Saturday's $100,000 Fort Marcy Handicap (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 mile at Aqueduct is supposed to be the first stakes race run on grass in New York this year. With forecasts calling for more than an inch of rain from Friday night into Saturday, horses entered for the main track only may be in luck. Should the Fort Marcy be taken off the turf, it will be run on the dirt at one mile. Because of the uncertainty of the weekend's weather, a full field has been entered for the Fort Marcy with several trainers hoping forecasters are right.
Trainer Scott Schwartz planned on his father Herbert's Classic Endeavor making his next start at a mile on opening day (May 7) at Belmont Park in the $100,000 Westchester Handicap (gr. III), but entered the 5-year-old horse as a "main track only" Saturday.
Classic Endeavor is in razor-sharp form, ascending the class ladder from a $20,000 claimer in November to a grade III stakes winner in the April 5 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap. He has won six of his last eight starts with two close seconds.
"He's really on top of his game and I think he's a much better miler than he is at a mile and an eighth," Schwartz said. "He likes those long runs down the backstretch."
Classic Endeavor's last four starts have been at a 1 1/8 mile or longer, but he does have a stellar record at one mile: 6-2-2 from 14 starts at the distance. The son of Silver Buck has won three times on wet tracks as well, with one of those victories coming at one mile over a muddy Aqueduct main track last fall.
Jockey C.C. Lopez was aboard for Classic Endeavor's Excelsior win, but he has since shifted his tack to California. The speedster will now be ridden by Edgar Prado, who was aboard for that muddy-track allowance win in November.
Dogwood Stable is also hoping for rain on Saturday as their Windsor Castle will look to get back into the winners' circle after a pair of Florida stakes losses.
Windsor Castle had a productive fall, running third behind Breeders' Cup Classic winner Volponi in The Meadowlands Cup and a close second to Snake Mountain in the Stuyvesant. He won his first start in Florida over the winter, the Hal's Hope, but finished off the board in the Donn and Gulfstream Park handicaps.
"It was really hot and muggy for the Gulfstream Park Handicap and I think the heat got to him," said Alexander, explaining the 5-year-old's recent 16-length defeat. "He had the `thumps' -- he was breathing so heavy, you could hear his sides making noise. It seems like he's rebounded well with the cooler weather in New York."
Windsor Castle has one win in four starts over a wet track, but his trainer is adamant that he is even better than his record indicates.
"He loves it wet," Alexander said. "We worked him in Florida one morning when it started to pour and he absolutely relished it."
Windsor Castle is a stretch runner used to competing in longer races.
"I don't think distance makes a difference for him as long as there's an honest pace to run at," Alexander said. "And it seems like he should get that Saturday."
Team Valor Stables' Onthedeanslist was a determined winner of a $56,000 allowance here going a mile on dirt April 6th. The Honor Grades colt is a perfect 4-for-4 over New York surfaces.
Bowman's Band seems to always come back with a check for owner Martin Schwartz. His last victory was in a July $100,000 stakes a Delaware Park. Recently, he was third on the turf behind Perfect Drift at Keeneland.
Joseph Allen's Saint Verre could be dangerous on dirt or turf. He ran fifth behind Classic Endeavor in the Excelsior, but was a strong second from off the pace in the Hal's Hope. On turf in last year's Poker, the son of Saint Ballado was a game second to Volponi.
Should the Fort Marcy remain on the grass, John Confort's Haggs Castle deserves a long look. In the 5-year-old's last start on turf, he rallied from well off the pace to get up in a division of the New York Stallion Stakes, which was run over yielding turf, a course he could get again Saturday.
Trainer Randy Schulhofer entered Irish Colonial and Union Place. The latter is more accomplished after winning the Calder Derby (gr. III) last fall. Union Place prevailed by a nose as the even-money favorite in a March 2 allowance at Gulfstream.
Claiborne Farm's Patrol will demand respect on the turf. After five months away from the races, the 4-year-old returned to win a Gulfstream optional claimer as the 4-5 favorite last month. $100,000-added Fort Mary Handicap (gr. IIIT), 3 & up, 1 1/6 mile on turf
The field for Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Fort Marcy
PP., Horse, Trainer, Jockey, Wgt.
1. Run to Victory, Alan Goldberg, Richard Migliore, 114
2. Bowman's Band, Michael Matz, Ramon Dominguez, 113
3. Shaanmer, Christophe Clement, Edgar Prado, 116
4. Regal Sanction, Jimmy Jerkens, Luis Chavez, 112
5. Saint Verre, H. Allen Jerkens, Jose Espinoza, 113
6. Haggs Castle, Jimmy Jerkens, Mike Luzzi, 113
7. Patrol, Bill Mott, Eibar Coa, 115
8. Puzzlement, H. Allen Jerkens, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 112
9f. Statement, John Kimmel, Heberto Castillo Jr., 115
10. Devine Wind, Scott Hansen, Aaron Gryder (2), 114
11. Irish Colonial, Randy Schulhofer , Jean-Luc Samyn, 113
12. Union Place, Randy Schulhofer, Javier, Castellano 114
13. Global Quest, Shug McGaughey, John Velazquez, 112
main track only
14. Windsor Castle, Frank Alexander, 119
15. Classic Endeavor, Scott Schwartz, 118
16. Onthedeanslist, John Terranova, Aaron Gryder (1), 117
17f. Judge's Case, Steve Klesaris, 115
Devine Wind will race without blinkers.
Mutuel field-Statement and Judge's Case