Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Thursday, August 29, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 08/29/2013 #
  • Agent Di Nozzo (Coady Photography)

In Today’s Notes: Agent Di Nozzo Not in Washington Park for Third Place; Arlington Infants: Friday, Aug. 30 Preview

Lawana and Robert Low’s Agent Di Nozzo invades for Saturday’s Grade III $150,000 Washington Park Handicap from Churchill Downs as the third choice behind two mighty graded stakes winners, but his connections are not coming to finish third. 

In order to win the race, the son of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper out of multiple graded stakes winner Quick Tip will have to defeat both Willcox Inn (6-5) and Mister Marti Gras (9-5), who both have victories over the course and have won many graded stakes between them.

Listed at 7-2 on the morning line, Agent Di Nozzo is coming off a win in the July 20 $100,000 Golden Bear Stakes at Indiana Downs over 1 1/16-miles on dirt.  In that race, he closed from fourth with a skilled rail-skimming ride by Marlon St. Julien to win by 1¼ lengths.  The victory was his fourth in five 2013 starts, which have been spaced well since his seasonal debut in January.

“He has improved and really developed,” trainer Steve Margolis explained.  “He got here earlier this week and so far so good.  He is over at the (trainer Danny) Peitz barn.”

Margolis is well aware that his charge will have to deal with something new in his first synthetic track race on Arlington’s Polytrack, so he shipped the horse a little earlier.  “He’s never been on a synthetic racetrack, so this will be a nice chance to see if he can do it.  We got him here this week so he could gallop and get comfortable over it,” Margolis explained.

“I spoke to Neil Howard who trained his dam and we think he’ll be able to handle it.  She was a nice turf filly.  He ran early on in his career on turf and had a wide trip one time and a good second the other,” stated Margolis.  It also helps his connections’ confidence that Ghostzapper sired Stately Victor – winner of the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes on Keeneland’s Polytrack – as well as Canadian champion Hunter’s Bay – a multiple graded stakes winner on Woodbine’s Polytrack.

The conditioner is not too worried about the formidable competition, including the top two who have won nearly $2 million in purses combined.  “I think he looks like he fits right in with the top couple in the race,” Margolis commented.  “He’s pretty versatile.  He has run at a lot of different racetracks and run well.”

As far as plans after the Washington Park, Margolis plans to send the 4-year-old gelding back to his Kentucky.  “There’s a nice race at Churchill called the Homecoming (Stakes) at our home track, Churchill Downs, that we’ll take a good look at.  There are also a couple other possibilities, depending on how this race goes.”

In the meantime, the long-striding Agent Di Nozzo, who comes off a solid 1:13 move for six furlongs on Aug. 22 at Churchill Downs, will try to enhance his résumé even more with a win over some of Arlington’s best older horses.  Churchill Downs spring meet leading rider Shaun Bridgmohan will be in to ride. 

Six 2-year-old fillies line up in Friday’s second race, a 6½-furlong maiden claiming event with a $19,000 purse.  Three fillies are especially intriguing.  Leading the pack and likely favorite is Dare to Dream Stable and Little Bear LLC’s Midnight Eclipse, a daughter of Malibu Moon out of Middleburg Mint, by No Armistice.  Malibu Moon is one of the hottest sires in North America and has especially been on fire since his son Orb took the Kentucky Derby in May.  Middleburg Mint won two of 14, but offers a pedigree of speed on top of stamina.  No Armistice was one of the fastest sprinters ever produced by the great Unbridled, while Middleburg Mint’s dam is stakes-winning Key to the Mint mare Ivory Mint.  The speed definitely passed through the family tree, as Midnight Eclipse showed great early lick when battling for the lead and finishing third in her Aug. 16 debut over six furlongs.  James Graham gets the return call.

Coming from that same race and likely second choice is First Corp Thoroughbreds’ Sandy Creek Girl, a daughter of Travers winner Colonel John out of Wildcat Princess, by Forest Wildcat.  Wildcat Princess’ pedigree is rampant speed on speed and a nice balance to the stamina of Colonel John.  Forest Wildcat was one of the fastest sprinters in America in the 1990s and Wildcat Princess’ damsire Clever Trick – a brilliant multiple stakes-winning juvenile – is the sire of one of the fastest sprinters of the 1980s, Phone Trick.  Closing from sixth in her debut, Sandy Creek Girl finished three-quarters of a length behind Midnight Eclipse in fourth.  Apprentice Samantha Colvin gets the return call and a seven-pound weight allowance.

One who may be prime for a quick turnaround in form is Robson Thoroughbreds’ Afleet Aggie, who is winless and has shown little in two starts at Prairie Meadows.  The bay filly adds blinkers for new trainer Scott Mullins and is a daughter of champion Afleet Alex – a Grade I winner at two – and multiple California stakes-winning turf sprinter Dezibelle’s Star, by Prospective Star.  Alejandro Contreras has the ride.