01/15/2011 2:11PM

Fort Hughes in Aqueduct rematch


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Fort Hughes will look to avenge a narrow loss to Royal Currier when he faces that rival and four other 3-year-olds in Monday’s $65,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes, the Aqueduct feature on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day card.

Making his second career start off a dominant debut win two months earlier, Fort Hughes fell a head short when attempting to run down the more seasoned Royal Currier in the Southampton Stakes at Parx Racing on Dec. 21. With that experience under his belt and some solid works in the interim, the connections of Fort Hughes are looking forward to the rematch in the six-furlong Jimmy Winkfield.

“We broke a little flat-footed, came running, and ran very well,” said Art Magnuson, the assistant to Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Fort Hughes for Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stable. “Improving all the time; we wouldn’t trade places with anybody.”

With Ramon Dominguez in south Florida where he hopes to win his first Eclipse Award as North America’s outstanding rider at the Eclipse ceremonies on Monday night, Eddie Castro has the call on Fort Hughes.

The connections of Royal Currier made quite the claim when they won a four-way shake at Monmouth Park on Sept. 6, taking the gelded son of Red Bullet for $20,000. Not only did he win that day, but Royal Currier has won 3 of 4 races since, including two stakes.

In the Southampton, Royal Currier stalked the pace, made the lead above the eighth pole, and held Fort Hughes at bay, winning by a head. Monday, Royal Currier breaks in post 3, one slot outside of Fort Hughes.

“I know [Fort Hughes] is probably going to be a little better this time, but the race should set up good for us,” said Michael Farro, assistant to his wife, Patricia, who trains Royal Currier. “We’re looking at them now, I like that. I think the horse is a little better if he can sit off it a little bit and have a target to run at.”

Rift finished second to Fort Hughes when he was favored over that rival on Oct. 10. It took Rift two more tries to win a maiden race, but he could be the one to catch if he breaks well from the rail under Cornelio Velasquez.

Bambi Bound, a sharp allowance winner against New York-breds last out, tries open company for the first time. Bravo Romeo, who beat Royal Currier when both debuted for maiden $30,000 in July, and Running Tap, a debut winner at Saratoga over highly regarded Justin Philip, complete the field.