Corinthian’s comeback continues at Aqueduct on Saturday when he returns to New York in the $200,000 Excelsior Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. III) at nine furlongs on the main track.
In its 95th year, the Excelsior is part of the Wood Memorial Day festivities at Aqueduct on Saturday. It will go off as race 10 (5:42 p.m.) on an 11-race card.
The Excelsior BC is the next major step for Centennial Farm’s Corinthian, who will try to run his unbeaten 2007 record to three. The son of Pulpit, out of the Easy Goer mare Multiply, faces five rivals.
“I guess the word you would use is `volatile,’ if you are describing his personality,” trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. “He’s by Pulpit, and a lot of those get pretty anxious. Then, you have Easy Goer and, as great a horse as he was, his get also seem to be pretty strong-willed. With Corinthian, you get a double dose. He’s been training super, but he can go the other way in the blink of an eye.”
So far, Jerkens likes what he has seen in Corinthian’s progress. This was a horse who, in 2006, showed what he could do in Gulfstream Park’s Fountain of Youth (gr. II). Even though he was disqualified from first and placed third in that race, Corinthian had convinced anyone who saw him in action that his ability was real.
The Wood Memorial (gr. I) was next on his schedule, but a hairline fracture in his hind leg suddenly squelched the blossoming career. The injury did not require surgery, but after Jerkens brought him back to Saratoga in late July for a distant third-place finish, he was convinced that time would be the best medicine.
Corinthian came back to the races at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 8 and trounced a field that included 2006 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Jazil at nine furlongs. His next race was a courageous neck victory over old nemesis Hesanoldsalt in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II). Third in that race was A.P. Arrow, who won Gulfstream’s nine-furlong Skip Away Handicap (gr. III) last weekend.
"It looked like he was getting caught at the end, but it was only his second race back and he has a tendency to wait on horses," Jerkens noted. "But he dug in, and I think he is much more mature than he was last year.”
Shipping back to New York was no trouble for Corinthian and he is comfortable at home. On Sunday, he worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 on the fast training track at Belmont Park, and Wednesday, Jerkens brought him to Aqueduct’s paddock to get a lay of the land.
Elizabeth N. Alexander’s Magna Graduate is part of trainer Todd Pletcher’s well-stocked arsenal, and the 5-year-old Honor Grades horse will be a strong factor in the Excelsior. He comes in off a professional victory in the Razorback Breeders’ Cup (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park on March 9. It was a nice rebound off a last-place finish to world champ Invasor in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) on Feb. 3 at Gulfstream Park.
Trainer Pat Kelly has entered both Fox Ridge Farm’s Naughty New Yorker and Joseph and Mary Grant and Tommy Kelly’s Evening Attire in the Excelsior.
Naughty New Yorker, a 5-year-old Quiet American horse, has not raced since a fourth-place finish at Aqueduct on Feb. 16 at a mile and 70 yards. Added distance should be to his liking, and on the Big A’s main track, he has two wins and a third in five career starts.
Now 9 years old, Evening Attire got the Big A’s faithful cheering when he found room between horses and rallied to win the Stymie Handicap on the inner dirt track on March 3. With four wins and four seconds in 11 wet-track starts, the Black Tie Affair gelding will likely run only if it rains.
$200,000 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III, Race 10, 5:42 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Corinthian (KY), 119, Javier Castellano
2. Accountforthegold (NY), 114, Michael J. Luzzi
3. Naughty New Yorker (NY), 115, Jean-Luc Samyn
4. Magna Graduate (KY), 118, John R. Velazquez
5. Happy Hunting (KY), 115, Norberto Arroyo, Jr.
6. Evening Attire (KY), 116, Jose L. Espinoza