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Horse racing notes: Unbeaten Samraat heads Gotham field

Saturday, March 1, 2014
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The founder and chairman of Barnes and Noble will have bookends in the Grade III Gotham at Aqueduct today.

The traditional prep for the Grade I Wood Memorial has drawn two owned by Len Riggio, a member of the NYRA reorganization board and owner of My Meadowview Farm, where Samraat and Noble Cornerstone were bred.

They’re both New York-bred sons of Noble Causeway, the 2005 Florida Derby runner-up who was 14th in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Preakness.

They’ll run as a coupled entry as the 5-2 morning-line favorite, but of the two, Samraat is the more accomplished, winning the Grade III Withers last time out in a tough duel with Uncle Sigh to stay undefeated in four starts.

Noble Cornerstone, trained by Wesley Ward, is coming off a seventh in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay, after which he was sent to New York for the Gotham.

His stablemate, trained by Rick Violette, won the Damon Runyon by 16 3⁄4 lengths, then held off the game Uncle Sigh, who comes back for the Gotham and is the 3-1 second choice for trainer Gary Contessa.

“There’s no question more racing will help him,” Violette told NYRA. “If we’re lucky enough to make it to the Derby, we felt two races [Gotham and Wood] would be the way to go, and Mr. Riggio felt strongly about that.”

Uncle Sigh, one of four New York-breds in the Gotham, had a very fast half-mile breeze on Monday.

The other New York-bred is Deceived, who was third in the Damon Runyon before beating a field of statebreds by 8 1⁄4 lengths in an allowance optional claiming race.

Trainer Todd Pletcher told the Daily Racing Form on Wednesday that Monopolize would scratch and stay in Florida, but he has two others in the Gotham — 20-1 Master Lightning and Harpoon, who is 0-4-1 from five career starts at five different tracks after another second in the Sam Davis.

The Gotham card also includes the Grade II Top Flight for fillies and mares and the six-furlong Grade III Tom Fool.

Teen Pauline, who broke her maiden debuting at Saratoga Race Course before finishing third in the Spinaway in 2012, is looking for her first graded stakes win in the Top Flight. She’s the 9-5 second choice after wins in the Affectionately and Ladies Handicap.

Mechanicville native Chad Brown trains the 8-5 favorite, Summer Applause, last year’s Top Flight winner who is making her first start since a fourth to Groupie Doll in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

LAKOW TO SANTA ANITA

Mike Lakow, who was fired as racing secretary as part of a major shakeup of the NYRA administrative staff in 2005, has been hired as the racing director at Santa Anita.

He replaces Martin Panza, who was racing director there before being hired by NYRA in November.

HAVANA IN ACTION

BC Juvenile runner-up Havana has been freshened and will try seven furlongs in his 2014 debut as the 9-5 favorite in the Grade II Swale at Gulfstream Park today.

Trained by Pletcher, Havana broke his maiden at Saratoga before winning the Grade I Champagne by a neck over Honor Code.

He’ll face the intriguing No Nay Never, who is undefeated in three starts. He debuted at Keeneland in April, then was sent to Europe to win at Ascot and at Deauville in France.

QUICK CALL TURNS 30

Quick Call, a multiple graded-stakes winner who made 86 career starts, including 14 at Saratoga, turned 30 on Thursday.

The two-time Forego winner still has a job, as part of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances Program at Wallkill Correctional Facility downstate. The program helps teach inmates essential life skills.

HERE AND THERE

Owner Ron Paolucci has moved BC Juvenile Fillies winner Ria Antonia from the barn of trainer Jeremiah Englehart to Bob Baffert. . . .

Aqueduct first post shifts to 1:20 p.m. starting on Thurs­day. . . .

The lone Kentucky Oaks future wager will close at 6 p.m. today.

 
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