Sonneman No Match For Celtic Striker In Two-Horse Easy Goer

Imperial Racing’s Celtic Striker bested Courtlandt Farm’s Sonneman by 19 3/4-lengths in Thursday’s $80,000 Easy Goer, a 1 1/16-miles test for sophomores reduced to just two contenders after scratches at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

The Easy Goer marked the first match race on the NYRA circuit since Painted Poney topped Epiphany in a claiming sprint on January 29, 2015 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained by Ray Handal and piloted by Saturday’s Grade 1 Belmont Stakes-winning rider Manny Franco, Celtic Striker took command out of the gate and never looked back.

A second-out maiden winner at Monmouth Park in October, Celtic Striker rattled off splits of 23.55 and 46.55 second on the fast main track with Sonneman, piloted by Jose Ortiz, tracking outside.

Sonneman attempted an inside move approaching the turn, but Celtic Striker continued to improve his advantage through three-quarters in 1:10.50. Celtic Striker angled wide into the lane and galloped clear down the center of the Belmont stretch run for the open lengths score in a final time of 1:42.37. Informative, Casino Grande and Prodigious Bay were early scratches from the Easy Goer, with Toy scratched at the gate.

Handal said he felt confident throughout the unique event.

“I felt good early on. I could tell he was really travelling well,” said Handal. “Jose [Ortiz, aboard Sonneman] tried to angle him in early on the backside and make a little bit of a middle move, but when Celtic Striker kicked away from him and then came back over in front of him, I felt pretty good. I knew there was a lot of running to do. But I knew he was going to be tough the way he was travelling out there.”

A $100,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, Celtic Striker ­– by Congrats – captured an optional-claiming mile in February at Parx, but was off-the-board in three previous stakes attempts when fourth in the Jerome in January at the Big A; 11th in the Grade 3 Gotham in March at Aqueduct; and sixth last out in the Grade 3 Matt Winn on May 23 at Churchill Downs.

Franco said he wanted to utilize Celtic Striker’s gate speed to his advantage.

“I knew that my horse was a lot faster than the other one, so I took advantage,” said Franco. “I just wanted to keep him on the inside to see what kind of move he made, and I made my move first. In a two-horse race, I didn’t want to move too soon if I didn’t have to, but I wanted to make it difficult for the other horse, too.”

Sonneman, who was making his first start for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen in the Easy Goer, was a winner at third asking in October at Belmont Park in a one-turn mile on Big Sandy for his former conditioner Mark Hennig. He made his sophomore debut a winning one last out when rallying from last-of-eight to capture an optional-claiming sprint at Gulfstream Park.

Ortiz said he knew his colt would be at a disadvantage in the scratch-reduced field.

“My horse comes from off the pace. Clearly, it would have benefited me with a bigger field,” said Ortiz. ” I broke OK. I tried to push Manny a little bit to ensure an honest pace. My plan was to be up as close as I could and try to wear him out late, but when Manny asked his horse, he just drew away from me.”

Bred in Kentucky by Stoneview Farm Inc. and Craig D. Upham, Celtic Striker banked $44,000 in victory while improving his record to 6-3-1-0. He paid $5.50 as the 8-5 second choice in wagering.

Live racing resumes Friday with a nine-race card headlined by the $75,000 Hessonite for older filly and mare turf sprinters in Race 8 at 5:04 p.m. Eastern. First post is 1:15 p.m.

The post Sonneman No Match For Celtic Striker In Two-Horse Easy Goer appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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