Three grade I winners—To Honor and Serve, Jersey Town , and Boys at Tosconova —headline the $150,000 Westchester (gr. III) April 28, the first of 35 stakes during the 2012 spring/summer meet at Belmont Park.
The one-mile Westchester, the traditional prep for the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) on Memorial Day, drew a field of seven, with 2011 Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I) winner To Honor and Serve tabbed the 7-5 favorite on the morning line.
Trained by Bill Mott, To Honor and Serve will be making his 4-year-old debut in the Westchester. Last year, the Bernardini colt had a terrific second half of his sophomore season when winning three of his final four starts, including a 1 3/4-length victory in the Cigar Mile. The millionaire has already scored four graded stakes in his career.
“He put on a lot of weight, filled out, and matured a lot,” said Mott of the colt owned by Live Oak Plantation, who zipped a half-mile April 25 in :47 3/5 in preparation for the Westchester. “He definitely needs a race to get going, I am sure. Our early goal for this part of the season would be the Met Mile (gr. I). You always have to have something to shoot for, and that’s what we’re shooting for at first.”
Jose Lezcano will be aboard To Honor and Serve, who drew post 6.
The 4-year-old Boys At Tosconova, winner of the Three Chimneys Hopeful (gr. I) as a juvenile, is returning to graded stakes action for the first time since his runner-up finish to Uncle Mo in the 2010 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I). Off for nearly a year, the Officer colt returned to finish third going seven furlongs at Belmont last October. He then recorded three straight victories in optional claimers, most recently at Gulfstream Park Jan. 27.
No worse than third in his eight lifetime starts, Boys At Tosconova was listed as the second choice on the morning line at 5-2. Ramon Dominguez will ride from post 1.
Jersey Town has yet to return to the winner’s circle following his half-length victory over Haynesfield in the 2010 Cigar Mile. Trained by Barclay Tagg for Charles Fipke, Jersey Town was second to Jackson Bend in the Forego (gr. I) last summer at Saratoga and third to Uncle Mo in the Kelso (gr. II) before closing out 2011 with a sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I).
The 6-year-old son of Speightstown , second by a half-length in his 2012 debut at Gulfstream, will be ridden by Edgar Prado from post 2.
Returning to graded stakes company for the first time in nearly a year is Barry Schwartz’s Bold Deed, older brother to recent Jerome (gr. II) winner The Lumber Guy. The 4-year-old New York-bred son of Grand Reward has made one start in open company, finishing fifth in the Peter Pan (gr. II) last May. Most recently, he drew clear to a 7 1/2-length victory in a one-mile optional claimer on March 17.
“His last race was very strong,” said trainer Mike Hushion. “He’s training as nice as can be and it’s worth taking a shot.”
Javier Castellano will ride Bold Deed.
Marilyn's Guy comes into the Westchester in top form off back-to-back stakes wins at Aqueduct, taking February’s As Indicated overnight stakes and the Excelsior (gr. III) for trainer Tony Dutrow. The 6-year-old Yonaguska gelding will carry high weight of 123 pounds, including John Velazquez.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way our horse is doing,” said Dutrow. “Our horse is at the top of his game. Hands down, the better horse is (To Honor and Serve) but under these circumstances, we may be able to run with him.”