by Matt Shifman
Saturday’s feature race at Aqueduct, the $100,000 Say Florida Sandy Stakes, honors one of the great NY-breds. The seven-furlong sprint, which drew a field on nine, features the 6-5 morning line favorite Gold for the King.
Say Florida Sandy raced from 1996 to 2003 and in that time the son of Personal Flag won $2,084,408 which is sixth on the New York-bred list of all-time leading earners. From the minute Say Florida Sandy set foot on the track, he was a runner, having won his first-start by almost five-lengths in a maiden special weight at Belmont Park. He put together a career record of 98: 33-17-12, which is unheard of in today’s world of thoroughbred racing. Perhaps 2001 was his best year when he won six races including three graded stakes.
Gold for the King comes into the race off a third-place finish against open company in the Gravesend at Aqueduct, in which he was just three-quarters of a length from the winner. Before that, the Charlie Baker trainee was a runaway winner of the New York Stallion Series sprint, a race he has won the last two years.
“He’s coming into this race in good shape,” said Baker. “He was right there running hard in the Gravesend and it just didn’t go our way that day, but since then he’s been training well, and I think the distance fits him.”
Gold for the King has never run a bad race at Aqueduct with a career record of 6: 4-1-1 at the Big A. Junior Alvarado has the mount as the 5-year-old goes for his third victory at the seven-furlong distance.
Two others who are making the move from open company races to this New York-bred stake are Celtic Chaos and Honor Up.
Celtic Chaos has been in fine form since moving to the barn of Brad Cox. The Zilla Racing Stables runner was fourth in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight at Aqueduct back in November.
Trainer Michelle Nevin sends Honor Up from an open company allowance victory into this spot. He has two wins in three starts since he was transferred to her barn in October from trainer Bill Mott.
“When we got him, he was in great shape,” said Nevin. “We decided to cut him back and run him at shorter distances and it seems to have made a difference. We really like him going seven-eighths. We knew he always possessed speed, but in his last race he also showed how versatile he is coming from off the pace, against the rail and taking dirt. We thought this was the right spot to put him back in stakes company.”
The Say Florida Sandy is carded as race 8 out of nine with post time scheduled for 3:58 pm ET.