Trainer John Sadler and jockey Garrett Gomez of California will team with C R K Stable's hard-luck horse We All Love Aleyna in the $150,000 Knickerbocker Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park Sunday.
Eleven were entered in the Knickerbocker for 3 & up at nine furlongs on turf, with two more on the also eligible list. The Knickerbocker is one of three graded stakes on the Belmont card, which brings down the curtain on the 2005 fall meet.
Competitive in a pair of grade II races in California in his last two starts, the 4-year-old gelding will be making his first appearance outside California. In early September, We All Love Aleyna missed by a nose to Three Valleys, who was withdrawn from the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) Wednesday. A month later, he was favored against last year's Mile champ Singletary and finished a troubled fourth, beaten two lengths in the Oak Tree Mile (gr. IIT).
"I think we've been unlucky in his last two starts," said Sadler, who will saddle Healthy Addiction in Saturday's Emirates Airline Distaff (gr. IT).
"He got into a ton of trouble at Del Mar and was only beaten a lip. After the Del Mar race (Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap), we planned on going in the Oak Tree Mile and then the Breeders' Cup Mile," Sadler said. "He probably had a worse trip in the Oak Tree."
We All Love Aleyna saved ground beneath Gomez in the Oak Tree Mile, just in behind the leader. When a hole didn't materialize in the stretch Gomez was forced to wait with the gelding. In late stretch, We All Love Aleyna probably had less than a sixteenth of a mile of clear running room, but by then the classy Singletary was in full gear and en route to an impressive victory.
After that, Sadler decided to reconsider the Mile and instead point for the Knickerbocker. Now the concern turns to how well the Californian will like a good or yielding New York turf course.
"He's been fine on turf or dirt in California," Sadler said. "If the course is moderately heavy, I think he'll be okay."
Another out-of-towner coming in for the Knickerbocker is Gary Tanaka's Atlando, a 4-year-old gelding who has won two of three starts this year for trainer Pascal Bary in France. All three of his races this year have been at 10 furlongs, but he did win an allowance race last year over soft ground at 1 1/8 miles.
Several horses unplaced in the Kelso Breeders' Cup (gr. IIT), will try their luck in the Knickerbocker. Latino Magic and Ecclesiastic should appreciate not facing the likes of Artie Schiller and Funfair, two strong contenders for the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT).$150,000 Knickerbocker Handicap (gr. IIIT), 3 7 up, 1 1/8 miles (turf)
PP. Trainer, Jockey, Weight
1. Certifiably Crazy, Rick Schosberg, Cornelio Velasquez, 114
2. Cottage, Scott Lake, Mike Luzzi, 113
3. Sir Walter Rahy, Jimmy Toner, Eibar Coa, 113
4. Ecclesiastic, Allen Jerkens, Jose Santos, 115
5. Rousing Victory, Phil Serpe, Javier Castellano, 115
6. Latino Magic, R.J. Osborne, Robert Burke, 115
7. Atlando, Pascal Barry, Jerry Bailey, 116
8. Request for Parole, Stanley Hough, Joe Bravo, 116
9. Battle Chant, Graham Motion, Edgar Prado, 115
10. We All Love Aleyna, John Sadler, Garrett Gomez, 118
11. Saint Stephen, Christophe Clement, Corey Nakatani, 115Also Eligible
12. Evening Attire, Pat Kelly, Jose Santos, 123
13. Ice Wynnd Fire, Bobby Frankel, no rider, 118