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California group undeterred by untimely snowstorm
OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Despite a cruel joke from Mother Nature in the form of a snowstorm that dumped upward of four inches on the New York City area Monday, six stakes horses from the barns of California-based trainers Bobby Frankel and Bob Baffert were still scheduled to arrive Tuesday in New York on separate flights.
Empire Maker, who will tune up for the Kentucky Derby in Saturday's $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, was to arrive early Tuesday morning on a cargo plane along with stablemates Aldebaran and Special Rate, who will run in the Carter Handicap and Bay Shore Stakes, respectively, on the Wood undercard. They will be stabled in Richard Dutrow, Jr.'s Aqueduct barn.
Later Tuesday, on a Tex Sutton flight that will first stop in Kentucky, the Baffert trio of Senor Swinger (Wood), Congaree (Carter), and During (Bay Shore) was to arrive and will be stabled in the Belmont Park barn of John Terranova.
"I was trying to get on a later flight, but they didn't have one," Frankel said. "I think they'll be all right."
Empire Maker, the current Kentucky Derby favorite based on his emphatic victory in last month's Florida Derby, will be a prohibitive favorite in the Grade 1 Wood, run at nine furlongs. As of Monday morning there were six confirmed starters for the Wood, with three others in varying degrees of limbo. The definites, with riders, are: Empire Maker (Jerry Bailey), Funny Cide (Jose Santos), Indy Dancer (John Velazquez), Kissin Saint (Richard Migliore), New York Hero (Norberto Arroyo Jr.), and Senor Swinger (Gary Stevens).
Others under consideration are Spite the Devil, Sky Soldier, and Atfirst Blush.
Sunday morning at Hollywood Park, Empire Maker worked six furlongs in 1:13 in company with Midas Eyes, the impressive Swale Stakes winner who is prepping for the Lexington Stakes on April 19 at Keeneland.
"Everything went perfect," said Frankel, who worked both horses together before their March 15 victories at Gulfstream Park.
Despite Empire Maker's strong 9 3/4-length victory in the Florida Derby, Frankel feels Empire Maker still has room for improvement and will be better off with another race before the May 3 Kentucky Derby.
"It was a good effort, it wasn't a lights-out effort like Peace Rules gave or Midas Eyes gave," Frankel said, referring to his winners of the Louisiana Derby and Swale, respectively.
The forecasted snow in New York - which began falling shortly after 10 a.m. - prompted Jennifer Pedersen, who trains New York Hero, and Lisa Lewis, who has Kissin Saint, to move up workouts for their Wood starters from Tuesday to Monday.
At Aqueduct, where training was halted at 8:30 because of the impending storm, New York Hero, the Lane's End Stakes winner, drilled five furlongs in 59.73 seconds under jockey Rudy Rodriguez. Aqueduct clockers caught New York Hero's last quarter in 24.33 seconds and had him galloping out in 1:12.60.
"He did it well within himself," Pedersen said. "Rudy seemed pleased."
At Belmont, where training was also stopped early, Kissin Saint went four furlongs in 49.16 seconds under Migliore in company with Ungoverned. Kissin Saint, who is coming off an allowance win on March 28, was quite aggressive in his work, according to Lewis. "I'm glad we went today, because he was so strong going to the pole," she said.
On Sunday, Senor Swinger, a recent private purchase by Baffert on behalf of Bob and Beverly Lewis, worked six furlongs in 1:11.60 at Santa Anita, the fastest of seven moves at the distance. At Belmont on Sunday, Indy Dancer worked five furlongs in 59.47 seconds. Indy Dancer worked in blinkers and went in company with Little Bonnet.
At Palm Meadows on Monday, Funny Cide worked four furlongs in 48 seconds. He was scheduled to van Monday afternoon from south Florida to New York and arrive Tuesday.
Congaree fires Carter bullet
Congaree, who has already won the Wood Memorial and Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, will go for his third marquee race at the Big A when he runs in Saturday's $350,000 Carter Handicap.
On Monday, Congaree worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds at Santa Anita, the fastest of 36 works at the distance. The Carter will be Congaree's first start at seven furlongs and only his third start in a one-turn race. He has not run shorter than one mile since he finished sixth in his only start as a 2-year-old.
"There's really nowhere to run him right now. He's doing well, he worked great this morning," Baffert said. "I like the fact he's been showing up every time. That's better than last year."
Congaree is coming off a head loss to Milwaukee Brew in the Santa Anita Handicap last out. In that race, Congaree carried 124 pounds, five more than Milwaukee Brew. Congaree was assigned 122 pounds for the Carter, five more than defending Carter champion Affirmed Success. Others expected to run include Aldebaran (118), Peeping Tom (114), and Papua (111). Roman Dancer (114) and Griffinite (112) are possible.
On Sunday, Aldebaran worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Hollywood Park.
Bay Shore coming up crowded
Halo Homewrecker, who is 2 for 2 this year, will make his stakes debut in Saturday's $150,000 Bay Shore for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs.
On Sunday, Halo Homewrecker worked four furlongs over Belmont's main track in 47.04 seconds, the fastest of 19 at the distance. With Jerry Bailey committed to ride Special Rate for Frankel, John Velazquez has picked up the mount on Halo Homewrecker.
A bulky field is expected for the Bay Shore, including Deadline and Gators N Bears, the one-two finishers in the Horatius Stakes at Laurel, as well as Don Six, During, Fifth of Hennessy, Second in Command, and Stanislavsky - and possibly First Blush, Infinite Justice, Midnight Charlie, and Spite the Devil.
Addicks heads allowance
Addicks, whose two wins at nine furlongs are more than his eight rivals combined, heads a nine-horse field entered Wednesday in a nine-furlong allowance for older horses that have never won three races lifetime.
Addicks is coming off a three-length win in a nonwinners-of-two-lifetime allowance and returns to Aqueduct's main track, where he won his maiden going nine furlongs in November. He figures to sit just off Right Too Refuse, who beat Addicks two starts back, taking advantage of a slow pace, and One Tuff Fox.
Iwin, who was scratched out of Saturday's Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap, Nothing Flat, and Dial a Hero are the other contenders in the field. There is a pick six carryover of $40,188 to Wednesday's card.
Samyn to book own mounts
Jockey Jean-Luc Samyn and his agent, Ralph Theroux Jr., will part company on April 19, the end of the current condition book.
Theroux, who has booked mounts for Samyn for more than 12 years, said the split was amicable and that Samyn would begin booking his own mounts starting April 20.
Theroux will be looking for a new rider to represent while assisting apprentice Shannon Uske, a 10-pound apprentice.
Three fined for paddock fracas
Three horsemen were fined $500 each for their role in a fight that broke out in the paddock Saturday.
Owner/trainer Joe Lostritto, his son Glenn, and owner Phillip Marcantonio all hurled punches in the paddock before the fifth race, in which Joe Lostritto and Marcantonio each ran a horse.
The connections showed more fight than their horses, as High On Madison, owned and trained by Joe Lostritto, finished seventh, while Marcantonio's horse, The Falcon, finished last.