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Excelsior Stakes 2024 | Aqueduct Picks
Olympic Dreams (NYRA)

Excelsior Stakes 2024 | Aqueduct Picks

Gallagher’s Stud’s New York homebred Olympic Dreams vies for his first stakes triumph in Saturday’s Listed $150,000 Excelsior, a nine-furlong route for older horses, on Closing Day of the winter meet at Aqueduct Racetrack.

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Trained by Patrick Quick, the 5-year-old Medaglia d’Oro gelding has hit the board in each of his last five outings, including a last-out pacesetting victory in a nine-furlong optional claimer on Thursday here at Aqueduct. The talented gray dueled with Tabeguache throughout, but turned back his rival tenaciously in the stretch to win by a head in a final time of 1:50.13. He earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure for the win, tied for the best last-out number in the field.

“He ran a great race and came out of it good; there’s no races for him in the month of April and not much in May either, so we thought we’d run him back,” said Quick. “It is short rest and that’s always concerning, but he’s just doing great and is healthy as can be. Everything is going in a good direction.”

Olympic Dreams was second two starts back in a one-mile optional claimer at Aqueduct, but has found his best stride at distances beyond one mile, including a three-quarter-length score in a nine-furlong state-bred optional claimer in August at Saratoga Race Course that awarded him a career-best 97 Beyer. He will make his third stakes appearance in the Excelsior, his best effort a narrow defeat in the 1 1/16-mile state-bred Commentator in May at Belmont Park.

“It’s definitely the longer the better,” said Quick. “He’s able to just keep at that same pace forever and just keeps going. Not everybody can do that.”

Quick said Olympic Dreams is well-loved in his barn.

“He makes it a joy to come to work every day,” said Quick. “Not only is he consistent, but he’s just a pleasure to be around. He’s beautiful to look at, he’s kind as can be and likes to play. He’s a really terrific horse.”

Out of the winning Distorted Humor mare Kirov, Olympic Dreams is a half-brother to the stakes-placed Frost Me. His second dam, Our Golden Song, is a half-sister to Drosselmeyer, who captured the 2010 Belmont Stakes and the following year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Regular pilot Trevor McCarthy has the call from post 6.

Trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr. has entered a strong pair of contenders in last-out Stymie-winner Kinetic Sky [post 4, Jose Lezcano] and multiple graded stakes-winner Messier [post 5, Jose Gomez].

Sanford Goldfarb, Alan Kahn, David Tanzman and Steven Speranza’s Kinetic Sky captured his first stakes win by a nose last out on March 2 over returning rival Quality Chic in the one-mile Stymie over sloppy and sealed Aqueduct footing. The 6-year-old Runhappy horse closed from 4 1/2 lengths off the pace with a 10-wide bid to nail Quality Chic at the wire and finish a half-length ahead of his third-place stablemate Petulante.

Kinetic Sky was haltered for $62,500 out of a one-mile tilt in April here and has posted three wins in eight starts for his current connections, including a nose score on December 28 that was followed three days later with a close third in the nine-furlong Queens County. He earned graded black type when a distant third in the Grade 3 Toboggan sprinting seven furlongs on February 3.

SF Racing, Madaket Stables, Lansdon Robbins, III, Tom Ryan, Robert Masterson, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan, Golconda Stable and Siena Farm’s Messier looks to notch his first win for Dutrow, Jr. after finishing second in his first start for him in a January 27 optional claimer traveling 1 1/16 miles at Laurel Park.

The 5-year-old Empire Maker bay earned a field-best 103 Beyer for a 15-length romp in the 2022 Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita Park when in the care of Hall of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert. The win, which is his latest trip to the winner’s circle, came two starts after his first graded score when capturing the Grade 3 Bob Hope as a juvenile at Del Mar.

Messier went on to finish second in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and off-the-board in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby for trainer Tim Yakteen before returning to the Baffert barn for the remainder of his sophomore season and the first start of his 4-year-old campaign last January.

Messier was away from the races for nearly one year and returned in December to finish third in a 6 1/2-furlong sprint over Tapeta at Woodbine for trainer Kevin Attard. He was then sent to Dutrow, Jr. to finish second in the aforementioned race at Laurel.

A $470,000 purchase at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase, the Ontario-bred Messier is out of the multiple stakes-winning Smart Strike mare Checkered Past, with his third dam being 2000 Canadian Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Catch the Ring. He has earned $467,440 through a record of 12-3-4-1.

Patricia L. Moseley’s Kentucky homebred Curbstone will make his stakes debut in his second start off a seven-month layoff for conditioner Tom Morley.

The consistent Curbstone makes his ninth outing for Morley, who has enjoyed wins and second-place finishes with the 5-year-old Street Sense gelding in six of his attempts since transferring from the barn of Brendan Walsh.

He was last seen returning victoriously from his extended respite on February 25 by capturing a one-mile optional claimer at Aqueduct by a half-length when rallying from 7 3/4 lengths off the pace.

Curbstone has made a steady progression through his conditions and was a six-length winner of a nine-furlong claiming tilt in December 2022 ahead of a 12 1/4-length romp in a starter allowance going the same distance last January, an effort that garnered a career-best 96 Beyer. He followed two starts later with an open-lengths score in a first-level optional claimer one year ago and a runner-up effort in the next condition before a distant off-the-board finish at Saratoga, his last effort before his layoff.

Curbstone is out of the stakes-placed Arch mare Archstone and is a half-brother to multiple graded stakes-winner Proctor’s Ledge, as well as the stakes-placed Mission Driven and stakes-placed hurdler Hanno. He has banked $303,570 through a record of 17-5-4-0.

Eric Cancel will look to engineer a winning trip from the outermost post 8.

Completing the Aqueduct field are:

  • The pair of multiple stakes-placed Quality Chic [post 7, Isaac Castillo] and three-time winner Laughing Boy [post 1, Samuel Camacho, Jr.] for trainer David Jacobson
  • Five-time winner Rocco Strong [post 2, Kendrick Carmouche] for trainer Michelle Giangiulio
  • Last-out optional-claiming winner Kuchar [post 3, Manny Franco] for trainer Rudy Rodriguez