Performer, a winner of three straight races, has gradually climbed up the ladder in his last few starts and will take things up a notch when making his stakes debut in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Discovery Handicap over the main track at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The 1 1/8-mile event is the final graded stakes event on the NYRA calendar for 3-year-olds and pays homage to the 1935 Horse of the Year who captured three consecutive editions of the Brooklyn Handicap and Whitney Handicap from 1934-36. His notable accomplishments on the racetrack earned him Hall of Fame honors in 1969.
||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
||En Wye Cee
|Claude McGaughey III
||Grumps Little Tots
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, who saddled Gold Fever to a Discovery triumph in 1996, Performer was third in his career debut as a 2-year-old last November at Aqueduct before getting some extended time off. He returned a winner when breaking his maiden at Belmont Park by three-quarters of a length in June before defeating winners at Saratoga the following month recording a career-best 96 Beyer Speed Figure.
Owned by Phipps Stable and Claiborne Farm, Performer arrives at the Discovery off of a second-level allowance win going 1 1/16-miles over the Belmont Park main track.
"So far, so good. All of his races have been good, even when he ran last year it was a good race," McGaughey said. "This was the next stop down the line so it's what I've been planning on. He seems to have done really well since his race at the end of September. The space is good, the works have been good. A mile and an eighth around two turns is a new ball game, but I think he's up for it. We've liked him all along and so far he hasn't disappointed us."
A homebred, Performer is a son of Speightstown out of the graded stakes-placed A.P. Indy broodmare Protesting and is a direct fourth-generation descendant of undefeated champion filly Personal Ensign.
McGaughey said that following the Discovery, Performer will receive a freshening for a 4-year-old campaign.
"He'll get the winter off so hopefully when we bring him back he'll make us a nice 4-year-old," McGaughey said.
Jockey Joel Rosario, a four-time winner of the Discovery including the past three editions, has been aboard Performer for his trio of wins and retains the mount when leaving from post 6.
Performer will be squaring off against dual graded stakes winner Tax, who won the Grade 3 Withers and Grade 2 Jim Dandy on the NYRA circuit this season.
Owned by R. A. Hill Stable in partnership with Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable, the gelded son of Arch conditioned by Danny Gargan has not raced since finishing seventh in the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers on August 24 at Saratoga.
Since said effort, he has recorded a series of works over the Belmont training track including a half-mile breeze in 47 seconds flat on November 15 - the fastest of 55 works at the distance.
Tax boasts the highest amount of lifetime earnings in the field, having banked $786,300 in a 9-3-2-1 career.
"He's been training great and doing all that we can ask of him," said Gargan, who claimed Tax for $50,000 after winning his second career start. "He's been a really nice horse, we're just blessed to have him in the barn. He'll go to Florida for the winter and we'll evaluate him from there. We expect him to show up and run well."
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. has been aboard Tax in his last three outings and will return to the saddle when breaking from post 1.
Shadwell Farms' Mubarmaj makes his stakes debut for trainer Chad Brown. After finishing third at a price in his career debut at Saratoga behind fellow Discovery aspirant En Wye Cee, the chestnut son of Curlin stretched out to a one-turn mile at Belmont Park where he led from gate to wire recording an 88 Beyer, a figure that he replicated when defeating winners over the Elmont oval next out.
Jockey Jose Ortiz will be aboard from post 2.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will look to extend his record number of Discovery victories to six when he saddles allowance winner En Wye Cee.
Owned by Waterford Stable, the homebred son of third-crop sire Declaration of War won his career debut at Saratoga going 6 ½ furlongs before stretching out to 1 1/16 miles to defeat winners at Belmont Park. En Wye Cee was third last out to stakes winner Gray Magician in a second-level allowance over the Keeneland main track.
Jockey Joe Bravo will be aboard from post 4.
Completing the field are Monmouth Park allowance winner Air Attack [post 3, Dylan Davis], stakes winner Majid [post 5, TBA], dual Panamanian Group 1 winner Carlos L [post 7, Kendrick Carmouche], and stakes-placed Grumps Little Tots [post 8, Jose Lezcano].