By Brian Bohl —-
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Godolphin Racing’s Avery Island will look to register his second straight graded stakes victory as part of a field of 10 juveniles in the 104th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen as part of four graded stakes on Saturday, Cigar Mile Day, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Carded as Race 9 on the 10-race program, the Remsen, with a scheduled post time of 3:45 p.m., will be shown as part of the Aqueduct Live program, airing nationally from 3-4:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 2, with regional coverage in the tri-state area on MSG+. Televised coverage will also include the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle in Race 8 with an approximate post time of 3:12 p.m. and concludes with the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile in Race 10 at 4:16 p.m.
Avery Island has notched back-to-back wins since a disappointing seventh in his debut in a seven-furlong sprint on August 19 at Saratoga Off that effort, the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee broke his maiden at 1 1/16 miles, going gate-to-wire on September 30 in the rain at Belmont Park before earning an 80 Beyer Speed Figure for his 4 ¾-length score in the Grade 2 Nashua at a mile on November 5 at the Big A.
The Street Sense colt was impressive Friday morning on Belmont’s training track, working a bullet half mile in 47.47 seconds, the fastest of 91 in the group.
“He’s doing very well and just had a nice work, so he’s ready to go. Hopefully, he keeps improving since the races are going to get tougher,” McLaughlin said. “But we think he’ll like the mile and an eighth. He’s doing everything right. He’s stepped up before and we think he’ll like the distance.
“He came come from off the pace or be close, like he’s been, so we’ll see how it unfolds,” he added.
Joe Bravo, who has been aboard for all three of Avery Island’s previous starts, will have the return call from post 3. Temperatures are expected to be in the high 40s with little threat of rain forecast.
“That’s good, we don’t need a sloppy track,” McLaughlin said.
China Horse Club International’s Biblical is coming off a maiden-breaking win at the Remsen distance on November 17, posting a 1 ¾-length victory in his third start after rallying from fifth in a six-horse field for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Biblical, an $800,000 half-brother to Princess of Sylmar and a son of Tapit, will again have the services of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, with the duo departing from post 4.
“He recovered well in his last race,” Pletcher said. “We always felt he had some talent, and going a mile and an eighth is what he’s [suited] for, so we’d like to see him step up.”
Keeping with the scriptures theme, Robert LaPenta’s Catholic Boy will be making his first start since running fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and his first career start on dirt.
The race will be Catholic Boy’s first on dirt after his first three races on turf, including two straight wins before the Breeders’ Cup. Catholic Boy won the Grade 3 With Anticipation, contested at 1 1/16 miles, on August 30 at the Spa and has breezed twice at Belmont after shipping back from Del Mar following a ground-saving trip in which he was edged by Voting Control by a head for third in the Breeders’ Cup.
Manny Franco will be on the saddle, breaking from post 5.
Tap Rap Strike was impressive in winning his first start, stalking the pacesetters before a strong stretch drive earned him a half-length win on October 14 at Parx. Purchased for $875,000, the Tapit colt has impressed trainer John Servis, who has been training him in Maryland before shipping to New York.
“He’s a nice horse. We’re real excited about him,” Servis said. “He’s been training great, doing well. We’re hopeful. He’s got to keep getting better.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will be in the irons from the outside.
Alkhaatam will take the step up in class after running third in his first career start on October 25 at Belmont. A fellow son of Tapit, Alkhaatam, purchased for $300,000, will break from post 7 with Jose Ortiz aboard.
Bandito will be making his stakes debut after his first career winning effort on October 28, outkicking Piocho by two lengths to win at 1 1/8 miles. Trained by Dale Romans, the son of Creative Cause will have the services of Luis Saez from the rail.
Rounding out the field is Millionaire Runner, a first-time stakes starter for trainer Jamie Mejia, out of post 6; Vouch, a maiden winner in his first start for trainer Arnaud Delacour out of post 8; V. I. P. Code, who ran second to Therapist by a neck in the Awad on October 28 at Belmont, from post 9 for trainer Phil Schoenthal; and Triple Dog Dare, looking for his first career win for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, breaking from post 2.
Cover Photo: Avery Island: Coglianese/Alysse Jacobs Photo