‘King’ rules in Say Florida Sandy at Aqueduct
By Bob Ehalt
As winter rolls on in New York, another New York State-bred stakes tops the Saturday card at Aqueduct.
This time, the featured race is the $100,000 Say Florida Sandy, a seven-furlong stakes for state-breds with a solid 6-5 morning-line favorite in the 5-year-old Gold for the King.
Trained by Charlton Baker, the gelding has a solid resume of success against his fellow state-breds. While he finished third against open stakes rivals in the Gravesend Stakes in his last start, losing by three-quarters-of-a-length, in his previous effort, he won a seven-furlong New York State-bred Stallion Stakes by a whopping 9 ¼ lengths.
In his six starts at Aqueduct, Gold for the King has a sterling record of four wins, a second and a third in six starts at Aqueduct.
“He’s coming into this race in good shape,” Baker said. “He was right there running hard in the Gravesend and it just didn’t go our way that day, but since then he’s been training well, and I think the distance fits him.”
The second choice in a competitive field of nine at 9-2 is Honor Up, who rose up through the state-bred allowance ranks and is coming off a sharp win in open allowance company last month at Aqueduct.
A 4-year-old trained by Michelle Nevin, Honor Up will be making his first appearance in a stakes since finishing seventh in last year’s Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.
“When we got him, he was in great shape,” said Nevin, who has collected two wins a second in three starts with Honor Up since the colt was moved from Bill Mott’s barn to hers. “We decided to cut him back and run him at shorter distances and it seems to have made a difference. We really like him going seven-eighths. We knew he always possessed speed, but in his last race he also showed how versatile he is coming from off the pace, against the rail and taking dirt. We thought this was the right spot to put him back in stakes company.”
Celtic Chaos (5-1) enters off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap against open company. In his previous start, the 6-year-old horse was third in the Hudson Handicap against state-breds, finishing three-quarters-of-a-length behind Gold for the King, who was second.
Another starter who figures to attract attention at the betting windows, especially from New York Mets fans, is Syndergaard (8-1). Now trained by John Terranova, the horse named after the star Mets pitcher won its last start, a state-bred allowance race. It ended a seven-race losing streak that dates back to his win in the Funny Cide Stakes at the 2016 Saratoga meet.
“He came out of this last race really well,” Terranova said. “We always knew he was talented and looking at his race in the (2016) Champagne (a loss by a nose), we know he can get a mile. We feel this is a good distance for him. After he was transferred to us, he had a couple of hiccups in his training which we were able to get through and you could see the talent he has in last race. We’re looking forward to building off that and we think this is a good spot for him to take that chance.”
The rest of the field includes Jewel Can Disco (20-1), Bluegrass Express (15-1), Winston’s Chance (12-1), Royal Asset (6-1) and Morning Breez (20-1).