(Edited NYRA release)
Brushwood Stable's Kicken Kris has never been the favorite in his 11-race career, but that is expected to change Saturday as the colt will be around odds-on in the 110th running of the $150,000 Lawrence Realization Handicap (gr. III), a 1 1/2-mile turf race for 3-year-olds.
Kicken Kris, the 121-pound highweight, will give away six to eight pounds to every runner in the field. His weight and favored status is a result of strong runs against stakes company in his last three starts.
Kicken Kris is the lone stakes winner in the Lawrence Realization, a race named for James G.K. Lawrence who originated the Futurity at Sheepshead Bay in 1888. Sent off at 31-1 in the Virginia Derby, Kicken Kris rallied for second behind Silver Tree. The Kris S. colt drew off to score a 15-1 upset in the grade I Secretariat before finishing two-lengths behind Stroll in the Jamaica at 3-1.
"I don't think you're going to get away with those odds Saturday," said trainer Michael Matz, whose biggest concern is the rapid improvement a young horse could make Saturday to upset Kicken Kris. "You never know about the others coming up and progressing."
Although he has never been the 1 1/2-mile distance of the Lawrence Realization, Matz is quite confident that the marathon is within the scope of Kicken Kris.
"I don't think he'll have a problem," Matz said. "He's run twice at a mile and a quarter and ran well both times."
Hot-riding Javier Castellano, who has been aboard Kicken Kris in all three stakes starts, will once again have the mount Saturday.
While Matz seems confident his charge will handle the 12 furlongs, just about everyone in the race is trying the distance for the first time.
The only runner in the field with experience at the distance is Eugene and Laura Melnyk's Rowans Park, who broke his maiden going this distance over the summer at Churchill Downs. He was defeated by Kicken Kris in the Virginia Derby, but rebounded to best Saint Stephen in the stretch drive of an August 20th entry-level allowance at Saratoga.
"The way he's bred, he wants to run all day," trainer Tony Reinstedler said of the Irish River colt. "I think it was an experience factor more than anything in the Virginia Derby. He just wasn't up for it. I don't really have an explanation, but he's done well since and we're going to give it a whirl."
Trainer Christophe Clement is saddling a pair for the Lawrence Realization with Susan Harris' Saint Stephen more accomplished than Peter Bader's Devils Peak.
Saint Stephen, who will be getting six pounds from the favorite, only has one victory from five starts. He powered home an easy winner to break his maiden here going a mile and a quarter July 6, defeating Alajwad, who has since won consecutive starts.
In the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes, Saint Stephen finished third behind Stroll before yielding to Rowans Park August 20th.
"Saint Stephen is a nice horse and he's been very consistent," trainer Christophe Clement said. "I'm not sure he'll stay a mile and a half, but the ground should be on the fast side and it's a good race to try; although, I'd be a bit more confident going a mile and a quarter."
Clement is more convinced in Devils Peak getting the distance, but he just broke his maiden by a neck over Crazy Song, a horse who ran fifth in his return Wednesday.
"We don't have many mile-and-a-half turf stakes, so I think it's a good place to try Devils Peak," Clement said. "I know it's ambitious. We'll try and see what happens."
Fortune Writers beat Devils Peak by two lengths in an August 25 maiden race at Saratoga and has not run since. \
Wertheimer Farm's Go Deputy tries stakes after consecutive wins. He beat Lunar Mon and Ramillus in an entry-level Spa allowance August 30.
"I don't think distance will be a problem," said trainer Todd Pletcher, whose trainee's last win was going a mile and three-eighths. "I'm more concerned that it's a big step up in class."
Ramillus, who is yet to prove efficient past a mile and an eighth, did have some traffic trouble when he faced Go Deputy and may be better than the two-length margin suggests.
The field for Saturday's Lawrence Realization:
PP., HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1. Saint Stephen, Christophe Clement, Richard Migliore, 115
2. Carrier, D. Wayne Lukas, Jorge Chavez, 113
3. Go Deputy, Todd Pletcher, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 115
4. Kicken Kris, Michael Matz, Javier Castellano, 121
5. Ramillus, P.G. Johnson, Mike Luzzi, 115
6. Devils Peak, Christophe Clement, Heberto Castillo Jr., 113
7. Dark Whisper, H. James Bond, Jose Espinoza, 115
8. Rowans Park, Tony Reinstedler, Aaron Gryder, 115
9. Fortune Writers, Jimmy Toner, Shaun Bridgmohan, 113