Barrier Reef's last race was a victory in the Stymie on February 28.

Barrier Reef's last race was a victory in the Stymie on February 28.

Coglianese Photos

Barrier Reef One to Beat in Excelsior

Barrier Reef already has won three times at Aqueduct this year.

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

Barrier Reef  Tom Albertrani  120  Ramon Dominguez
Alaazo  Todd Pletcher  118  A. R. Napravnik
Real Merchant  Seth Benzel  118  Eddie Castro
Kurbat  Graham Motion  118  Joe Talamo
True Resurgence  John P. Terranova II  118  Jeffrey Sanchez
Cool Coal Man  Nick Zito  118  C.C. Lopez
Atoned  Todd Pletcher  123  John R. Velazquez
Giant Moon  Richard Schosberg  118  Edgar Prado