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Major Dude Makes Turf Debut; World Championships The Goal | 2022 Pilgrim Stakes Preview & FREE Picks
Major Dude (Equi-Photo / Bill Denver)

Major Dude Makes Turf Debut; World Championships The Goal | 2022 Pilgrim Stakes Preview & FREE Picks

Aaron previews the 2022 Pilgrim Stakes (G2) at Belmont at the Big A, then gives his top picks and longshots from this “Win & You’re In” for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). The Todd Pletcher trainee Major Dude makes his turf debut with a trip to the World Championships as his ultimate goal, but is he good enough to get there? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The track press release:

West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing’s Battle of Normandy will report for duty against a wide open field of a dozen juvenile colts assembled for Sunday’s 44th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Pilgrim going 1 1/16 miles on the outer turf during the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.

The Pilgrim is one of three graded stakes events on Sunday’s program, and is a Breeders’ Cup “Win And You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on November 4 at Keeneland. Also featured on the card are the Grade 1, $400,000 Frizette – a “Win And You’re In” for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies – and the Grade 3, $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya.

Since the inception of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in 2007, the Pilgrim has been a notable steppingstone for the Juvenile Turf and has produced three horses to win both events – Oscar Performance [2016], Structor [2019] and Fire At Will [2020].

Battle of Normandy, trained by two-time Pilgrim-winning Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, was a late rallying second in the Grade 3 With Anticipation on August 31 over good inner turf at Saratoga Race Course, finishing a neck behind victorious 23-1 upset winner Boppy O. The son of freshman sire City of Light broke from the rail in the With Anticipation, maintained his inside position when fourth down the backstretch and made a strong bid in the stretch once he was in the clear, but was beaten a neck under Kendrick Carmouche.

The With Anticipation effort came one start following a triumphant career debut, where Battle of Normandy displayed similar stalking tactics and won by 2 3/4 lengths.

“We tried him back in the With Anticipation and we thought he ran a great race,” said Woodford Racing partner Ben Haggin. “He was stuck down there on the inside with the inside post and Kendrick told us he thought he ran a better race than his first one. Once he got him in the clear and was able to change leads and fully extend, he came running. Shug agreed that he ran a great race that day.”

Haggin, who operates Woodford Racing with Lane’s End Farm manager Bill Farish, spoke volumes of the relationship established with West Point Thoroughbreds. The two racing operations have recently joined forces with other partnerships in the purchasing and campaigning of multiple notable horses, such as the sensational Grade 1-winner Flightline as well as graded stakes winners First Captain and Promise Keeper.

“That relationship with Woodford Racing and West Point has been great for both parties,” Haggin said. “We’re buying mostly colts, but nice ones. Our investors in Woodford Racing love the action and especially in races like the Pilgrim. That’s why we do it.”

A victory could provide City of Light, who is amongst the most sought after first crop sires this year, with his first graded stakes winner as a stallion.

“We like the size and scope,” Haggin said regarding City of Light progeny. “With this colt, we feel like he should only improve as he continues to grow into his frame. We’re excited that he has two races under his belt and excited for his future. He’s a really cool colt. He seems to have bounced out of both of those races really well. He seems pretty laid back around the barn, like a lot of Shug’s horses, but once you put the tack on him, he turns into a real athlete.”

Battle of Normandy is out of the dual stakes-winning Kitten’s Joy mare Adorable Miss and is a direct descendant of breed-shaping broodmare La Troienne. He was bought for $500,000 at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale.

Carmouche has retained the mount aboard Battle of Normandy, who will break from post 5.

Trainer Chad Brown will saddle I’m Very Busy, who registered a 73 Beyer Speed Figure with a victorious debut on August 13 at Saratoga. Owned by Team Hanley, Richard Schermerhorn and Paul Braverman, the Pennsylvania-bred son of first crop sire Cloud Computing received a ground saving trip under returning rider Flavien Prat and drew clear to a 3 3/4-length win.

“He looks good, that horse,” said Brown, a three-time Pilgrim winner. “His debut was impressive; we worked him once on the turf and he did super. I like what I’ve seen.”

I’m Very Busy will leave from post 10.

Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher will debut Spendthrift Farm’s Major Dude on turf after two prior stakes engagements over the main track. The bay colt graduated at first asking in June over the Monmouth Park main track before finishing sixth in the Grade 3 Sanford on July 16 at Saratoga. He enters off a distant third in the Sapling at Monmouth, where he stretched out to a two-turn mile for the first time.

Pletcher has worked Major Dude over the turf twice heading into his grass debut, and commented that he appears to have moved up based off his turf breezes.

“It seems like some of the Bolt d’Oros have taken a step forward on the grass,” said Pletcher. “He’s formed decently on the dirt, but when you see him on the grass, his couple of works have indicated that he could make a move forward.”

Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride Major Dude from post 3.

Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Peter Searles and Patty Searles’ Ramblin’ Wreck is one of four New York-breds attempting to best open company. The Danny Gargan-trained son of Redesdale – who stands at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds for $2,500 – graduated at second asking in his turf debut on September 16 at Aqueduct, which he won by three lengths at 10-1 odds.

Bred by Ron Bowden, Ramblin’ Wreck is out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Dakota Kid – making him a half-brother to open company stakes and multiple New York-bred stakes winner Dakota Gold.

Manny Franco will ride from post 7.

Lawrence Goichman’s New York homebred Lachaise enters off a 1 1/4-length debut victory on August 4 at Saratoga for trainer Jorge Abreu. The son of 2016 Pilgrim winner Oscar Performance is out of Elusive Rumour, who has also produced stakes winners Myhartblongstodady, Runaway Rumour and Scuttlebuzz.

“He came out of his maiden race really well,” Abreu said. “I had him in the With Anticipation and unfortunately, he got sick and we had to scratch. But now he’s good.”

Although victorious, Lachaise did appear a bit green in the stretch run of his maiden win when drifting in slightly around the sixteenth-pole. 

“I think that’s just baby stuff in Saratoga with the screen and the crowd. I’m not looking for an excuse though because he won,” Abreu said.

Lachaise will be ridden by Jose Ortiz from post 9.

Completing the field are Fly Right [post 1, Javier Castellano], Noble Huntsman [post 2, Dylan Davis], Bramble Blaze [post 4, Madeline Rowland], Dataman [post 6, Joel Rosario], Vacation Dance [post 8, Luis Saez], Torigo [post 11, Junior Alvarado] and Movisitor [post 12, Trevor McCarthy].

The Pilgrim is carded as Race 9 on Sunday’s 10-race program. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.