Winter Park Partners’ Wishful Tomcat, a late-blooming 3-year-old with four wins in his last five starts, will try to notch his first graded stakes score when he takes on seven rivals in the $100,000-added Discovery Handicap (gr. III) Nov. 22 at Aqueduct.
Among those Wishful Tomcat will have to defeat are Eric Fein and Barry Elberg’s Big Truck and Lael Stables’ Ready Set, the only two graded stakes winners in the field. Also worthy of serious consideration is West Point Thoroughbreds’ Lieutenant Ron, who enters off a resounding win in optional claiming company.
The Discovery is a nine-furlong test on the dirt and will go to post as race 8 on the Aqueduct program.
One of three New York breds in the field, Wishful Tomcat has triumphed in consecutive minor stakes at Belmont Park, both on them on turf. The son of Tactical Cat—Holy Wish, by Lord At War earned his first blacktype win Sept. 24 in the restricted Floral Park Stakes. He then scored by a front-running nose in open company in the John’s Gold Stakes Oct. 23 while going 1 1/16 miles.
Trained by Gary Contessa, Wishful Tomcat is also proven at nine furlongs on dirt, as he won at that distance in allowance company at Saratoga Aug. 11. And, the chestnut ridgling has an obvious liking for Aqueduct’s main track, as he broke his maiden by nearly 18 lengths there last December in his first route test.
Contessa is also excited about Wishful Tomcat’s post, as he will break from the rail under Ramon Dominguez, who has been aboard for three of his four wins.
“He’s got speed and he drew the rail; that’s two things you have to like right off the bat, so come and get us,” Contessa said. “Plus, he’s been training awesome and he has the home field advantage. He runs over this track every day. It’s not an easy spot, but I like our chances.
“He’s just very handy horse. He’s good on the dirt and the turf. Last year I kept wanting to run him long, but the race never materialized. You saw what he could do when he went long for the first time.”
Big Truck established himself as a Triple Crown contender in March when he took down previously undefeated War Pass in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) to earn his only graded stakes win to date. The son of Hook and Ladder has not hit the winner’s circle since, beginning with a disappointing 18th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), but he finished just a head in back of Wishful Tomcat in the Floral Park.
“It’s the last big 3-year-old race around here, and we’d like to run him in it,” said trainer Barclay Tagg, who assigned Eibar Coa the mount. “He’s been doing real well, and let’s say we’re cautiously optimistic.”
Ready Set earned his graded stakes triumph three starts back in the West Virginia Derby (gr. III) at Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort, as he beat current entrant Web Gem by a head. After a disappointing 11th-place finish in the Pennsylania Derby (gr. II) in September, Ready Set lost by a nose to Atoned in his most recent effort, the Oct. 24 Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) at Meadowlands. The Touch Gold colt is trained by Michael Matz.
Going long and trying stakes competition for the first time is Lieutenant Ron, who has won three of four career starts. The son of Graeme Hall has a bright future ahead of him after a foot injury sidelined him for part of the season.
“He might be one of the most talented horses I’ve ever trained,” said Kiaren McLaughlin of Lieutenant Ron. “We think he wants to go longer.”
$100,000 Discovery Handicap (gr. III, Race 8, 3:44 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Wishful Tomcat (NY), 114, Ramon A. Dominguez
2. Web Gem (KY), 114, Rajiv Maragh
3. That'srightofficer (NY), 115, Edgar S. Prado
4. Ready Set (KY), 118, Jose Lezcano
5. Big Truck (NY), 116, Eibar Coa
6. Coach Shaw (KY), 113, Joe Bravo
7. Premium Gold (KY), 114, Richard Migliore
8. Lieutenant Ron (FL), 116, Alan Garcia