Although he failed to win his most recent start at Gulfstream Park, Peter Vegso’s homebred Silver Tree turned in a solid effort in that April 5 race and has been assigned the high weight in the $100,000 Fort Marcy Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Aqueduct April 27, closing day at the New York track.
Contested at 1 1/16 miles over the Aqueduct turf, the Fort Marcy has drawn a field of seven older horses, led by the 8-year-old Silver Tree. Running at Gulfstream in the Cherokee River Stables Turf Classic Stakes for trainer Bill Mott, the game son of Hennessy chased the pace for most of the 1 1/8-mile event and actually shook clear at the head of the stretch, but couldn’t hold his lead against a late run from Soldier’s Dancer. He hasn’t won a race since last summer, when he took the Aug. 5 Fourstardave (gr. IIT) at Saratoga, that effort capping a three-race win streak over the turf.
Turf proved the answer for Kingfield Stables’ Distorted Humorcolt Buddy’s Humor last summer, as the long-striding runner scored two wins—one in Monmouth Park’s Jersey Derby—and a narrow loss in Belmont’s Lexington Stakes after switching to that surface for trainer Bruce Levine. The 4-year-old colt comes back after nearly nine months on the sidelines.
“I had him entered in the Kent at Delaware Park Labor Day weekend, but he came up bad a day before the race,” Levine said. “Timing-wise, it just made sense to give him the winter off. I didn’t want to send him to Florida to race because I wasn’t going. I think he’s a super-nice colt. Obviously, he’s got a great pedigree and all his turf races were solid. He’s gotten stronger off the layoff, and he’ll breeze by himself now. That’s the biggest change from last year; he always had to breeze in company ’cause he couldn’t do it solo.”
Breezing is something Buddy’s Humor has done regularly this spring. Since joining Levine at Belmont Park earlier this month, the colt has worked out four times, his latest move (three furlongs over the Belmont training track in :36.24, breezing) coming two days ago.
Another runner expected to perform well off a second-place effort is Dion Recachina’s Operation Red Dawn, a 6-year-old Miswaki gelding whose Jan. 12 start in a Gulfstream allowance race saw him beaten a nose after encountering traffic on the far turn. Other than his fourth-place maiden debut in 2004 and a Nov. 10 ninth-place finish for trainer Christophe Clement in the Red Smith Handicap (gr. II), the homebred gelding has not finished off the board in 14 turf starts.
$100,000 Fort Marcy Handicap (gr. III, race 8, approximate post 4:25 p.m.), 1 1/6 miles for older horses, turf
PP, Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Operation Red Dawn, 114, Alan Garcia
2. Twilight Meteor, 116, John Velazquez
3. Buddy's Humor, 115, Ramon Dominguez
4. Wood Be Willing, 114, Javier Castellano
5. Silver Tree, 117, Edgar Prado
6. Pays to Dream, 114, Cornelio Velasquez
7. Barastraight, 114, Joe Bravo