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Hard Love steps up to stakes company in Central Park
Hard Love (Credit: NYRA)

Hard Love steps up to stakes company in Central Park

OZONE PARK, NY – Robert LaPenta and Augustin Stable’s Hard Love will look to build on a stellar debut victory when she makes her first stakes appearance in the $100,000 Central Park for 2-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the Aqueduct Racetrack inner turf on Saturday.

The third running of the Central Park is one of four stakes on Saturday’s 10-race card that also includes the $100,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship for 3-year-olds and up, the $100,000 Discovery (G3) for sophomores going 1 1/8 miles, and the $100,000 Long Island (G3) for fillies and mares 3 years old and up going 1 3/8 miles.

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Hard Love, by Kitten’s Joy, posted a 2-length score in his first-out effort on October 10 going 1 1/16 miles over the firm Belmont Park turf. Trainer Jonathan Thomas said his barn had bigger plans for Hard Love in 2021, targeting New York Racing Association turf races such as the Belmont Derby Invitational, Saratoga Derby, and Jockey Club Derby, but has accelerated his timeline and will face his first stakes company before capping his juvenile year.

“We were really impressed with him, mainly because of his size and the fact that we feel he’s more of a next-year horse,” Thomas said. “He didn’t really have the feel of a first-out winner, but he did everything the right way. He’s continued to do well, so it’s a good time to get his feet wet and participate in a stake and see what we have.

“Ultimately, the plan is to put him away and bring him back next year for that great series we have here in New York on the grass,” Thomas added. “He seems really determined and most importantly, he seems like a horse who is going to appreciate more ground, so we’ll get a chance to run him longer next year and hopefully that’s where we’ll see him flourish.”

Jose Ortiz will ride from post 7.

Repole Stable’s Never Surprised will wheel back from a first-out win on November 8 over the Aqueduct turf for trainer Todd Pletcher. Earlier this month, the Constitution colt drew away for a 3 1/2-length score in a 6-furlong turf sprint, earning an 88 Beyer Speed Figure.

Purchased for $200,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Never Surprised has continued to train at Belmont since that victory and will again team with jockey Kendrick Carmouche, breaking from post 8.

“He’s doing well. He’s coming back in three weeks, but he came out of his maiden win well, so we’re going to give it a try,” Pletcher said.

Eric Fein’s Breadman was also a debut winner, posting a 1 3/4-length victory going 1 mile on the Belmont turf on September 26. Trainer John Terranova moved the Constitution colt to the main track on October 24, where he ran third against fellow New York-breds in the one-mile Sleepy Hollow.

Returning to the grass and facing open company, Breadman, purchased for $340,000 at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale, will pick up Dylan Davis’ services from post 2.

“Breadman has been training really well and we’re looking forward to bringing him back after seeing what he did in the Sleepy Hollow,” Terranova said.

Terranova will also send out Original, who broke his maiden at second asking going 1 1/16 miles on the yielding Big A turf on November 14, from post 6 (Nik Juarez).

Scarlett Sky, trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey and owned by Stuart Janney, ran second in each of his first 2 starts before winning going 1 mile on the Belmont grass on October 23. Jose Lezcano will pick up the mount from post 5.

“He’s been training excellent,” McGaughey said. “His race last time was really good. He was lugging out a little bit when he finished second [on September 18 at second asking] and I got that straightened out and he ran a really good race the other day. All things being equal, I think he’ll run a good race coming back in there.”

Richie’s World Stable’s Run Casper Run will make his first start since a fifth-place finish in the Champagne (G1) on October 10 at Belmont. Trained by Juan Vazquez, the Ghostzapper colt broke his maiden at second asking going 5 furlongs on the main track on August 5 at Colonial Downs.

Andre Worrie will be in the irons from post 1.

Catman, the winner of the Laurel Futurity on October 3, Preakness Day, at Pimlico, will look to bounce back from an eighth-place finish in the Awad on October 31 at Belmont for trainer Mike Maker.

Jorge Vargas Jr. will have the call from post 9.

Rounding out the field is Take Profit, a last-out winner for trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer, from post 4 (Eric Cancel); Counterfeitcurency, runner-up on debut in September at Monmouth before winning at the same track on October 17, for trainer Derek Ryan (post 3, Mike Luzzi); and Royne, trained by Michael Dickinson (post 10, Luis Cardenas).

The Central Park is slated as Race 7 on the program, which offers a first post of 11:50 a.m. Eastern. 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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