Two-For-Two Nicky The Vest Returns From Nine-Month Layoff Next Week At Aqueduct

Robert LaPenta and Sol Kumin’s Nicky the Vest, a New York-bred sophomore son of Runhappy, is slated to make his return next week at Aqueduct Racetrack in what will be his first start in nine months after having to skip the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino due to a knee chip.

Nicky the Vest is undefeated in two career starts – both against fellow state-breds going a one-turn mile at the Big A – graduating on debut in December ahead of an 11 3/4-length score in the Gander in February.

Trainer Jonathan Thomas said the bay colt, who posted a half-mile breeze in 50.80 seconds Friday morning over the Belmont dirt training track, will be entered in a state-bred allowance.

“He had trained like a very good horse and he backed it up in his races. We were fortunate to win with him in his only two starts,” Thomas said. “The timing of the injury was unfortunate but he’s well-represented with his owners Mr. LaPenta and Mr. Kumin, who wanted to do right by the horse.”

The bay colt was marking his ninth local breeze this morning dating back to September 19.

“He was sent to Ocala to Niall Brennan who did a wonderful job with him and the horse has come back and trained well. We’re looking forward to getting him back,” Thomas said. “He had a nice little move this morning and it went really well.”

Thomas said Nicky the Vest had trained well into what would have been his two-turn debut in April in the Wood Memorial, a key prep for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.

“At that stage of his career against 3-year-olds, we certainly felt bullish enough about his ability to try it,” Thomas said. “As time goes on, some of these horses really identify themselves as true two-turn horses but I don’t know yet. He might be a nice one-turn mile horse and if that’s the case that’s fine also.”

Bred by Highclere, Nicky the Vest, a half-sibling to stakes winner Moms Choice, is out of the Cat Thief mare Tazarine.

Augustin Stable’s stakes placed Experienced [post 1, Manny Franco] is entered in Race 3 on Sunday at Aqueduct, an 11-furlong turf allowance for 3-year-olds and up. By Temple City, he is out of the Nureyev mare No Matter What who captured the 2000 Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks at nine furlongs on turf for Augustin Stable.

The well-related sophomore gelding is a half-sibling to graded-stakes winners Utley, Rainbow View, Winter View and Just as Well.

A nose winner on debut traveling one mile and 70 yards over the Delaware Park turf, Experienced followed with a closing second in the 12-furlong Bald Eagle Derby in July at Pimlico. He enters off a more than two-month layoff from a fifth-place finish in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Virginia Derby in August at Colonial Downs.

“He’s training well. I love the post for him drawing the rail and getting the opportunity to save all the ground,” Thomas said. “There’s limited opportunities, especially in the allowance ranks, to run horses this long. I feel the further he goes the better and we’re looking forward to getting him started.”

McConnell Racing Stable’s War Terminator [post 9, Manny Franco], a sophomore son of War Dancer, returns from a six-month layoff in Race 7 here on Sunday, a six-furlong turf sprint for state-breds 3-year-olds and up.

A state-bred maiden winner at first asking sprinting six furlongs over yielding Big A turf in April, War Terminator followed with a close second in a seven-furlong allowance sprint for New York-breds over firm Belmont turf on May 1 that garnered an 80 Beyer.

“He’s come back pretty well. We’ve been able to get a couple of nice works under his belt,” Thomas said. “It’s unfortunate that we’re on the upswing with him at this time of year with the turf season coming to an end – especially as a New York-bred. But we’re happy to be in the entry box and in with a shot.”

Thomas said recent stakes competitors Benbang and Bay Storm are likely to be freshened now with an eye to a return to stakes action in the New Year.

Bridlewood Farm’s Bay Storm, a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Kantharos, won the six-furlong Christiecat in September over firm going at Belmont and followed with a close second in the seven-furlong Glen Cove on October 15.

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Benbang, a 2-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Shanghai Bobby, graduated on debut in an off-the-turf maiden tilt over a sloppy and sealed Saratoga main track and followed with an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Spinaway.

Last out, the talented bay was a game fourth in the Stewart Manor, defeated less than a length by the victorious Mystic Eyes in the six-furlong turf sprint on November 6 at Belmont.

“We’re getting to the end of the season and they’ll get a rest now to come back,” Thomas said. “Bay Storm ran great both times at Belmont. It was probably a little longer than she wanted to run last time with a hot pace, but we were so proud of her.

“Benbang was a little green on us in the lane last out and was getting in and she cost herself a place,” Thomas added. “But there was a stride or two where I thought she’d get up to win. I think backing her up in trip to 5 1/2 furlongs, especially at Saratoga next year, she’d be pretty adept.”

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