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Pierre Esquirol’s Alberta-homebred Jeff Fa Fa arrives on a four-race win streak to make his U.S. debut in Friday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Bold Ruler, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up, at Belmont at the Big A.
The Bold Ruler, slated as Race 8, is one of three stakes on Friday’s lucrative nine-race program, including the listed $135,000 Chelsey Flower in Race 6 and the re-scheduled listed $150,000 Athenia in Race 7. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.
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Previously trained by Wendy Anderson, the 4-year-old Competitive Edge gelding was transferred to conditioner Rob Atras, a native of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, following a track record performance last out in the 6 1/2-furlong Red Diamond Express Handicap on September 16 at Century Downs.
“Pierre called me up out of the blue to see if I’d take this horse and give it a shot – why not,” Atras said. “He’s won four in a row and broke the track record last out at Century. If he’s not this level we can find a different spot for him, but Pierre wanted to give him a shot at the top level in New York.”
With Damario Bynoe up from post 5 in the Red Diamond Express, Jeff Fa Fa blitzed through splits of 21.76 seconds, 44.42 and 1:08.67 over the fast main track en route to a 3 3/4-length score in final time of 1:15.26. The winning effort matched a career-best 77 Beyer Speed Figure.
Jeff Fa Fa has turned a corner this year, graduating at seventh asking in May at Assiniboia Downs before completing the exacta in a pair of allowance sprints at the Winnipeg, Manitoba oval, all with jockey Neville Stephenson aboard.
Bynoe then took the reins and Jeff Fa Fa has made every pole a winning one in four consecutive starts, including a trio of scores against winners at Assiniboia ahead of his Century Downs coup.
Atras said Jeff Fa Fa has arrived in New York in good order.
“He’s in great shape, carries good flesh and has a beautiful coat on him,” Atras said. “He’s built like a typical Competitive Edge – big hind end on him, kind of a quarter-horse type and very muscle bound. He’s a good looking horse.”
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Jeff Fa Fa has breezed twice locally for Atras, including a half-mile in 51.96 Sunday over the Belmont Park dirt training track.
“I breezed him this morning and he breezed easy last week. I haven’t done too much with him, but he’s been running all summer,” Atras said. “It’s a bit of a longshot but if he’s fast enough to get to the front – which looks like his preferred running style – you never know. It will be interesting to see.”
Jeff Fa Fa is out of the 11-time winning Awesome Again mare Alamanda Drive. His third dam, Marshesseaux, produced multiple Grade 1-winner Left Bank, who was named the 2002 Champion Older Horse following a track record score in the Grade 1 Whitney over Street Cry.
Kendrick Carmouche has the call aboard Jeff Fa Fa from post 8.
LRE Racing and JEH Racing Stable’s Grade 1-placed High Oak [post 9, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] will look to improve upon a distant fifth-place finish here last out in the seven-furlong Grade 2 Vosburgh.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the 4-year-old Gormley bay won his first two starts, graduating in June 2021 at Belmont Park and following two months later with a 4 1/4-length score over eventual dual Grade 1-winner Gunite in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special.
He is looking for his first win in nine starts since, but demonstrated signs of improvement this summer at the Spa with a rallying runner-up effort to next-out winner Scocciatore in July and a third-place finish one month later in the Grade 1 Forego when 5 3/4-lengths back of the victorious Gunite.
Mott will also send out Joseph G. McMahon, Anne McMahon and Michael J. McMahon’s Grade 1-placed Provocateur [post 4, Junior Alvarado], who will seek his first win since taking the Jersey Shore last August at Monmouth Park.
The 4-year-old Into Mischief colt, who completed the trifecta in last year’s Grade 1 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun at Belmont, was last seen finishing seventh in an optional claimer won by returning rival Cowan on October 14 here.
Trainer David Jacobson will send out a pair of contenders led by Stage Left [post 1, Isaac Castillo], who is also owned by the veteran conditioner and will look to secure his third stakes win of the season.
The 7-year-old Congrats gelding boasts a record of 11-3-1-2 this year led by wins in the off-the-turf King T. Leatherbury traveling 5 1/2-furlongs in April at Laurel Park and the six-furlong Rumson on September 3 at Monmouth Park.
He finished a good third in the Grade 3 Runhappy in May at Belmont Park, and arrives from a third-place effort in the six furlong Lite The Fuse on September 16 at Pimlico Race Course.
Jacobson will also saddle JKX Racing’s Durante [post 2, Manny Franco], who enjoyed a four-race win streak that spanned June through September with scores against winners at Los Alamitos Race Course in June, at Penn National and Saratoga Race Course in August and at Belmont at the Big A on September 23. The pacey 4-year-old Distorted Humor gelding enters from a narrow head defeat to returning rival Cowan in the aforementioned optional-claiming tilt.
Rounding out the field are:
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