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OZONE PARK, NY – Sam-Son Farm’s Grade 1 winner El Tormenta returns from a six-month layoff in Saturday’s fourth renewal of the $100,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship at 6 furlongs on the outer turf for 3-year-olds and up at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship is one of four $100,000 stakes on Saturday’s lucrative card, which also includes the Discovery (G3) at 9 furlongs for 3-year-olds; the Long Island (G3) at 11 furlongs on the inner turf for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up; and the Central Park for juveniles at 8 1/2 iles on the turf.
Last year, El Tormenta captured the 7-furlong Connaught Cup (G2) and sprung a 44/1 upset over Got Stormy in the Woodbine Mile (G1) in a productive campaign on the Woodbine turf for trainer Gail Cox.
In the Woodbine Mile, El Tormenta saved ground in fifth position after breaking from the one-hole and swung out wide for racing room in early stretch to edge Got Stormy by a 1/2-length.
Cox said El Tormenta entered the Woodbine Mile from troubled trips when second in an allowance sprint and fourth in the Play the King (G2).
“I didn’t think he should be those odds that day,” said Cox. “He’d spent the 2 previous races getting in a lot of trouble. In the Woodbine Mile, he was sitting behind horses and I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh no, not again,’ but he barged his way through there. He ran an awesome race. It was a tough field. Got Stormy is so nice.”
El Tormenta will mark the first starter for Cox at the Big A. The talented homebred, out of the winning El Prado mare Torreadora, comes from a famous Sam-Son family line that traces back to his fourth dam Classy ‘n Smart, who produced Hall of Famer Dance Smartly.
The 5-year-old Stormy Atlantic gelding has raced just twice this season but has trained extensively at Woodbine following a last-out sixth, defeated 4 3/4 lengths by eventual Fourstardave (G1) champ Halladay in the Sunshine Forever on May 9 at Gulfstream Park under returning rider Dylan Davis.
El Tormenta worked 5/8 in 1:01.20 on the Woodbine dirt training track on November 21. Cox said the dark bay is in good order.
“He’s been training great and we’re really happy with him,” said Cox. “He came out of that last race fine and was at the farm for a little bit and when he came to me here, he came up with a little issue. I’ve been getting him steadily ready here, but we ran out of races here. He just wasn’t ready in time for the last turf race.”
Cox said the versatile Ontario-bred should handle the cut back in distance to 3/4 of a mile.
“Our mile (at Woodbine) is a one-turn mile and 7/8 is probably ideal for him, but he’s been pretty sharp in his races,” said Cox. “He’s a horse that has some speed and I think this is a good distance for him. Dylan rode him very well, so at least he’s been on him and knows him.”
Cox sprung a significant upset this summer at Saratoga when Sam-Son Farm homebred Say the Word rallied from last-of-10 under Junior Alvarado to score at 51/1 in an optional-claiming event at 1 3/16-miles on the turf.
El Tormenta will emerge from post 7.
Christophe Clement, the Big A fall meet’s leading trainer with 10 wins, will saddle a pair of Empire State homebreds in Oak Bluff Stables’ Therapist and Patricia Generazio’s Maxwell Esquire as he looks to secure his second win in the Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship following White Flag’s 2018 score.
Therapist, a 5-year-old son of Freud bred by Clement in partnership with Oak Bluff Stable, notched his eighth stakes win overall and sixth versus open company last out when rallying for a neck score in the 1-mile Artie Schiller on November 14 on the Aqueduct inner turf.
With victories ranging from 6 furlongs to 1 mile, Clement said the chestnut will need a stiff pace.
“I’ve always thought his best distance was around 7/8,” said Clement. “When you go a mile or a mile and 1/16, you stretch him a bit. If they go fast enough in front, it will be competitive.
“He’s doing well and he’s very sound at the moment,” added Clement. “He’s won 8 stakes and not many horses win 8 stakes in their life.”
Maxwell Esquire, a 3-year-old son of Discreet Cat, enters from a pair of turf sprint wins at Belmont Park, including a nose score traveling 7 furlongs on September 19 against older state-breds and a 2 1/4-length score on October 16 when besting older, open company on yielding turf.
“It’s the last chance to run them before giving them a break and he’s been doing well,” said Clement.
Eric Cancel will pilot Therapist from post 10, while Jorge Vargas Jr. will guide Maxwell Esquire from post 8.
Crawford Farms Racing’s Archidust, a 4-year-old Verrazano chestnut trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, captured a pair of 5 1/2-furlong turf sprints at Monmouth Park over the summer, including the Wolf Hill and Get Serious.
Last out, Archidust finished third as the beaten favorite in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational at 6 furlongs on October 4.
Nik Juarez has the call from post 9.
The Estate of Paul Pompa Jr.’s Turned Aside captured the Quick Call (G3) in July at Saratoga for trainer Linda Rice. The American Pharoah sophomore exited that event to finish fifth as the favorite in the Franklin-Simpson (G3) last out on September 16 at Kentucky Downs.
Jose Lezcano, aboard for the Quick Call score, returns to the saddle from post 6.
Rounding out a competitive field are Lonhtwist (post 1, Mike Luzzi), Battle Station (post 2, Kendrick Carmouche), Sayyaaf (post 3, Jose Ortiz), True Valour (post 4, Junior Alvarado), and Hollywood Talent (post 5, Andre Worrie).
The Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship is slated as Race 9 on Saturday’s 10-race card. First post is 11:50 a.m. America’s Day at the Races will present daily television coverage of the Aqueduct fall meet with coverage to air on FOX Sports and MSG Networks.
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