Magna Graduate and Student Council plan to take their Oaklawn-based rivals to school in Friday's $150,000 Razorback Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) for older horses going 1 1/16 miles.
The feature will also include Oaklawn's Essex Handicap (gr. III) winner Jonesboro and Essex runnerup Red Raymond, as well as 2006 Arkansas Derby (gr. II) and Southwest Stakes runnerup Steppenwolfer.
Elisabeth Alexander's Magna Graduate ships in to represent the powerful stable of Todd Pletcher, seeking to win one of the few graded stakes races that seems to have eluded him over the past few seasons. Magna Graduate is a 5-year-old son of Honor Grades and will be ridden on Friday by ace stable jockey John Velazquez.
Magna Graduate enjoyed a stellar 3-year-old season, which included wins in the Pegasus (gr. III), Discovery (gr. III), and Clark (gr. II) handicaps. As a 4-year-old, he may have been knocked out by a long and unsuccessful trip to Dubai in the spring. He returned this past November to eventually score a wire-to-wire win in the Queen County Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct before an up-the-track performance behind reigning Horse of the Year Invasor in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park.
Wil Farish's Student Council, meanwhile, represents popular trainer Neil Howard and has won his last two, including an allowance race at Fair Grounds followed by a 3 1/4-length score in the Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Park. Regular rider Robby Albarado, a former Oaklawn champion, will fly in to handle the riding assignment on Friday. Albarado won the 2006 Razorback Breeders' Cup Handicap aboard Purim for trainer Tom Proctor.
Heading the local contingent is Mike Langford's 119-pound high weight Jonesboro, a winner of two of his last three starts and a 5-year-old on the improve for trainer Randy Morse. A series of injuries set back the handsome chestnut son of Sefapiano following his win in the Northern Spur Breeders' Cup Stakes at Oaklawn in 2005, but the speedy colt appears ready to take on the elite of his age group. Calvin Borel, who rode him to the Essex Handicap win, will again be aboard on Friday.
Thomas Franks' Red Raymond may be ready to make his big move to a graded stakes winner. The 4-year-old son of Deputy Commander needs pace up front to perform at his best and it would appear that he's get just that from the likes of Kid Grindstone, Chippewa Trail, Magna Graduate, and Jonesboro in the Razorback. The Bob Holthus trainee has trained brilliantly coming to this race, including six furlongs breezing in 1:12 1/5 last Friday morning. Luis Quinonez, winner of the Razorback in two of the past four years (Colorful Tour in 2003 and Absent Friend in 2005) will take his customary position in the saddle aboard Red Raymond on Friday.
Robert and Lawana Low's Steppenwolfer, another who needs speed up front to be at his best, came back to the races in a totally paceless allowance race on Feb. 23 and should perform much better this time around. The gray son of Aptitude will be coupled on Saturday with jockey Corey Lanerie, who rode him to a second-place finish behind Lawyer Ron in the 2007 Southwest Stakes.
$150,000 Razorback Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III, Race 9, 5:11 p.m.)
4 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Kid Grindstone (KY), 117, Jesse M. Campbell
2. Chippewa Trail (KY), 110, John Jacinto
3. Red Raymond (KY), 112, Luis S. Quinonez
4. Student Council (KY), 115, Robby Albarado
5. Magna Graduate (KY), 118, John R. Velazquez
6. Mr. Pursuit (KY), 114, M. Clifton Berry
7. Jonesboro (KY), 119, Calvin H. Borel
8. Sandburr (TX), 113, Eusebio Razo, Jr.
9. Steppenwolfer (KY), 116, Corey J. Lanerie