It’s been three up and three down this year at Aqueduct for Barrier Reef headed into Saturday’s Excelsior Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. III) at the New York track. The son of Mizzen Mast won his last start at the Excelsior distance of 1 1/8 miles, beating Chilean-bred Real Merchant and True Resurgence in the Feb. 28 Stymie Handicap. Those two also will give it a go in the Excelsior.
Barrier Reef, trained by Tom Albertrani for Darley Stable, started the year with a triumph in an optional claimer before eking out a neck win in the Evening Attire. Ramon Dominguez rides again.
Atoned, who gets high weight of 123 pounds in the Excelsior, and Cool Coal Man are the top earners among the eight contestants, with each of the two having surpassed the $400,000 mark. Those two, who raced against some of the biggest names last year, took on Big Brown in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I) in August. Cool Coal Man ran an even third, and Atoned finished unplaced. Two races later, Atoned won the Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) at Meadowlands. Atoned, a son of Repent trained by Todd Pletcher, will be ridden by John Velasquez.
Cool Coal Man, whose big win came in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) February 2008, started this year with an optional claiming score at Gulfstream Park. The son of Mineshaft will be making his first career start at Aqueduct. He is trained by Nick Zito and will be ridden by Charles Lopez.
Alaazo, Giant Moon, and Kurbat will be headed into the Excelsior off wins in their most recent efforts. A.R. Napravnik will have the return mount on Alaazo, who won March 8 at Aqueduct. By A.P. Indy, Alaazo is trained by Pletcher.
Giant Moon, trained by Richard Schosberg, set the pace in an overnight stakes score at Aqueduct March 6. The Giant's Causeway colt will be ridden by Edgar Prado.
Kurbat will be making his second start since arriving from Chile, where he won the St. Leger (Chi-I). Trained by H. Graham Motion, Kurbat won at Laurel in early February. Joseph Talamo will ride.
Excelsior Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. III), $200,000, Aqueduct, April 4, Race 8, Time 4:46 p.m. (EDT)
Post Horse Trainer Weight Jockey
1 Barrier Reef Tom Albertrani 120 Ramon Dominguez
2 Alaazo Todd Pletcher 118 A. R. Napravnik
3 Real Merchant Seth Benzel 118 Eddie Castro
4 Kurbat Graham Motion 118 Joe Talamo
5 True Resurgence John P. Terranova II 118 Jeffrey Sanchez
6 Cool Coal Man Nick Zito 118 C.C. Lopez
7 Atoned Todd Pletcher 123 John R. Velazquez
8 Giant Moon Richard Schosberg 118 Edgar Prado