Graded stakes action for the calendar year on the New York Racing Association circuit kicks off Jan. 28 at Aqueduct Racetrack with veteran sprinter Drafted headlining a field of nine in the seven-furlong $150,000 Toboggan Stakes (G3) for older horses.
Dublin Fjord Stables, Racepoint Stables, Kevin D. Hilbert, and Thomas E. O'Keefe's Drafted, a 9-year-old gray or roan son of Field Commission, arrives at his 2023 debut with a ledger of 10-3-4 in 33 starts and earnings of $1,157,443 as the field's lone millionaire.
He will be seeking a repeat Toboggan triumph after capturing last year's edition by 4 1/2 lengths to win his first race in nearly three years. A victory Saturday would make him the first repeat Toboggan winner since Calibrachoa (2011-12) and would add his name to a lengthy list of dual Toboggan winners which includes, among others, fan-favorite Affirmed Success (2002-03), as well as Hall of Famers Eight Thirty (1940-41) and Devil Diver (1943-44).
Trained by David Duggan, Drafted enjoyed a prosperous season in 2022, including wins in the May 14 Runhappy Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park, the June 4 Mr. Prospector Stakes at Monmouth Park, and a curtain-closing score last out in the Dec. 30 Gravesend Stakes at Aqueduct. He additionally was third beaten 10 3/4 lengths by eventual Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) winner Elite Power in the Vosburgh Stakes (G2) in October at Belmont at the Big A; and was fifth, by the same margin, to Cody's Wish, subsequent winner of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1), in the Forego Stakes (G1) in August at Saratoga Race Course.
While Drafted continues to display the desire to compete, Duggan said his veteran warhorse will likely not be squaring off against any of the heavier hitters in the sprint division this year.
"We know where our level is and we aren't going to shoot for the stars. We're going to basically pick off the races he can win," Duggan said. "We'll get through this one and then pick our spots from there. He's nine and he's got age under him, so you've got to be realistic on where you spot him."
Luis Rodriguez Castro will pursue his first graded stakes triumph as a jockey when guiding Drafted.
Drafted will face a formidable foe in Rainbow's End Racing Stable's Milton the Monster, who sports a 4-for-4 record going seven furlongs on the main track.
Trainer Tom Morley claimed the 6-year-old son of Jack Milton for $62,500 out of a local allowance optional claimer over a sloppy and sealed track on Dec. 3 at the Toboggan distance, en route to a New Year's Day score at seven furlongs over muddy and sealed going.
Previously trained by John Servis, Milton the Monster was an emphatic 12 3/4-length winner of his seven-furlong debut last January at Parx Racing, recording a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure. He finished third in the Stymie Stakes in March at the Big A before completing the trifecta behind Drafted in the Mr. Prospector in June three starts later.
Trainer Norman "Lynn" Cash has entered Kelso Handicap (G2) winner Double Crown and Pirate Rick. Both horses are cross-entered at Parx with Double Crown listed in a one-mile allowance Jan. 30, while Pirate Rick is entered in a Jan. 31 allowance sprint that also includes potential Toboggan aspirant Wendell Fong.
Double Crown has been soundly beaten in his three starts since springing a 42-1 upset in the Kelso Oct. 29 at Belmont at the Big A, where he confronted favorite Baby Yoda in deep stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths. The 6-year-old Bourbon Courage gelding enters off a 10th in the Queens County Stakes Jan. 7 at the Big A.
While Double Crown looks to return to winning form, stablemate Pirate Rick enters the Toboggan off a string of four victories. The 6-year-old Liam's Map gelding arrives off short rest, capturing a local six-furlong allowance optional claimer Jan. 22 by seven lengths while earning a 104 Beyer. A six-furlong allowance winner at Mahoning Valley Race Course and Mountaineer Race Course during the latter portion of 2022, Pirate Rick will make his first start going seven furlongs in the Toboggan.
Trainer Juan Avila will ship Victoria's Ranch's Little Vic to New York by way of Parx in search of a second career stakes score. The 4-year-old Practical Joke bay captured the City of Laurel Stakes in November at Laurel Park in his lone start going seven furlongs before finishing a nose behind Drafted in the Gravesend.
Boasting a consistent 4-2-1 record in 11 starts and $206,230 in earnings, Little Vic has taken his show on the road with all four of his wins taking place at different tracks. He broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park at first asking in September 2021 before winning a six-furlong allowance in May at Monmouth Park. He defeated two next-out winners in a Delaware Park allowance in October before capturing the City of Laurel.
Little Vic will race with blinkers on.
Also invading from Parx is Double B Racing Stables' Repo Rocks, who enters off two stakes victories at the Philadelphia-area oval for trainer Jamie Ness. Second in last year's Toboggan, the 5-year-old Tapiture gelding defeated stakes winners Twisted Ride and Beren in the Nov. 23 Let's Give Thanks Stakes before capturing his 2023 debut in the Blitzen Stakes on Jan. 4.
Aqueduct Racetrack, Saturday, January 28, 2023, Race 7
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Three Two Zone (KY) Dylan Davis 118 Raymond Handal 8/1 2 2Pirate Rick (KY) Jose Antonio Gomez 120 Norman L. Cash 3/1 3 3Drafted (FL) Luis A. Rodriguez Castro 124 David P. Duggan 4/1 4 4Wendell Fong (KY) Jorge A. Vargas, Jr. 118 Natalia Lynch 15/1 5 5Double Crown (MD) J. D. Acosta 124 Norman L. Cash 20/1 6 6Repo Rocks (VA) Andrew Wolfsont 122 Jamie Ness 9/2 7 7Milton the Monster (KY) Manuel Franco 120 Thomas Morley 8/1 8 8Little Vic (KY) Carlos Olivero 122 Juan Carlos Avila 7/2 9 9Synthesis (KY) Gokhan Kocakaya 120 David Jacobson 10/1
Aqueduct Racetrack, Saturday, January 28, 2023, Race 7