoga when taking a 5 1/2-furlong state-bred maiden by 1 3/4 lengths in frontrunning fashion.