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Sycamore Preview: Maker Holds Strong Pair
Aquaphobia winning the United Nations (Credit: Bill Denver / Equi-Photo)

Sycamore Preview: Maker Holds Strong Pair

LEXINGTON, KY – Trainer Mike Maker holds a strong pair of entries in Aquaphobia and Big Agenda as he aims for his second straight title in Thursday’s $150,000 Sycamore Stakes (G3) at Keeneland.

The Sycamore is a 1 1/2-mile, three-turn turf route open to all horses ages 3 and up. This year’s edition is the penultimate event on a 9-race card and has a local post time of 4:57 PM.

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Here’s a look at the full field for the Sycamore:

1. Postulation 15/1 – A regular runner in extended turf events, he finished second by just 3/4 of a length in the Elkhorn Stakes (G2) over this course and distance in July. He’ll likely catch a much firmer surface here after crossing a well-beaten fifth in the Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) last time out over a soft Kentucky Downs going.

2. Red Knight 3/1 – Though unable to gain ground on the winner in the Kentucky Turf Cup last time out, he safely secured second over Zulu Alpha (one of America’s top older turf males) while earning a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure. He finished second by a 1/2-length in the 2019 Elkhorn Stakes (G2), held locally that year over a yielding grass course.

3. He’s No Lemon 15/1 – He’s likely to improve here if he catches a firm surface; his two off-the-board finishes in 2020 came over lawns with extra moisture and give in the ground. He showed heart 2 starts back to defeat optional claiming rivals in a 1 3/8-mile event at Saratoga and finished an impressive third in the Louisville Stakes (G3) earlier this year.

4. Split the Wickets 15/1 – He makes his graded stakes debut here despite only hitting the board once in 2 prior stakes attempts. He was fourth in his lone prior local start, coming against allowance rivals in a 1 3/16-mile event last October, but he’s won twice since then, including a 1 3/8-mile test at Churchill Downs last November.

5. Big Agenda 10/1 – He’s won both starts since joining Maker, who’s well-known for turning older turf horses into graded stakes contenders. His lone prior graded stakes attempt saw him finish a well-beaten eighth in January’s Tropical Turf Stakes (G3), but he’s already demonstrated that with Maker in his corner, he’s dangerous.

“We purchased him privately with the idea of stretching him out,” Maker said. “His last 2 starts, he showed he wants to go much further. I think he’ll be forwardly placed stretching out.”

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6. Aquaphobia 5/2 – Speaking of Maker, look no further than this son of Giant’s Causeway for a perfect example of his training magic. Since Maker claimed him for $62.5k in late January, he’s never finished worse than fourth while putting together a 6-2-1-1 record that includes winning July’s United Nations Stakes (G1) and earning over $300k in purses.

“He prefers much firmer ground (than he got last out in the Sword Dancer [G1],” Maker said. “He’ll try to save as much ground as he can (before rallying in the stretch).”

7. North Dakota 10/1 – Trainer Shug McGaughey pushes him up to the stakes level for the first time after he defeated optional claiming rivals at Colonial Downs in late July. He’s yet to stretch out beyond 1 1/8 miles, but this 4-year-old half-brother of top American turf sire War Front has shown improvement with each of his 4 starts in 2020 (3 of those were wins).

8. Morning Stride 20/1 – He takes the big step up to graded stakes company after putting together a 4-2-1-1 record at Gulfstream Park since his current connections claimed him for $12.5k in June. Included in that recent streak is a 1 1/2-mile score on the lawn, but he’ll need to run a career-best effort if he hopes to contend against these tough turfers.

9. Eons 20/1 – Trainer Arnaud Delacour sheds the blinkers after he ran a bit rank in the Kentucky Turf Cup, where he finished a well-beaten fourth after pressing the early pace. He won 4 straight last spring and summer, beginning with breaking his maiden over this course and ending in the Kent Stakes (G3), plus Delacour is a strong 18% winner on the grass.

10. Ziyad 5/2 – The British-bred Rock of Gibraltar gelding returns to North America for the second time after finishing third in last October’s Canadian International Stakes (G1) at Woodbine. He put together a 21-6-6-4 record in France before officially changing hands to trainer Graham Motion, who’s proven quite successful (22%) when saddling international runners.

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