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Aqueduct Preview | Turf Sprint Championship Stakes 2023: Our Shot Heads Penultimate Event
Aqueduct turf racing (NYRA)

Aqueduct Preview | Turf Sprint Championship Stakes 2023: Our Shot Heads Penultimate Event

Gatsas Stables, Steven Schoenfeld and trainer John Terranova’s graded stakes-placed Our Shot will look to end his prosperous season on a high note in Saturday’s seventh running of the listed $150,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship for 3-year-olds and upward going six furlongs over the Aqueduct Racetrack outer turf.

The Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship is slated as Race 9 on Saturday’s 10-race card, which also features the $100,000 Notebook in Race 4, the Grade 2, $250,000 Hill Prince in Race 5, and the $100,000 Key Cents in Race 8. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.

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The 4-year-old chestnut Kantharos gelding arrives from a strong runner-up effort in the Grade 2 Woodford on October 7 at Keeneland, where he rallied from nine lengths off the pace to finish a late-charging second by a nose over graded stakes winner Beer Can Man while finishing two lengths behind the victorious Arzak.

Our Shot has finished in the money in his last six efforts, which includes an allowance conquest in April at Keeneland as well as a main track allowance optional claiming win at Tampa Bay Downs in March and a Saratoga Race Course allowance optional claimer in August. He was also second beaten three-quarter lengths in the Get Serious in June at Monmouth Park two starts before finishing third beaten a neck in the Harvey Pack in September at the Spa to returning rival Thin White Duke and eventual Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint runner-up Big Invasion.

Terranova said Breeders’ Cup aspirations weren’t in mind for Our Shot.

“We weren’t really thinking that way this year,” Terranova said. “I think he’s potentially that caliber for sure, and he’s obviously ran against some horses that were pretty competitive in the Breeders’ Cup, like Big Invasion who ran a huge race. We faced him in Saratoga and ran right with him. Even though he’s 4 going on 5, I think he’s still the type of turf sprinter that’s improving.”

Our Shot, who brags an overall record of 11-5-2-1 with $313,663 in earnings, has developed well throughout his 4-year-old season, according to Terranova.

“He has a great mind and he’s a good, strong, and sound horse,” Terranova said. “We took our time with him early on to develop him because we thought we had something that could potentially be a high quality caliber runner on the grass sprinting. Whether he gets a middle distance at some point is hard to say, but right now we’ve been doing really well in these sprints. He’s shown up every time this year. We’ll hopefully finish off the season in a good way.”

Terranova said Our Shot will get a brief freshening over the winter with a possible return at Keeneland in the spring.

“If he keeps going on this trajectory, he can run with the top turf sprinters and maybe take down some of these top races next season,” Terranova said. “But right now, everything has gone right in between races. We’ll let him lead us to where we need to go. We’ll probably give him a little reset after this. We space his races out pretty well anyway. More than likely we’ll be targeting Keeneland in the spring. He ran really well there twice, so that’s what we may be looking to do.”

Irad Ortiz, Jr., who piloted inaugural Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship winner Rainbow Heir, will pick up the mount aboard Our Shot from post 4.

Trainer David Donk will saddle multiple graded stakes-placed New York-bred Thin White Duke [post 11, Jose Lezcano] following a pair of stakes placings on the main track.

The 5-year-old Dominus gelding, owned by breeder Phil Gleaves, Steve Crist, Ken deRegt and Bryan Hilliard, finished third in the state-bred Hudson on October 29 over a muddy and sealed Big A main track after finishing second in an off-the-turf edition of the Belmont Turf Sprint on October 7 over similar track conditions. He entered these respective events from a victory in the Harvey Pack – an event he won last year when ran as the Lucky Coin.

“I’m looking forward to getting back on the grass for one more this season,” Donk said. “I was a bit surprised how well he ran on the dirt against that kind of company. He’s done well for us and we’re looking forward to running him again.”

Thin White Duke finished third in last year’s running of this event while also bragging main track stakes wins as a 2-year-old in the Funny Cide at Saratoga and the Aspirant at Finger Lakes, both won while under the care of co-owner and now retired trainer Phil Gleaves. For Donk, he won four races and picked up graded placings when finishing third in the last two runnings of the Grade3 Troy at Saratoga.

“He’s a really nice horse to have in the barn,” Donk said. “He’ll get a couple months off after this, which has been our routine with most of the grass horses. We’ll freshen him up and have him ready for the spring.”

Last year’s winner Nothing Better [post 6, Dylan Davis] will return to the Big A in search of a title defense for trainer Jorge Duarte, Jr. Owned by Colts Neck Stables, the 6-year-old Munnings chestnut was a last out pacesetting second beaten a head in a September allowance optional claimer to Today’s Flavor, who exited that event to win the Belmont Turf Sprint.

Following a highly consistent 2022 campaign, which saw Nothing Better record a 7-4-2-1 season, he broke a Big A track record on the outer turf when winning at allowance optional claiming level going six furlongs, covering the distance in 1:06.80.

Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher will saddle Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Wit [post 1, Jose Ortiz], who finished third in the Belmont Turf Sprint. The 4-year-old Practical Joke dark bay is in search of his first trip to the winner’s circle since winning last year’s one-mile restricted Better Talk Now at Saratoga. A stakes winner on turf and dual graded stakes winner on dirt, Wit captured last year’s Grade 3 Bay Shore at the Big A as well as the Grade 3 Sanford in July 2021.

Charles Matses’ Kentucky homebred Alogon [post 2, Manny Franco] was a last out fourth in the Belmont Turf Sprint, which came following a narrow runner-up placing to eventual Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Nobals in the Da Hos on September 9 at Colonial Downs. Trained by Ned Allard the 4-year-old California Chrome chestnut captured the Wolf Hill on July 22 at Monmouth, two starts after a triumphant 2023 debut in a Pimlico Race Course allowance in May.

Completing the field are the John Kimmel-trained graded stakes-placed Vacation Dance [post 3, Isaac Castillo], the John Kirby-trained graded stakes-placed Boat’s a Rockin [post 5, Trevor McCarthy], stakes-winner Fore Harp [post 7, Frankie Pennington] for trainer Butch Reid, Jr., Elizabeth Merryman-trained multiple-stakes winner Witty [post 8, Javier Castellano], the Madison Meyers-trained stakes winner Grateful Bred [post 9, Katie Davis], multiple graded stakes-placed New York-bred Run Curtis Run [post 10, Jose Gomez] for trainer Mike Maker, and the Michelle Nevin-trained graded stakes winner Dancing Buck [post 12, Kendrick Carmouche].

Bring Me a Check and Sosua Summer are listed as also eligible. Durante and Sheriff Bianco have been entered for the main track only.