Friendly Island Faces 6 in Maryland BC Sprint

(from Pimlico report)
Friendly Island, conditioned by Todd Pletcher, tackles the Richard Dutrow Jr. trainee Kazoo in Saturday's $200,000 Emirates Airline Maryland Breeders' Cup Sprint Handicap (gr. III) on the Preakness (gr. I) undercard at Pimlico Race Course Saturday.

Dutrow won the six-furlong race with Willy o' the Valley last year.

"He's doing very well,'' Pletcher said of Friendly Island, the New York bred son of Crafty Friend who is coming off a second-place finish in the Count Fleet Handicap (gr. III). "He ran a big race last time in Oaklawn. We were second best to what looks like the top sprinter on the West Coast (Bordonaro). We felt like spacing-wise this was pretty good – it gave us about five weeks from the last race, which we felt was important."

Friendly Island, the 8-5 morning-line favorite, has been somewhat fragile with only 12 starts halfway through his 5-year-old season. This year he's winless in three trips to the post: sixth in the Deputy Minister (gr. III) at Gulfstream on a wet track and a close third behind well-regarded Gaff in the Mr. Prospector (gr. III) in Florida. But the Anstu Stable runner won six of nine starts before that.

"Our horse has a lot of speed and Kazoo has a lot of speed,'' Pletcher said. "I would think they'd be rolling right along. (Friendly Island) seems like in two races this year he's really run big races. If he continues that way, I think he's creeping into the top of the class."

The 8-year-old Kazoo could go favored in the field of seven after his second-place finish against Sun King in Keeneland's Commonwealth Breeders' Cup (gr. II) at seven furlongs on April 15. He won the Toboggan (gr. III) at Aqueduct and was second in an allowance race in his other start this winter. Kazoo carries top weight of 120 pounds, four more than his main rival.

"I'm just hoping he likes the track," Dutrow said. "If he likes the track, he'll be OK."

Gaff is the other top contender for trainer Steve Asmussen. The 4-year-old son of Maria's Mon won the Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream Park in January, then finished fifth in a field of 15 in the Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) in Dubai on the World Cup undercard.

Crafty Schemer had won three of four for local conditioner Benny Feliciano before being soundly beaten in the Commonwealth in his last start. Gold Cluster, another Maryland runner, was second in Pimlico's $75,000 Hoover on April 23.

$200,000 Emirates Airline Maryland Breeders' Cup Sprint Handicap (gr. III, Race 9, 3:37 p.m.), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. Crafty Schemer (KY), Ramon A. Dominguez, 114, 6/1
2. Kazoo (FL), Richard Migliore, 120, 7/2
3. Gaff (KY), Alex O. Solis, 116, 5/2
4. Friendly Island (NY), Garrett K. Gomez, 116, 8/5
5. Celtic Innis (MD), no rider, 111, 15/1
6. Better Than Bonds (FL), Edgar S. Prado, 115, 10/1
7. Gold Cluster (KY), Ryan Fogelsonger, 111, 10/1