Graded stakes action for the calendar year on the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit kicks off at Aqueduct Racetrack with veteran sprinter Drafted headlining a field of nine in the seven-furlong Grade 3, $150,000 Toboggan Stakes for older horses on Saturday, January 28.
Dublin Fjord Stables, Racepoint Stables, Kevin D. Hilbert and Thomas E. O'Keefe's Drafted, a 9-year-old gray or roan son of Field Commission, arrives at his 2023 debut with a ledger of 33-10-3-4 and earnings of $1,157,443 as the field's lone millionaire.
He will be seeking a repeat Toboggan triumph after capturing last year's edition by 4 1/2 lengths to win his first race in nearly three years. A victory Saturday would make him the first repeat Toboggan winner since Calibrachoa [2011-12] and would add his name to a lengthy list of dual Toboggan winners which includes, among others, fan favorite Affirmed Success [2002-03], as well as Hall of Famers Eight Thirty [1940-41] and Devil Diver [1943-44].
||Three Two Zone
||Luis Rodriguez Castro
||Jorge Vargas, Jr.
||Milton the Monster
Trained by David Duggan, Drafted enjoyed a prosperous season in 2022, including wins in the Grade 3 Runhappy on May 14 at Belmont Park, the Mr. Prospector on June 4 at Monmouth Park and a curtain-closing score last out in the Gravesend on December 30 at Aqueduct.
He additionally was third beaten 10 3/4 lengths by eventual Grade 1 Breeder's Cup Sprint winner Elite Power in the Grade 2 Vosburgh in October at Belmont at the Big A; and was fifth, by the same margin, to Cody's Wish, subsequent winner of the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, in the Grade 1 Forego in August at Saratoga Race Course.
While Drafted continues to display the desire to compete, Duggan said his veteran warhorse will likely not be squaring off against any of the heavier hitters in the sprint division this year.
"We know where our level is and we aren't going to shoot for the stars. We're going to basically pick off the races he can win," Duggan said. "We'll get through this one and then pick our spots from there. He's nine and he's got age under him, so you've got to be realistic on where you spot him."
Following his first three starts as a juvenile with trainer Eoin Harty, Drafted joined the contingent of Dubai-based conditioner Doug Watson in 2017. He picked up two Group 3 triumphs in early 2019 during his Middle Eastern tenure, capturing the Al Shindagha Sprint and the Mahab Al Shimaal. He joined Duggan's barn in late 2020, winning last year's Toboggan in his ninth start for his current trainer.
"He's always been something of a fan favorite, we just weren't able to get him to that kind of stage," Duggan said. "Once we got into our rhythm and got him into the right spots without over facing him, he became the horse we knew he could be - like a movie star that just did a couple of B movies before doing a couple of A movies. There are some good sprinters out there. Just look who he's been up against. Horses like Cody's Wish and Elite Power. We're looking forward to Saturday's race."
Luis Rodriguez Castro will pursue his first graded stakes triumph as a jockey when guiding Drafted, who carries a co-field high 124 pounds, from post 3.
Drafted will face a formidable foe in Rainbow's End Racing Stable's Milton the Monster [post 7, Manny Franco, 120 pounds], who sports a 4-for-4 record going seven furlongs on the main track.
Trainer Tom Morley claimed the 6-year-old son of Jack Milton for $62,500 out of a local allowance optional claimer over a sloppy and sealed track on December 3 at the Toboggan distance, en route to a New Year's Day score at seven furlongs over muddy and sealed going.
Previously trained by John Servis, Milton the Monster was an emphatic 12 3/4-length winner of his seven-furlong debut last January at Parx Racing, recording a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure. He finished third in the Stymie in March at the Big A before completing the trifecta behind Drafted in the Mr. Prospector in June three starts later.
Morley cited the Toboggan distance as the primary reason for running.
"He's obviously very good at seven furlongs and he's obviously good on a wet track as well," said Morley. "His last two starts were both seven [furlongs] at Aqueduct, but both have been a sealed track and we're not going to get that on Saturday. He absolutely deserves to take his chance in here and we're very happy with the way he's training. The reason we claimed him is because he had some good races behind some rock solid horses. Seven furlongs around one turn seems to really suit this horse. The horse seems to be in very good form, he looks healthy and appears to be in good shape."
Morley also spoke volumes of owners Mike Iannaconi and Bob Scavetta of Rainbow's End Racing Stable, who participated in graded stakes action at the Big A in November 2019 when Red Right Hand finished 10th in the Grade 3 Red Smith.
"They've been very loyal to my barn," Morley said. "They set up Rainbow's End a few years ago and they've only had horses with me. They've been tremendous supporters of the barn. They're a local syndicate that is growing in size and strength. They've made some astute claims and they're great people to be involved with."
Trainer Norman "Lynn" Cash has entered Grade 2 Kelso Handicap winner Double Crown [post 5, J.D. Acosta, 124 pounds] and Pirate Rick [post 2, Jose Gomez, 120 pounds]. Both horses are cross-entered at Parx with Double Crown listed in a one-mile allowance on Monday, while Pirate Rick is entered in a Tuesday allowance sprint that also includes potential Toboggan aspirant Wendell Fong.
Double Crown has been soundly beaten in his three starts since springing a 42-1 upset in the Kelso on October 29 at Belmont at the Big A, where he confronted mutuel favorite Baby Yoda in deep stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths. The 6-year-old Bourbon Courage gelding enters off a 10th in the Queens County on January 7 at the Big A.
While Double Crown looks to return to winning form, stablemate Pirate Rick enters the Toboggan off a string of four victories. The 6-year-old Liam's Map gelding arrives off short rest, capturing a local six-furlong allowance optional claimer on Sunday by seven lengths while earning a 104 Beyer. A six-furlong allowance winner at Mahoning Valley Race Course and Mountaineer Race Course during the latter portion of 2022, Pirate Rick will make his first start going seven furlongs in the Toboggan.
Trainer Juan Avila will ship Victoria's Ranch's Little Vic to New York by way of Parx in search of a second career stakes score. The 4-year-old Practical Joke bay captured the City of Laurel in November at Laurel Park in his lone start going seven furlongs before finishing a nose behind Drafted in the Gravesend.
Boasting a consistent 11-4-2-1 record and $206,230 in earnings, Little Vic has taken his show on the road with all four of his wins taking place at different tracks. He broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park at first asking in September 2021 before winning a six-furlong allowance in May at Monmouth Park. He defeated two next-out winners in a Delaware Park allowance in October before capturing the City of Laurel.
Carlos Olivero, who has been aboard Little Vic for three of his four wins, will retain the mount from post 8. Little Vic, assigned 122 pounds, will race with blinkers on.
Also invading from Parx is Double B Racing Stables' Repo Rocks [post 6, Andrew Wolfsont, 122 pounds], who enters off two stakes victories at the Philadelphia-area oval for trainer Jamie Ness. Second in last year's Toboggan, the 5-year-old Tapiture gelding defeated stakes winners Twisted Ride and Beren in the November 23 Let's Give Thanks before capturing his 2023 debut in the Blitzen on January 4.
Completing the field are multiple stakes-placed Three Two Zone [post 1, Dylan Davis, 118 pounds], graded-stakes placed Wendell Fong [post 4, Jorge Vargas, Jr., 118 pounds], and graded-stakes placed Synthesis [post 9, Gokhan Kocakaya, 120 pounds], a nine-time winner.
Inaugurated in 1890, the Toboggan was originally known as the Toboggan Slide as it was contested on the downhill Eclipse course at Morris Park. The Toboggan is slated as Race 7 on Saturday's nine-race card. First post is 12:10 p.m. Eastern.
OffTrackBetting.com - US Legal online horse betting is a great way to bet on horse racing at over 500 racetracks around the globe. Available to customers across the United States, OTB features both Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing from major racing venues in the US as well as top international racing from Europe, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong.