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FLORENCE, KY – A finalist for Canada’s top honors as a juvenile, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber’s Gretzky the Great gets what could be a big season going when he faces a packed field in Friday’s $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park.
The Battaglia Memorial is a 1 1/16-mile route on the synthetic main track restricted to 3-year-olds. This year’s edition is the fifth event on an 8-race card and has a local post time of 8:16 PM.
For the first time, the Battaglia Memorial is a Kentucky Derby (G1) prep race awarding 10 points to the winner, 4 to second, 2 to third, and 1 to fourth.
Here’s a look at the full field for the Battaglia:
1. Gretzky the Great 3/1 – He makes his 2021 debut here after putting together a 5-3-1-0 record as a juvenile, a string that included winning 2 stakes on the Woodbine turf including the Summer (G1). He broke his maiden by 4 1/4 lengths in an off-turf 6-furlong sprint on Woodbine’s synthetic main track and exits a sixth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).
2. The Predicament 20/1 – He broke his maiden at seventh asking 2 starts back in a local 6-furlong sprint and followed that with a runner-up finish against optional claimers last month. He’ll have to turn the tables on that race’s winner who drew directly to his outside, but while winning this seems difficult, he’s never finished off the board in 8 career starts and presents a square underneath option.
3. Twirling Mamba 10/1 – He defeated The Predicament and seven other rivals in a local 6-furlong sprint 1 start after finishing sixth behind eventual Risen Star Stakes (G2) champion Mandaloun. He’s yet to try routing but is bred to handle both the distance and the surface. Trainer John Ortiz hits at 24% with a strong $2.87 ROI in synthetic races.
4. Like the King 7/2 – He makes his first start of the year after putting together a 4-2-1-1 record that includes a strong 3 1/2-length gate-to-wire victory going a mile over this course last time out. He broke his maiden routing on turf and seems well-suited for the surface and distance; the only unknown is his development level from age 2 to 3. Trainer Wesley Ward won last year’s edition.
5. Kinetic Sky 9/2 – The dangerous Brad Cox barn sends this Runhappy colt to try synthetic for the first time after he broke his maiden in an off-turf fast dirt route at Fair Grounds. It was technically his second time crossing the wire first; he was disqualified and placed second on debut. He’s cross-entered in Saturday’s Black Gold Stakes at Fair Grounds.
6. Pico d’Oro 8/1 – He stretches back out to try routing for the second time after coming within a 1/2-length of winning last month’s 7-furlong Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct. He was a well-beaten fifth against optional claimers at Keeneland last October in his only other two-turn attempt, but he won here at that level 2 back going 6 furlongs.
7. Hard Rye Guy 15/1 – After failing to get the job done on turf and dirt, he showed an immediate love for the local synthetic 2 back with a maiden-breaking effort going a mile, then nearly repeated against optional claimers last out. That race’s winner is drawn directly outside, but he’s bred to handle extra distance, which might make a difference.
8. Hush of a Storm 10/1 – Though his debut was nothing more than an opportunity to watch nearly everyone else run faster, he left dirt for the local synthetic for his second start and won a mile-long route by 5 1/2 lengths. Pico d’Oro’s stablemate in the Billy Morey barn, he showed good fight to nail Hard Rye Guy last out and win by 3/4 of a length.
9. Fort Moultrie 20/1 – The only entry with a win over this exact course and distance, he accomplished that feat last out with a hard-fought 31/1 upset by a head. Trainer Reeve McGaughey (son of Shug, a Racing Dudes favorite) has only been training on his own for a short while but has already shown a propensity for synthetic (31% winners).
10. Notable Exception 30/1 – He broke his maiden on debut in a 7-furlong sprint over Arlington Park’s synthetic course last Labor Day, then made 2 failed dirt route attempts through late October before stepping away from the races. He’s trained well for his return and trainer Jack Sisterson’s barn has been hot to start the year (19-4-1-0 through Thursday).
11. Catman 15/1 – He gives synthetic racing a try after putting together a 6-1-1-0 record on turf that includes breaking his maiden in last October’s Laurel Futurity Stakes. He returned from a short break to finish fifth in the Texas Turf Mile Stakes and should be sharper in his second start back. His sire Kitten’s Joy produces 14% synthetic winners.
12. Warrior in Chief 8/1 – He returns from a 3-month break; when last seen, he broke his maiden in a 1 1/16-mile Churchill Downs dirt route while under pressure up front throughout. His sire Kantharos produces 17% synthetic winners. He’s cross-entered in a 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Park dirt route against optional claimers Friday.
13. Bakwena / (Also Eligible) – He’ll need at least one rival to scratch in order to make the field, but that could very well happen depending on where Kinetic Sky and Warrior in Chief race. He’s still a maiden through 3 starts, though he just missed beating Fort Moultrie by a head last time out.
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