This could be the last chance for good solid older horses to pick up a nice purse and a graded stakes score before the big guns converge on New York for the Met Mile (gr. I), Suburban Handicap (gr. II), and eventually the grade I Whitney and Woodward Stakes.
You can bet that when there is an opening such as this, Todd Pletcher, Kiaran McLaughlin, and Bill Mott will show up with some talented horses, even if they are currently on the second team.
Godolphin has entered two horses, Long River and Romansh, naming the Ortiz brothers, Irad and Jose, to ride them. And they have the field of seven bookended, drawing posts 1, with the McLaughlin-trained Long River, and 7, with the Tom Albertrani-trained Romansh.
Long River, who has Irad Ortiz up, is riding a three-racing winning streak and is 3-for-4 since returning from an almost eight-month layoff. The 4-year-old son of A.P. Indy captured an allowance race at Belmont last October before winning the $100,000 Time For a Change Stakes and Evening Attire Stakes at Aqueduct. In the Evening Attire, he earned a career-high 107 Beyer speed figure defeating the Pletcher-trained Percussion, who also is in the Excelsior field.
Long River will carry 119 pounds, giving two pounds to Percussion, but getting four pounds from Romansh.
Romansh will carry top weight of 123 based on his brilliant score in last November’s Discovery Handicap (gr. III), in which he romped by 9 1/4 lengths while earning a career-high 110 Beyer.
But the son of Bernardini has been unpredictable throughout his career, and it seems to be feast or famine with him. He can win the Discovery by a pole, but finishes sixth, beaten 11 lengths, in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) the start before, and finishes 11th, beaten nearly 36 lengths, in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) in the race after.
This is a horse who was good enough to finish fifth, beaten only four lengths by Will Take Charge, in the Travers Stakes (gr. I). so, who knows which Romansh will show up in the Excelsior.
Percussion, who has won or placed in six stakes, most them overnighters, was second to Calidoscopio in last year’s Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) at 1 1/2 miles. The son of Bluegrass Cat is coming off narrow defeats in the Evening Attire and Stymie. Chris DeCarlo will be aboard and break from post 4.
Mott sends out Mr Palmer, who is rounding back into form after winning last year’s Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park and finishing a fast-closing fourth in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) behind Verrazano , Normandy Invasion, and Vyjack.
His last three starts have been in allowance/optional claiming races, and after two second-place finishes, he won his last start Feb. 2, scoring by 1 3/4 lengths going a mile. Manuel Franco replaces Cornelio Velasquez, who will ride the David Jacobson-trained Praetereo, who has been out of the money in his last two starts.
Rounding out the field are Don Dulce, second in last year’s Queens County and Slew o’Gold Stakes, who was claimed by Mitchell Friedman for $75,000 in his last start; and Dawly, winner of a starter allowance race in his last start.
$150,000 Excelsior Stakes (gr. III, Race 8, approximate post time 4:43 p.m. EDT), 3 Year-Olds and Up, 1 1/8 miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Long River (KY), I. Ortiz Jr, 119, K. McLaughlin
2. Mr Palmer (KY), M. Franco, 119, W. Mott
3. Praetereo (KY), C Velasquez, 117, D. Jacobson
4. Percussion (KY), C. DeCarlo, 117, T. Pletcher
5. Dawly (KY), A.S. Arroyo, 117, R. Rodriguez
6. Don Dulce (KY), R. Maragh, 119, M. Friedman
7. Romansh (KY), J.L. Ortiz, 123, T. Albertrani