Claimed by trainer David Jacobson for $35,000 on May 23, the 7-year-old Johannesburg runner proved an immediate bargain by capturing the $100,000 Lion Cavern in his next start at Belmont Park, and eventually went on to upset a field of eight in the Forego (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course at odds of 15-1. The win was a first grade I for both Jacobson and co-owner Drawing Away Stable.
While running well in his next three starts, Strapping Groom couldn't maintain winning form. He was third in the Vosburgh (gr. I) in September, fourth in the Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) in October, and second in the Fall Highweight Handicap (gr. III) in November.
On Dec. 21, Jacobson decided to give his star pupil some class relief and entered him in the ungraded Gravesend Handicap at the Big A, to which he responded with a dominant 6 1/2-length score over Palace.
The 123-pound highweight in a field of eight older horses entered in the Toboggan, Strapping Groom breaks from post 5 with Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard. He is coupled in the wagering with Praetereo, most recently third for the same connections in the one mile, 70-yard Lord Of The Night stakes at Aqueduct. The duo is favored 3-5 on the morning line.
Jacobson will also send out Candyman E in the Toboggan, winner of the Spooky Mulder in his last start. C.C. Lopez has the mount on the 7-year-old Candy Ride gelding, who Jacobson owns in partnership with Gold Square. Candyman E sits at 5-1 on the morning line, and will break from post 7.
Dads Caps, trained by Rudy Rodriguez for breeder Vincent Scuderi, was second behind Candyman E in the Spooky Mulder on Dec. 13 at the Big A. The 4-year-old son of Discreet Cat breaks from post 6 with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons.
Rounding out the field are four runners who made their last starts at Aqueduct—Paradise Farms' Sensational Slam, a son of Grand Slam trained by Patrick Quick who was second in an optional claimer at the Big A last out; Andrew Gurdon and Pick Six Racing's Don Tito, a 7-year-old by Trippi who finished a half-length ahead of Sensational Slam in his latest start for Rodriguez; Non Stop, a Successful Appeal gelding who was most recently a winner of a Jan. 1 starter allowance race for Good Karma Stables and trainer Dave Cannizzo; and Sovereign Stable's Bet the Power, an Albert the Great winner of a Dec. 11 optional claimer for trainer John Terranova II.
$150,000 Toboggan (gr. III, Race 6, approximate post 2:50 p.m. EST), 3YOs & Up, six furlongs (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Sensational Slam (ON), A. Castellano, Jr. , 118, P J Quick, 15-1
2. Don Tito (FL), A.S. Arroyo, 116, R R Rodriguez, 8-1
3. Non Stop (KY), A. Lezcano, 116, D A Cannizzo, 20-1
4. Bet the Power (KY), J.L. Ortiz, 118, J P Terranova II, 12-1
5a., Strapping Groom (KY), I. Ortiz, Jr., 123, D Jacobson, 3-5
6. Dads Caps (KY), C.H. Velasquez, 116, R R Rodriguez, 6-1
7. Candyman E (KY), C. C. Lopez, 120, D Jacobson, 5-1
8a. Praetereo (KY), D. Cohen, 116, D Jacobson, 3-5