(Photo of Sunny Ridge by Joe Labozzetta/NYRA)
A pair of horses ranked in the first Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred/The Racing Biz Top Midlantic-bred Poll were in action on Saturday, but it wasn’t an ideal outing for either.
At Aqueduct, Sunny Ridge aimed to repeat his Withers triumph in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes, while at Gulfstream Park, Valid looked to snap a brief two-race losing streak.
Sunny Ridge, ranked third among three-year-olds, enjoyed a good trip, sitting fourth early behind the solid pace of Laoban. Entering the far turn, Sunny Ridge and jockey Manny Franco made a bid, reaching virtually even terms as the field straightened for home. But Laoban stoutly held off the New Jersey-bred’s challenge, and Sunny Ridge eventually emptied out, finishing fourth in the seven-horse field.
Favored Shagaf overhauled Laoban late to post a 1 1/4 length victory in 1:45.90 for 1 1/16 miles.
“I’m very proud of his effort today,” winning trainer Chad Brown said of Shagaf, who he said would point to next month’s Grade 1 Wood Memorial. The 50 Kentucky Derby points Shagaf earned in the Gotham virtually assure him a spot in the starting gate in Louisville, assuming he remains sound and his connections choose to do that.
Sunny Ridge’s breeder and owner, Dennis Drazin, has on the other hand made fairly clear he does not see the Derby as a prime target for his Holy Bull gelding. He has said he will more likely run in the Grade 1 Preakness, two weeks after the Derby, with a major objective being the summer’s Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.
Down south, at Gulfstream, Valid was in the midst of what appeared to be a winning move in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap when bumped by the tiring Anchor Down. The contact caused Valid, a Virginia-bred ranked second among older horses and trained by Marcus Vitali for Crossed Sabres Farm, to stumble badly, nearly unseating rider Nik Juarez.
Horse and rider recovered, but it was too late by that point to do anything but cross the finish line. Valid crossed in fourth and was moved up to third by the disqualification of Anchor Down.
“It wasn’t a fair fight. We were making a great move. It looked like we were going to win the race until [Anchor Down] took us out,” said Valid’s trainer Marcus Vitali. “I just looked at the horse for a minute, and he looked all right.”
A pair of Todd Pletcher trainees, Blofeld and Stanford, finished first and second, respectively, the former rallying to defeat the latter by a head in 1:35.03 for the one-mile distance.
Valid has won 11 of 35 career starts, and the third-place share of the $500,000 purse pushed his career earnings just above $1 million.