OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Following a successful return to the races in Tuesday’s $150,000 Jerome Stakes going one mile, Mind Control will likely attempt 1 1/8 miles for the first time in the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on Feb. 2, trainer Gregg Sacco said Wednesday.
Mind Control, who won last year’s Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga at seven furlongs, came out of his Jerome victory in good order, Sacco said Wednesday morning. The Jerome was Mind Control’s first start since he finished seventh, 18 1/4 lengths behind Game Winner, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 2, a performance caused in part by a poor break and perhaps a temperature incurred upon his arrival to Louisville earlier that week.
Sacco doesn’t believe the Breeders’ Cup was a true indication of Mind Control’s ability to get two turns.
“I think he’ll handle it,” Sacco said. “He’s always galloped out really well, is strong in his [morning] gallops. He’s never acted like a sprinter to me. He has a lot of wind, a lot of stamina. Everything is a test, like a building block. My gut tells me he will handle it. You never know until you try, but even him getting a terrible break and not being himself in the Breeders’ Cup, he passed half the field in the stretch.”
Mind Control’s two biggest wins have come under John Velazquez and when the Hall of Fame rider has put him on the lead. It is unclear whether Velazquez will be able to ride Mind Control back in the Withers. Velazquez, based at Gulfstream, flew to New York on Dec. 20 to ride Withers candidate Moretti to a maiden victory going 1 1/8 miles for his main client, trainer Todd Pletcher. Also, there are five graded stakes at Gulfstream on Feb. 2 including the Holy Bull for 3-year-olds. The Holy Bull could be a spot for Code of Honor, whom Velazquez rides in Saturday’s Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream.
Sacco, who noted Wednesday he has already fielded calls from agents looking to ride Mind Control, said he would like to know approximately two weeks out whether Velazquez would be available to ride him.
“I certainly would like Johnny to stay on him if it works out,” Sacco said.
In the Jerome, after taking a slight bump in the rump from eventual runner-up Our Braintrust, Mind Control led throughout, taking some mild pressure from Souper Jackpot and then Gates of Dawn before turning back Our Braintrust in the final furlong to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Mind Control ran a mile in a respectable 1:39.06 and earned a career-best 88 Beyer Speed Figure.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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