Trio of Grade 1 winners contest Weschester at BelmontApr 27th, 2012 | By TrackSide View | Category: Race Preview
ELMONT, N.Y. – To Honor and Serve, Jersey Town and Boys at Tosconova – Grade 1 winners all – headline Saturday’s 83rd running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Westchester, the first of 35 stakes at Belmont Park’s 2012 spring/summer meet.
The one-mile Westchester, the traditional prep for the Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap on Memorial Day, drew a field of seven accomplished runners, with 2011 Cigar Mile Handicap winner To Honor and Serve tabbed the 7-5 favorite on the morning line.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, To Honor and Serve will be making his 4-year-old debut in the Westchester. Last year, the Live Oak Plantation color-bearer made a brief foray onto the Triple Crown trail, but was given time off after third-place finishes in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. Sixth behind Caleb’s Posse in his return, the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga Race Course, To Honor and Serve won three of his next four starts and capped his year with a 1¾-length victory in the Cigar Mile.
“He put on a lot of weight, filled out, and matured a lot,” said Mott of the Bernardini colt, who zipped a half-mile Wednesday morning in 47.60 in preparation for the Westchester. “He definitely needs a race to get going, I am sure. Our early goal for this part of the season would be the Met Mile. You always have to have something to shoot for, and that’s what we’re shooting for at first.”
Jose Lezcano will be aboard To Honor and Serve, who drew post position 6.
The 4-year-old Boys At Tosconova, winner of the Grade 1 Three Chimneys Hopeful, is returning to graded stakes action for the first time since his runner-up finish to UncleMo in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Off for nearly a year, the Officer colt returned to finish third going seven furlongs at Belmont last October, and then ticked off three straight victories in optional claimers, most recently at GulfstreamPark on Jan. 27.
No worse than third in his eight lifetime starts, Boys At Tosconova was listed as the second choice on the morning line at 5-1. Ramon Dominguez will ride from post position 1.
Jersey Town has yet to return to the winner’s circle following his half-length victory over Haynesfield in the 2010 Cigar Mile, for which he earned a career-high 111 Beyer Speed Figure. Trained by Barclay Tagg for Charles Fipke, JerseyTown was second to Jackson Bend in the Grade 1 Forego last summer at Saratoga and third to UncleMo in the Grade 2 Kelso before closing out 2011 with a sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
The 6-year-old son of Speightstown, second by a half-length in his 2012 bow at Gulfstream Park, will be ridden Saturday by Hall of Famer Edgar Prado from post position 2 at 3-1 on the morning line.
Returning to graded stakes company for the first time in nearly a year is Barry Schwartz’s Bold Deed, older brother to recent Grade 2 Jerome winner The Lumber Guy. The 4-year-old New York-bred son of Grand Reward has made one start in open company, finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Peter Pan last May. Following a second-place finish in the New York Stallion Series’ Spectacular Bid division in June, Bold Deed was given time off and resumed racing in February at Aqueduct, where he was 1-2-0 in three starts. Most recently, he drew clear to a 7½-length victory in a one-mile optional claimer on March 17, earning a 102 Beyer Speed Figure.
“His last race was very strong,” said trainer Mike Hushion. “He’s training as nice as can be and it’s worth taking a shot.”
Javier Castellano will ride Bold Deed, 12-1 on the morning line, from post position 7.
Marilyn’s Guy comes into the Westchester in top form, having fashioned back-to-back stakes wins at Aqueduct, taking February’s As Indicated overnight stakes and next annexing the Grade 3 Excelsior for trainer Tony Dutrow. The 6-year-old Yonaguska gelding will carry high weight of 123 pounds, including newly minted Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, from post position 5.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way our horse is doing,” said Dutrow of Marilyn’s Guy, 6-1 on the morning line. “Our horse is at the top of his game. Hands down, the better horse is (To Honor and Serve) but under these circumstances, we may be able to run with him.”
Rounding out the field are Goombada Guska, most recently third in the Bryan G overnight stakes at Aqueduct on March 11, and Ponzi Scheme, making his first start since a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Iselin at Monmouth Park last August.
The field for the Grade 3 Westchester: Boys At Tosconova (5-2), R A Dominguez; Jersey Town (3-1), E S Prado; Ponzi Scheme (30-1), J Alvarado; Goombada Guska (20-1), R Napravnik; Marilyn’s Guy (6-1), J R Velazquez; To Honor and Serve (7-5), J Lezcano; and Bold Deed (12-1), J Castellano.
NYRA file photo
To Honor and Serve