I'm All Yours and Reluctant Groom, the top two finishers in last year's West Point Handicap, will resume their rivalry on Friday in the 23rd running of the $75,000-added West Point Handicap for 3-year-olds and older New York-breds at nine furlongs on the turf.The rivals, both bred by 2001 New York State Breeder of the Year Gerald Nielsen, met for the first time in last year's West Point. I'm All Yours rallied from last in a field of 12 after spotting pacesetter Rate Base 11 lengths through the early stages. Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey then angled I'm All Yours to the outside and the Belong to Me gelding made up more than four lengths in the final furlong to defeat Reluctant Groom by three-quarters of a length.
"He's got a nice closing kick," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "That's the kind of running style you want your horse to have on the grass. He has been a consistent horse and seems to handle any turf course, firm or yielding. We are hoping he'll continue that pattern."
I'm All Yours, owned by the Anstu Stable of Anita and Stuart Subotnick, has won eight of hie 13 races on the grass with two thirds.
With two starts against tougher this year since Pletcher gave I'm All Yours a winter break, the 5-year-old gelding back is reunited with Bailey in the West Point and will carry the high weight of 124 pounds. He spots his eight opponents from six to 11 pounds. Reluctant Groom, owned by Donald Flanagan, gets seven pounds from I'm All Yours with jockey Jose Espinoza. This will be Reluctant Groom's fourth appearance against the favorite since the 2001 West Point 'Cap.The 4-year-old son of 1982 Travers winner Runaway Groom is looking for his first win since last year at Saratoga.Following his second-place finish in the West Point, Reluctant Groom was never a threat in three stakes starts."He was a young horse running against open company," trainer Pat Kelly said. "We gave him some time off in South Carolina and he has matured a lot since then. He's a free-running horse and continues to improve."Reluctant Groom was second in the Kingston with I'm All Yours up the track earlier this year.
Another contender for the West Point is Celtic Sky. For his first race of the year, Celtic Sky, who won the Kingston Handicap for owner Waterville Lake Stables' and trainer Christophe Clement. The 4-year-old son of Sky Classic came back a month later to finish third in an open-company allowance race.Last year, Celtic Sky won an allowance race against state-breds here at Saratoga and later was third to I'm All Yours in the Mohawk. Celtic Sky carries the second high weight of 118 pounds and Jose Santos.The $75,000 West Point Handicap
PP, Horse (Jockey), Weight
1. No White Flags (Edgar Prado), 115
2. World of Wonder (Norberto Arroyo)(2), 113
3. Winloc's Nelson (Donnie Meche), 113
4. Chasin' Wimmin (Jean-Luc Samyn), 115
5. Blazing Saddle (Victor Carrero), 113
6. Celtic Sky (Jose Santos), 118
7. Iolite (John Velazquez), 113
8. Reluctant Groom (Jose Espinoza), 117
9. I'm All Yours (Jerry Bailey), 124
10. Mount Intrepid (Norberto Arroyo Jr.), 119 (main track only)