Sprinters get the spotlight in Winkfield Stakes
By Bob Ehalt
Only a miniscule percentage of 3-year-olds make It to the Kentucky Derby.
Most are not good enough or fast enough, and for others the distance is too demanding.
Some 3-year-olds simply turn out to be sprinters and that’s the essence of Saturday’s featured race at Aqueduct.
The Jimmy Winkfield, a stakes named after an African American jockey who won the Kentucky Derby in 1901 and 1902, is a seven-furlong stakes sprint stakes for 3-year-olds that offers a nice $150,000 purse for distance-challenged runners.
The 9-5 favorite is Haikal, who will be making his third career start for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The son of Daaher is coming off a neck victory in a maiden race at Aqueduct on Dec. 15, which came on the heels of a loss by a neck in his career debut.
“He’s made some good progression since his last race,” McLaughlin said about the Shadwell Stable runner. “In each of his starts, he’s closed well. He’s a little more relaxed than Takaful, who was extremely talented and a bit difficult to train in the mornings, but we’re still trying to figure out how far Haikal can go. Depending on how he performs on Saturday, we’ll keep the Gotham Stakes in consideration going forward.”
Tikhvin Flew (5-2), trained by Steve Asmussen, is also coming off a maiden win, having prevailed in a 1 ¾-length victory in his Jan. 4 career debut.
The race also features a replay of a brotherly tussle between Jason and John Servis.
Jason sends out Direct Order (6-1), who was sixth at a one-mile distance in the Jerome, while John will saddle Gates of Dawn (9-2), who was fourth in the Jerome.
The field of seven also includes Family Biz (6-1), who is returning quickly after finishing fourth at 3-5 odds in a Feb. 1 allowance race. Trained by Ed Barker, Family Biz raced at a mile in the allowance race as well as the Jerome, when he finished fourth, and should appreciate a return to a seven-furlong distance.
In his last start at seven furlongs, Family Biz rallied to break his maiden by a neck in a Nov. 10 start at Aqueduct.
The rest of the field includes Jump for Alex (8-1) and Joevia (15-1).