Cynthia Phipps' Saarland, one of last year's leading Kentucky Derby (gr. I) prospects, won his first race since November on Friday at Aqueduct Park, defeating four rivals in an allowance race as the 7-5 favorite.
The 4-year-old son of Unbridled, ridden by John Velazquez, defeated Lord Ofthe Thunder by 2 1/4 lengths, going a mile on a sloppy track in 1:36 2/5. The race was a non-winners of three conditioned allowance worth $48,000.
Claude McGaughey trains Saarland, who was 10th in last year's Derby. The colt required ankle surgery to remove chips after the race. He didn't return to action until Nov. 15 when he grabbed a quarter while winning an allowance at Aqueduct. McGaughey had the horse in training at Gulfstream, but he developed a quarter crack in the same foot.
McGaughey is pointing the bay colt toward a New York handicap campaign this summer. Saarland won the Remsen (gr. II) and was second in the Gotham (gr. III) and fourth in the Wood (gr. I) last year.
Friday, Saarland was close up while fourth early, taking the lead at the quarter pole with a three wide move and digging in down the lane to win going away. The winner paid $4.80, $3 and $2.30. Lord Ofthe Thunder returned $3.50 and $2.70 while 10 lengths clear of third-place finisher C.L. Rib, who showed for $2.60.