Remarkable News, a 4-year-old Venezuelan-bred trained by Angel Penna Jr., seeks his second stakes win in the $100,000 Poker Handicap (gr. III) Sunday on the turf at Belmont Park.
The one-mile Poker is part of a stakes doubleheader Sunday that also includes the $100,000 Astoria for 2-year-old fillies at 5 ½ furlongs, the first stakes of the year in New York for juveniles. Racing continues through Tuesday at Belmont Park as part of the Independence Day Weekend festivities.
Remarkable News came to Penna's barn as a 2-year-old but did not make his first start until August of his 3-year-old season because the colt had "a few little problems," according to Penna.
Second in his debut last year, Remarkable News won his next two starts and has taken three out of four races this year, including the Connaught Cup (Can-III) at Woodbine May 28.
His last two wins have been come on the lead, but in a second-level allowance victory at Gulfstream over the winter, Remarkable News managed to rally from sixth.
"He's a different horse now than he used to be," Penna said. "He used to pull all the time, but now if you want him to rate, he can, and if you want to send him, he can do it that way. A lot depends on how the race shapes up and post positions. He's a very honest horse, and he keeps improving gradually."
Holly Rincon, a Venezuelan breeder who did not breed the colt, owns Remarkable News. She and Penna met several years ago in Florida.
Remarkable News will have to contend with Live Oak Plantation's Around the Cape Sunday. The Carson City colt comes off a track record performance in the Jaipur, running six furlongs in 1:07 1/5. He has never raced beyond seven furlongs.
Willard Straight, owned by Lawrence Goichman, is one of two horses entered in the Poker for the trainer Todd Pletcher. Willard Straight is an experienced turf miler while Dogwood Stable's Vicarage will be making just his second lifetime start on the grass.
Facing Remarkable News in the Connaught last time out, Willard Straight was beaten 2 ¾ lengths in a fifth-place finish. He was a narrow runner-up in last year's Poker, just missing by a neck. The colt's first two races of the year have been at a mile and a sixteenth, but a cutback to a mile in the Poker may help him. He is 4-for-8 at the distance.$100,000 Poker Handicap (gr. III, Race 8, 4:45 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Woodlander (KY), 115, Eibar Coa
2. Remarkable News (VEN), 118, Javier Castellano
3. Rebel Rebel (IRE), 116, Edgar S. Prado
4. T.D. Vance (KY), 117, Kent J. Desormeaux
5. Willard Straight (KY), 115, Mike E. Smith
6. Around the Cape (KY), 118, Cornelio H. Velasquez
7. Vicarage (KY), 112, John R. Velazquez