By Bob Ehalt
Winter racing in New York may not be a stage for the sport’s biggest stars but it does allow horses who were relegated to smaller circuits in the summer to bask in the warm, bright lights of the Big Apple during the year’s most frigid months.
Saturday’s $125,000 Queens County Stakes is a fine example of that process with an intriguing 3-1 favorite in Name Changer.
The 5-year-old horse spent the year racing in the Mid-Atlantic region and posting a Grade 3 stakes win in the Monmouth Cup.
In the Queens County, Name Changer will make his New York stakes debut for trainer Alan Goldberg, facing nine rivals in the mile-and-an-eighth test.
The son of Uncle Mo is coming off a third-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby Champions Stakes on Sept. 22, where he was third, 4 ½ lengths behind the victorious Aztec Sense.
Prior to that, he was a half-length winner in the Monmouth Cup.
“He’s doing OK. We’ve been doing the best we can. We’ve had a few days where the weather and the track have been a little rough down here in Colts Neck (N.J.),” Goldberg said. “But other than that, he’s doing great. He’s been breezing good. I think a mile-and-an-eighth where he’s fourth and fifth and can relax is a good trip for him. He used to be a bad-breaking horse. Now, he’s been breaking well and sitting a little closer.”
Exulting is the 4-1 second choice and will be tested for class in his first appearance in a stakes that was originally scheduled for the dirt. While Exulting is coming off a fourth in the Red Smith and a win in the Artie Schiller, but both of those stakes were originally scheduled for the turf course at Aqueduct before rain forced them to be moved to the main track.
Both Small Bear and Bonus Points were priced at 5-1 in the morning line and both head into the Queens County off starts at Laurel in Maryland.
Small Bear was fourth in his last start, the Richard W. Small Stakes. Only 11 of his 21 career starts have been on dirt with three wins and four seconds in those main track efforts.
Bonus Points was a one-length winner in an allowance race in his last start.
The rest of the field includes Adulator (10-1), Bal Harbor (8-1), Backsideofthemoon (15-1), Holiday Bonus (15-1), Degrom (10-1) and Monongahela (10-1).