OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Last fall, it was announced that purses for the 10-race New York Stallion Stakes series would double in value to $2.3 million. The first two races will be contested Sunday at Aqueduct and the field size seems to reflect renewed interest in the series.
The Times Square, for 3-year-olds, and the Park Avenue, for 3-year-old females, each had its purse doubled to $200,000. The Times Square drew a field of 11 led by Bankit, while the Park Avenue drew a field of nine topped by Stonesintheroad.
The Times Square was run with six starters or fewer in five of the last six years. Although the Park Avenue had nine last year, it had seven or fewer starters in the five previous runnings. Both races are run at 6 1/2 furlongs on the dirt.
The two Stallion Stakes races along with the $100,000 Woodhaven Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf highlight Aqueduct’s closing-day nine-race card. Sunday is Easter and by state law racing cannot occur – though the adjacent casino will be open for business.
After futilely chasing the Triple Crown dream, Bankit is back with restricted company in the Times Square, which goes as the final race on the card. Last year, Bankit had two wins and a second in four starts against New York-breds. That included an off-the-pace 5 3/4-length victory in the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow Stakes. This will be his first start around one turn since that race.
With rain in the forecast, Bankit will likely encounter an off track for the first time in the afternoon. He has worked several times over an off surface this winter and spring.
Joe Bravo will ride Bankit from post 4 for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Blindwillie McTell won a division of the New York Stallion Stakes for juveniles here in December in the slop. He came back to win the Rego Park in January despite stumbling and getting a cut on his left hind ankle. The cut got infected and Blindwillie McTell was given two months off at Patty Hogan’s New Jersey farm.
“He’s trained well into this,” trainer Linda Rice said. “Big field, tough race. Those bigger purses are certainly drawing a crowd.”
Rice also sends out Captain Frost, who has won two straight races at a mile but a will be cutting back to 6 1/2 furlongs.
Thorny Tale, twice beaten by Blindwillie McTell, makes his first start since January. While trainer George Weaver does well bringing horses back off a layoff, Thorny Tale shows a relatively light work tab for his return.
Funny Guy could be a live longshot. In the Rego Park, he finished eighth but came back to run a good second to a loose-on-the-lead Hushion in an allowance race with blinkers removed.
Trainer John Terranova said Funny Guy “tensed up between horses and misfired” in the Rego Park.
“I think he’s one who continues to improve with racing,” Terranova said. “The more we’re able to do with him the better he seems to get.”
Hushion and The Big Lebanese are others who could contend in this spot.
The $200,000 purse likely played a role in trainer Jeremiah Englehart’s decision to run Stonesintheroad in the Park Avenue, which goes as race 8. This will be her fourth race in 11 weeks.
Stonesintheroad won her first three starts – all against New York breds – before finishing third in the Cicada Stakes after getting pressed in a speed duel.
“I don’t think the pace scenario will be as crazy unless somebody wants to get ridiculous on the front end,” Englehart said. “I thought she ran an unbelievable race finishing third in relation to those that challenged her on the lead.”
Rice has entered Newly Minted back one week after she won a maiden race by 5 3/4 lengths in the mud, earning an 87 Beyer Speed Figure.
“She was pretty impressive,” Rice said. “Stallion Stakes only come around once, so I entered her to keep the options open. I also think her pedigree, being by Central Banker out of a Bernardini mare, she would excel in the mud.”
Kid Is Frosty could get a good pace scenario. Alphadora is a maiden, but shortens up from a mile where she blew a 4 1/2-length lead in the final furlong.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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