If there was any question whether Samraat should try to tackle open company, he destroyed it on Wednesday with a 16 3⁄4-length romp in the $100,000 Damon Runyon at Aqueduct.
Owned by My Meadowview Farm and trained by Rick Violette, the 2-year-old son of Noble Causeway took control early and rolled home under a hand ride by Jose Ortiz to stay undefeated from three starts.
Violette said he had been pointing toward the Grade II Jerome in two weeks, but the Damon Runyon was postponed and then run three days later than scheduled because of the weather, so he’ll likely wait for the Withers on Feb. 1.
Both races carry points toward Kentucky Derby qualifying.
“It was going to be tight, anyway, so I’m not sure we’d make it [Jerome],” Violette told the New York Racing Association. “I could even send him to Florida for a month just to keep him in training and get him out of the cold weather, then bring him up for the spot after that, which is the Withers. I think we might have to test open company. If not his next start, then the start after that.”
The Damon Runyon was Samraat’s first try around two turns.
He broke his maiden at Belmont, followed up with a win at Aqueduct and has won his three starts by a combined 25 3⁄4 lengths.
The pipeline of turf horses imported from Europe to the barn of trainer Chad Brown of Mechanicville continues with the 2-year-old Pleuven, who is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the Grade III Dania Beach at Gulfstream Park today.
Co-owned by Robert V. LaPenta, Gary Finder and Bradley Thoroughbreds, the French-bred son of Turtle Bowl has won his last two starts, at Chantilly and Longchamps.
Brown also has Request, a son of Dynaformer who broke his maiden at Belmont in September, in the Dania Beach.
Aqueduct’s co-feature today is the $100,000 Gravesend, where trainer David Jacobson will saddle 2-1 second choice Strapping Groom, the upset winner of the Grade I Forego in the slop at Saratoga.
The 7-5 favorite is Palace, one of three trained by Linda Rice in the Gravesend.
He has won three straight, beginning with the Chowder’s First at Saratoga and most recently the Grade III Fall Highweight at Aqueduct.
“This fall. I was plotting his spots, and I had more time than I wanted between the Chowder’s First and the Hudson,” Rice told NYRA. “I’m leaning in favor of running [today] because I don’t want him to have too much time between races, with the Toboggan on Feb. 1.”
On Sunday, Miss Narcissist, winner of three straight since breaking her maiden at Saratoga for Rice, is 2-1 in the East View, which was redrawn after last Sunday’s card was wiped out by the weather.
“Right now, she’s obviously fit, and we felt we could try to see if she can get two turns when she’s fit enough to do so,” Rice said. “Maybe that will help us decide what we’ll point towards next year. I think she was more impressive in the Gimma at seven furlongs than she was in the Stallion Stakes at six. I think she may appreciate the extra distance.”
HOLLYWOOD PARK GRAVES
Part of the dismantling of the soon-to-be-closed Hollywood Park includes relocating the remains of three prominent horses who raced there.
The grave of Native Diver, winner of three consecutive Hollywood Gold Cups from 1965-67, will be moved to Del Mar, and Landaluce, the champion 2-year-old filly of 1982, will move to Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky.
Hollywood Park officials have yet to decide where the remains of 1988 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Great Communicator will go.
The last day of racing at the track, which will be developed for residential and commercial use next year, is Sunday.
SET TO RETURN
Kentucky Derby runners Normandy Invasion and Itsmyluckyday have returned to training at Palm Meadows in Florida and are expected to race as 4-year-olds in 2014.
Normandy Invasion, trained by Brown, hasn’t raced since a fourth in the Derby because of foot problems.
Itsmyluckyday, 15th in the Derby and runner-up to Oxbow in the Preakness, hasn’t raced since a DNF in the Pegasus at Monmouth in June.
He suffered a pelvic fracture in the race and was pulled up, but trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. had been confident that he’d make a full recovery.
AROUND THE TRACKS
Forty Tales, winner of the Grade II Amsterdam at Saratoga and Grade II Woody Stephens at Belmont, has been retired and will stand at Sequel Stallions near Hudson.
He ended his career three months ago by finishing off the board against a star-studded field in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, won by Flat Out. . . .
Midnight Hawk was an impressive debut winner last Friday at Hollywood Park for co-owner Joel Quenneville, the Chicago Blackhawks head coach.
The son of Midnight Lute won by 61⁄4 lengths. . . .
A 99-1 bomb on Dec. 12 at Aqueduct gave jockey Men B. Chen his first win since 2009.
He won on Front Cover Dream, who paid $200 to win. Chen’s last victory occurred on June 16, 2009, at Penn National. He had been winless in 64 starts since then.
Online voting (www.ntra.com) is open for the 15th annual NTRA Moment of the Year. The winning moment will be recognized during the Eclipse Awards on Jan. 18.
Listed chronologically, the events that fans can choose from are:
Jockey Gary Stevens rides his first winner in North America since 2005 aboard Branding in the first race at Santa Anita on Jan. 12.
Spicer Cub bolts around the parked starting gate along the outside rail and still nearly wins at Pimlico
Orb wins the Kentucky Derby.
Oxbow wins the Preakness.
Paynter, after battling back from life-threatening illness the year before, returns to the races to win an allowance at Hollywood Park.
Russell Baze becomes the first North American rider to reach the 12,000-win milestone.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey win three major Grade I turf stakes — the Secretariat (with Admiral Kitten), Sword Dancer (Big Blue Kitten) and Arlington Million (Real Solution) at two different tracks in less than two hours.
Will Take Charge barely gets up to beat front-running Moreno by a nose in the Travers.
Retired jockey Ramon Dominguez is presented with the Mike Venezia Award and his 2012 Eclipse Award at Saratoga.
5-year-old mare Mizdirection beats males in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint for the second straight year.
Wise Dan wins the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Mile for the second straight year.
Mucho Macho Man wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic by a nose.