By Karen M. Johnson
Trainer Pat Kelly is hoping the third time is a charm for Naughty New Yorker when he runs the 5-year-old in the $250,000 Empire Classic Handicap Oct. 20 at Belmont Park.
The Empire Classic is one of seven stakes on the card for New York-breds. Billed as New York Showcase Day by the New York Racing Association, the afternoon of racing also features the $150,000 Mohawk Handicap, $150,000 Ticonderoga Handicap, $125,000 Hudson Handicap, $125,000 Iroquois Handicap, $100,000 Sleepy Hollow, and $100,000 Maid of the Mist.
Naughty New Yorker, a winner of more than $800,000, is among nine entered in the Empire Classic, a dirt race at 1 1/8 miles. Naughty New Yorker packs 121 pounds as the high weight and concedes four to seven pounds to his rivals.
Kelly ran Naughty New Yorker in the past two runnings of the Empire Classic. The son of Quiet American finished off the board both times.
This year, Naughty New Yorker enters the race in sensational form. He has won his last two starts in easy fashion, including a two-length score in the General D. MacArthur Handicap at Belmont Sept. 7.
“Earlier this year he wasn’t 100%; he was sick in the spring and that lingered,” Kelly said Oct. 18. “He’s back to the real Naughty now.”
Javier Castellano, who has won the Empire Classic twice, has the mount from post six.
If Indian Hawke can duplicate his nearly 13-length win in a starter allowance Oct. 3, he will be very tough for trainer Tony Dutrow. A horse for the course, Indian Hawke has won two of his three starts at Belmont.
Storm Boot Gold, Who What Win, Run Red Run, French Transition, Lord Langfuhr, Building New Era, and Dr. V’s Magic complete the field.
Big Truck, a promising 2-year-old trained by Barclay Tagg, might be the most intriguing runner on the Showcase card. Undefeated in two starts sprinting, Big Truck stretches out to a mile in the Sleepy Hollow while facing seven rivals.
Tagg thinks rather highly of the son of Hook and Ladder and mentioned next month’s 1 1/8-mile Remsen (gr. II) at Aqueduct as a possible target.
“I don’t think distance will be a limitation for him,” Tagg said Oct. 18. “He’s a good mover, well-coordinated, and does things easy.”
The six-furlong Hudson will feature Gold and Roses, who won the race last year. Gold and Roses is coming off a pair of disappointing efforts and could be vulnerable in his quest for a Hudson repeat.
Stormin Normandy exits impressive back-to-back wins at Belmont. If he runs back to those efforts, it will spell trouble for his eight rivals.
Spurred, an improving 3-year-old, takes on older horses in the 1 1/8-mile Mohawk on the turf and figures to be a significant factor in the 10-horse field. The son of Northern Spur has not finished worse than third in his last six starts.
Tagg will saddle the likely favorite in the Ticonderoga, Factual Contender. A winner of nearly $190,000 this year, Factual Contender is coming off a half-length win in the Dynamic Lisa Stakes at Belmont. The runner-up, Rewrite, is also among the 11 fillies and mares entered in the 1 1/8-mile turf race.
Ice Cool Kitty is the class of the Iroquois field, a seven-furlong dirt race for fillies and mares. If she bounces back from her ambitiously placed start in the Beldame (gr. I), which came on three days’ rest, Ice Cool Kitty should be tough to beat in the 10-horse field.
The Maid of the Mist drew a field of seven 2-year-old fillies. Expect the End, a winner of two restricted stakes, is the horse to catch in the mile dirt race.