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Two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox will look to continue his strong start to the year in New York when sending out maiden winners Bergen and Air Cav in Saturday’s $100,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for sophomores, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
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Air Cav and Bergen will look to provide the fourth Big A stakes victory so far this year for Cox, who has enjoyed wins with Drum Roll Please in the Jerome, Gin Gin in the Busanda and Comparative in the Ladies.
Spendthrift Farm, Martin Schwartz, Gandharvi, Big Easy Racing, Winners Win, James Bakke, Titletown Racing, Kueber Racing, Golconda Stable, Ali Goodrich and Mark Parkinson’s Bergen enters from a deep-closing runner-up effort in a one-mile optional claimer in November at the Big A in his first try against winners.
The Liam’s Map grey rallied from 5 3/4 lengths off the pace with a seven-wide move under Flavien Prat to make up ground late and sweep past all but one rival, finishing 1 1/4 lengths back of the victorious Who Dey. He earned a 75 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.
The talented colt graduated on debut in October at Keeneland going the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes distance, utilizing a similar wide-closing trip under Prat to get up just in time and win by three-quarter lengths over the well-bred Linzer.
Bergen moved north to Belmont Park in December and has since posted five works over the training track under the watchful eye of Cox’s New York assistant Dustin Dugas. He most recently breezed a half-mile in 48.22 seconds Friday, posting the second-fastest effort of 123 works recorded at that distance.
“I’m really happy with the way he’s coming into this,” said Dugas. “His breezes have been really good and he’s always been a forward horse, but now he’s put that into good, useful energy. He’s grown up a bit.”
A $375,000 purchase at the OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, Bergen is out of the stakes-placed Harlan’s Holiday mare Toni’s Hollyday and is a half-brother to Grade 1-winner Chi Town Lady.
Manny Franco has the call from post 5.
Calumet Farm’s Air Cav will enjoy class relief as he looks to rebound from a distant fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Champagne won by stablemate Timberlake in October at Belmont at the Big A.
The Mitole chestnut was a prominent winner of his August debut sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs at Horseshoe Indianapolis where he scored by a neck over next-out winner Cats by Five, but was never involved in the one-mile Champagne over a sloppy and sealed Big A main track.
Air Cav also worked Friday at Belmont, covering a half-mile in 50 seconds flat.
“He’s training forwardly and I’m happy to get him back to the races,” said Dugas. “I think the cutback helps him – he ran so good first time out going five and a half.”
A $125,000 purchase at the 2021 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, Air Cav is out of the Elusive Quality mare In the Clouds.
His fourth dam is Reine-de-Course broodmare Homespun, who produced Grade/Group 1-winners Folk Art and Mashaallah, as well as Sportin’ Life, the sire of 1987 Belmont Stakes-winner Bet Twice.
Air Cav is also from the family of Grade 1-winners Hard Not to Love and Secret Spice, and Grade 2-winner Wonder Gadot.
Dylan Davis will ride from post 4.
KEM Stables’ Stolen Magic [post 3, Kendrick Carmouche] was awarded a field-best 83 Beyer for his last-out graduation at third asking on November 17 here.
Trained by 2023 leading NYRA conditioner Linda Rice, Stolen Magic cut back to sprinting for the first time after making his first two outings at a route of ground and relished the 6 1/2-furlong distance when pouncing from off the pace to score by 1 3/4-lengths.
The Good Magic bay faced strong competition on debut in a 1 1/16-mile turf maiden in September at Saratoga Race Course when defeated a neck by Agate Road, who exited that effort to win the Grade 2 Pilgrim at Belmont at the Big A.
Stolen Magic followed with a distant third-place effort in an off-the-turf one-mile maiden ahead of his breakthrough score in November.
Stolen Magic was an $85,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale and is out of the multiple graded stakes-placed Tapit mare Glory.
He is a full-brother to the stakes-placed Escape Artist, who finished third in Santa Anita Park’s nine-furlong Singletary on turf in May.
Trainer David Jacobson’s Iridescent [post 2, Isaac Castillo] is the lone entrant with two wins on his resume, most recently going wire-to-wire to annex a local six-furlong starter optional claimer on January 5 in his first start off the claim for Jacobson, who haltered him for $50,000 out of a runner-up effort in November.
The City of Light dark bay graduated on debut in August at Ellis Park when in the care of Cox and followed with two even fourth-place efforts en route to his November effort.
A $150,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Iridescent is the first foal produced from the Smart Strike mare Resolu, a half-sister to Grade 2 Del Mar Derby-winner Nolde.
Completing the field is J R Sanchez Racing Stable’s maiden winner El Divino Nino [post 1, Tais Lyapustina], who is cross-entered in Saturday’s Spectacular Bid at Laurel Park for conditioner Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon.
The Imagining gelding won at sixth asking last out in a six-furlong maiden tilt at Laurel in pacesetting fashion when able to make the early lead for the first time in his career.
He has made all six of his outings at the Maryland oval at distances ranging from 5 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles and will make the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes his first try out of town.
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