Wolf: Gotham Pair Deserve A Shot In ‘Tough Race’ For Derby Points

Having experienced both the high and low ends of the Kentucky Derby spectrum, owner Jack Wolf of Starlight Racing knows the trails and tribulations of the road to the first Saturday in May more than most. On Saturday, he’ll be watching the Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham with a sense of cautious optimism when sending out Atlantic Road and Freedom Fighter.

The one-turn mile event at Aqueduct Racetrack is New York’s penultimate local qualifier for the Grade 1, $3 million Kentucky Derby on May 1 at Churchill Downs and awards the top four finishers points according to a 50-20-10-5 scale.

Coverage of the Gotham will be available on America’s Day at the Races, the acclaimed national telecast produced by the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) in partnership with FOX Sports. Presented by America’s Best Racing and Claiborne Farm, America’s Day at the Races will broadcast Saturday from 5-6 p.m. Eastern on FS2, with the Gotham slated as Race 9 at 5:07 p.m.

Wolf, who manages Starlight Racing with his wife Laurie, has campaigned 12 Kentucky Derby starters. He was involved in multiple-owner partnerships which campaigned 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify and last year’s winner Authentic, but also had two last-place finishers in Keyed Entry (2006) and Monba (2008).

“Through the years, we’ve had quite a few hoses in the Derby. It’s a lot different when you have one that’s a favorite as opposed to a longshot like Keyed Entry,” Wolf said. “It’s pretty exciting when you have a legit shot. Last year, even though Barclay’s horse [Tagg, Tiz the Law] was the big favorite and the one to beat, I was confident that our horse would perform, and obviously he did.”

Trained by Hall of Fame nominee Todd Pletcher, Atlantic Road broke his maiden at second asking over the Aqueduct main track in gate-to-wire fashion under Kendrick Carmouche. The son of Quality Road was originally owned by Pletcher and was privately purchased by Wolf.

“I think the further he goes the better with him being by Quality Road out of a Smart Strike mare,” said Wolf. “He improved considerably and showed a bit of determination down the lane. His last race was encouraging. It’ll be a tall ask to compete, but he deserves the chance.”

Atlantic Road was one of four next-out winners of the January 8 maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park, which was won by Lamutanaaty.

“A lot of those horses validated that they were good ones,” Wolf said.

Atlantic Road will break from the rail under jockey Jorge Vargas, Jr.

Fellow Starlight Racing color-bearer Freedom Fighter also has only made two starts but has covered some ground in both efforts. The son of Violence won on debut at Del Mar on August 1 at Del Mar and emerged from a six-month layoff in the Grade 2 San Vicente on February 5 at Santa Anita, where he registered a 94 Beyer Speed Figure with a close second to highly-regarded stable mate Concert Tour.

Freedom Fighter is co-owned by Starlight Racing alongside SF Racing, Madaket Stables, Golconda Stables, Siena Farm and Robert E. Masterson and was purchased for $120,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

“His figures have improved dramatically just looking at his Beyers and he ran an 8 on the [Ragozin] sheets. But it looks like a tough race,” Wolf said.

Campaigned by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Freedom Fighter has trained forwardly toward the Gotham, firing a pair of bullets over the Santa Anita main track, most recently a five-furlong drill in 59.20 on February 27 – the fastest of 63 recorded works at the distance.

“When Bob tells you the horse is good and breezing the way he is, I get pretty excited,” Wolf said. “Relatively speaking, paying $120,000 for him in comparison to what we’ve paid for some of the others is a bit of a bargain, especially if he moves forward.”

Wolf and owner Sol Kumin of Madaket Stables tasted Derby victory together previously with Justify and Authentic.

Wolf appears to have horses firing on multiple cylinders on the Derby trail as Starlight Racing also is part owner of Spielberg, a fellow Baffert trainee who was recently a game second to champion Essential Quality in the Grade 3 Southwest at Oaklawn Park. A son of Union Rags, Spielberg won the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity in December and currently sits seventh on the leaderboard with 17 points.

He also has Grade 3 Holy Bull runner-up Tarantino for trainer Rodolphe Brisset, who was a last out fourth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and is No. 22 on the leaderboard with nine points.

Both Spielberg and Tarantino are owned by the same five other owners who also own Freedom Fighter.

Wolf said that the ownership group is an enjoyable one to be involved with.

“I’ve been friends with Tom [Ryan of SF Racing] a number of years,” said Wolf. “He talked to me about getting together with SF and then Sol came along as well. It’s a really fun group of people. All of us have been through the highs and lows and we all have a good time, win, lose or draw.

“We’ve got two of the best trainers in the business,” Wolf added. “Bob doesn’t get too excited until April, which is probably the right thing. I think if you have one that’s qualified and doing well by April, then you can get excited. The end of a horse’s 2-year-old year and the beginning of the following year is too early, but we all like to dream.”

Having traveled the road to the Kentucky Derby many times, Wolf said he knows not to get too carried away with Derby fever.

“There’s so many variables between now and then, but it’s cool to have nice horses and be in this position,” Wolf said.

The post Wolf: Gotham Pair Deserve A Shot In ‘Tough Race’ For Derby Points appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

DYFD Winter - 300x90

Comments are closed.