By Shawn Rychling
Just a little more than two weeks to go until Christmas and a little more than three weeks until we take down the old calendar and put up a bright and shiny 2018 version.
And with the end of the year approaching, NYRA staged their final graded stakes of 2017 last Saturday with a total of four contested at Aqueduct.
We’ll take a look back at the two biggest races starting with the Remsen for 2-year-olds, which in essence, is NYRA’s first prep race for the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
The Remsen winner was Catholic Boy, the third choice in the betting. The race was his debut on dirt as he came in off three turf races in his short career, including a 4th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf race and win at Saratoga in the Grade-III With Anticipation stakes over the grass.
Last Saturday, Catholic Boy got good stalking position leaving the gate and then sat off the lead in midpack. Jockey Manny Franco sat behind a slow pace and was basically 4-wide on the backstretch to the quarter pole when he took the lead. He drew off from there overcoming a slow pace. Impressive win for former turfer by More Than Ready. The final time, wasn’t great, but the new winterized main track is not a fast strip.
Two other horses to watch out of this race: Avery Island and Alkhaatam. The former went in off two open-length wins and bullet works for Kiaran McLaughlin. He ran near the winner, but to his inside and had to slip outside for clear sailing so Catholic Boy got the jump on him and there was no catching him after the slow early pace.
Alkhaatam is still a maiden and now 0 for 2 in his career. He lost the race at the start when he was pinch by rivals on both sides and dropped back to last. He did run on late but had no chance after the leaders walked 6 furlongs in 1:14 and change. This one has just two starts though and has been slow to begin in each. Trainer Chad Brown should get this one ready to run.
Look for Catholic Boy and perhaps the other two in the Jerome on New Year’s Day, the next step on the Derby Trail.
Last Saturday’s feature was the Cigar Mile and that race was similar to the Remsen as winner Sharp Azteca stalked the pace while 3-wide and then went on with a rally off the far turn and won going away. Coming out of the race, trainer Jorge Navarro says he is pointing his horse to the Pegasus World Cup in January to take on Gun Runner down at Gulfstream.
Plenty of action at Aqueduct this weekend and we’ll see if they decide to run through the snowflakes on Saturday. In case you missed it, the Hot List had a $70 winner last Friday, when Bigkat and Camille won the 6th race at 34-1. We also gave you the $202.50 exacta and $729 trifecta in that race.
We started the week with a pair of winners yesterday and hopefully we stay hot for you. Find out how to get all our Hot List analysis at Interbets.com.