Speedsters Attila’s Storm and Bishop Court Hill could determine the outcome of Saturday’s $65,000 Paumonok Handicap at Aqueduct in the opening quarter mile of the six-furlong feature.
The inner track event drew a small field of five.
Melnyk Racing Stable’s Bishop Court Hill will be trying to defend his title in the Paumonok, a race that set him up for a victory in the Carter Handicap (gr. I) last year. Meanwhile, Barry Schwartz’s Attila’s Storm looks for his first win since taking the 2005 Fall Highweight Handicap.
Following the Carter, Bishop Court Hill was defeated in four straight starts before finding the winners’ circle in the Gravesend (gr. III) at Aqueduct Dec. 17 over the inner track.
“All signs from his training have been positive and the Gravesend was a powerful race for him,” said Seth Benzel, Bishop Court Hill’s trainer of record while Todd Pletcher finishes out his suspension. “He did what he likes to do, which is go out there and dominate with his speed and that’s kind of what we’re hoping for in the Paumonok.”
Jockey Jose Santos will be back aboard Bishop Court Hill for the first time since May. He was the gelding’s jockey in last year’s Paumonok and Carter.
At the age of 7, Bishop Court Hill is still going strong, something that may be attributed to the gelding’s space between races.
“He’s a very talented horse and he’s got a lot of natural ability,” Benzel said. “To still be around at 7 is great. He loves the game. He goes out there and trains hard every day and runs hard most of the time.”
Attila’s Storm missed a large portion of his 2006 campaign with a fractured hind leg. He finished third by only a neck in the Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II) one year ago and did not return until Oct. 7 when he was a good third in the Vosburgh (gr. I) behind Henny Hughes.
After off-the-board finishes in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) and De Francis Dash (gr. I) behind sprint champion Thor’s Echo, Attila’s Storm, a son of Forest Wildcat, drops for this ungraded spot.
“Things were pretty rough in Maryland,” trainer Richard Schosberg said of the son of the De Francis run. “He got mugged a few times in there. From the gate to around the turn, he was getting bumped and sandwiched in between horses. A lot happened in that race and he came back with a sore foot.”
Schosberg is hoping the class relief and a little freshening will help Attila’s Storm find the winner’s circle for the first time since Thanksgiving 2005. The prospect of a cutthroat battle between Attila’s Storm and Bishop Court Hill does not bother him.
“If they want to run with us, let them run with us,” the trainer said. “Chuckie (C.C. Lopez) is on him and he knows how to get out of the gate quick.”
$65,000 Paumonok Handicap (Race 8, 3:48 p.m.), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs (Inner Track)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Super Fuse (KY), 114, Shaun Bridgmohan
2. Wild Jam (KY), 115, Michael J. Luzzi
3. Attila's Storm (KY), 122, Charles C. Lopez
4. Bishop Court Hill (KY), 120, Jose A. Santos
5. Pavo (KY), 112, Norberto Arroyo, Jr.