07/19/2013 2:20PM

Woodbine: Lynch has two for Nijinsky Stakes


Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Nijinsky Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up, attracted a competitive field of 10, including many established stakes performers. But trainer Brian Lynch will be looking to shake things up with Grand Arch and Hampstead Heath, who enter the Nijinsky off sharp turf scores under allowance terms.

Grand Arch, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old gelding owned by Jim and Susan Hill, will be making his stakes debut in the Nijinsky.

After finishing third when debuting over one mile on turf here last July, Grand Arch graduated when traveling 1 1/16 miles on the E.P. Taylor course and went on to finish second in back-to-back allowance races on grass, the first over one mile at Keeneland and the latter over 1 3/8 miles at Churchill Downs.

Grand Arch wintered at Margaux Farm in Midway, Ky., and made his 2013 debut at Keeneland, finishing second by a head in a first-level turf allowance at 1 1/16 miles but being promoted to the top spot via disqualification.

Lynch was sending his crack 3-year-old sprinter Clearly Now to New York for the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on June 8, Belmont Stakes Day, and Grand Arch made the trip as well.

“We thought enough of him, and were so happy with the way he was doing, to take him there,” Lynch said. “But his race didn’t go.”

So, Grand Arch continued on to Woodbine and turned in an impressive effort June 23, winning by 4 3/4 lengths under jockey Luis Contreras while competing under second-level allowance terms over about 1 1/8 miles on turf. His 92 Beyer Speed Figure for that effort is the best last-out number in the Nijinsky field.

“I’ve really been happy with the way he’s progressed here,” Lynch said. “I felt he deserved this chance after the way he won the other day.”

Hampstead Heath, an Ontario-bred 4-year-old gelding, competed in two stakes for Canadian-breds as a 2-year-old, finishing second in the 1 1/16-mile Cup and Saucer on turf and third in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity on the main track.

But Hampstead Heath suffered a condylar fracture while training at Palm Meadows the following winter, ending his Queen’s Plate hopes. He did not return to the races until Sept. 21, when he graduated here over one mile on turf.

Hampstead Heath has continued to run hard and has been particularly effective on grass this year, landing his first allowance condition over 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream and his second at 1 1/16 miles here.

“He’s an unassuming horse,” said Lynch, who had Hampstead Heath in his string at Palm Meadows this winter. “To watch him train, you’d never think he was the horse he is in the afternoon. I felt he deserved the chance here, too.”