Toboggan tops winter weekend at Aqueduct

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By Bob Ehalt

The racing action during this holiday weekend was shortened on Thursday when the New York Racing Association took some prudent action and decided to cancel Monday’s card at Aqueduct due to the likelihood of bitter cold weather.

With four days of racing already reduced to three, there could be an additional cancellation, depending on when an impending winter storm arrives in New York and how much fluffy, white snow it drops on the Big Apple and how low the thermometer drops.

In the meantime, the current forecast bodes well for the Saturday afternoon card at the Big A, where the Grade 3 Toboggan Stakes heads the nine-race card.

Only five starters turned out for the seven-furlong stakes, but it should be a competitive affair.

On the morning line, Gold for the King is the 7-5 favorite as he makes a rather quick return to the races. The 5-year-old New York State-bred gelding is back in action after finishing a troubled third in the Say Florida Sandy Stakes last Saturday.

A 6-5 favorite in the Say Florida Sandy, Gold for the King was third, beaten by three-quarters of a length, in the Gravesend Stakes on Dec. 23 in his previous start and posted a 9 ¼-length victory in a New York Stallion Series Stakes on Nov. 18.

In seven starts at Aqueduct, Gold for the King has four wins, a second and two thirds.

Skyler’s Scramjet was pegged as the 8-5 second choice after finishing second in the Gravesend. The 5-year-old staged a strong rally in the final furlong only to lose by a head in his first race in six months for trainer Michelle Nevin.

“He had a huge effort coming off a long layoff last time,” Nevin said. “He had a good effort and just missed, but it was very nice to see. He’s very versatile. He can be around the pace, or stick behind it, so either way, he should be in a good spot.”

The field also includes Colonel Sharp (4-1), who is shipping in from Laurel in search of a third straight win. Trained by Hugh McMahon, the 6-year-old gelding is coming off a head victory in the Dave’s Friend Stakes last month.

Bal Harbour (5-1) will be turning back to a sprint after racing at a mile or more in his last eight starts. The son of First Samurai made his last start in a sprint two years ago when he finished fourth in the 2017 Saratoga Special as a 2-year-old.

In his last start, Bal Harbour was third in the mile-and-an-eighth Queens County Stakes at Aqueduct for trainer Todd Pletcher.

“It felt like cutting back to seven-eighths would be a good way to get him to fire his best shot,” Pletcher said. “He’s come out of the (Queens County) well and he looks like he’s in good form coming in to (the Toboggan).”

Rounding out the field is Solid Wager (8-1), who was shipped from the warmth of California to frigid New York after finishing third in a Jan. 1 allowance race at Santa Anita for trainer Peter Miller.

Solid Wager will make his first start for trainer Jeremiah Englehart in the Toboggan.