Previously held over Thanksgiving Weekend, Saturday’s $250,000 Remsen (G2) has been moved a week later and serves as the year’s last graded stakes race on the East Coast for 2-year-olds. Nashua (G2) winner Avery Island and Grade 3 victor Catholic Boy headline a 10-horse field at Aqueduct.
The 1 1/8-mile Remsen awards points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers as a Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier. But its relevance as a Kentucky Derby prep has waned in recent years, with 2005 Kentucky Derby runner-up Bluegrass Cat the last winner to make an impact on the first Saturday in May. It’s been more than 20 years since the Remsen produced back-to-back Kentucky Derby winners Go For Gin and Thunder Gulch (1994-95).
Avery Island is looking to confirm himself as serious prospect entering the winter. A Godolphin homebred, the Street Sense colt broke his maiden by a 5 ¼-length the second time out at Belmont Park on September 30 and was flattered by runner-up High North, who came back to break his maiden at Keeneland and finish fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs.
Making his stakes bow in the one-mile Nashua at Aqueduct November 5, Avery Island turned in another dominant performance on the front end scoring by 4 ¾ lengths. The Kiaran McLaughlin pupil has been winning easily, but he must continue to increase his BRIS Speed ratings after netting a career-best 87 last time. Joe Bravo retains the mount and Avery Island appears likely to be setting the pace from post 3.
Catholic Boy tries the main track after making his first three attempts on turf. A debut maiden winner at Gulfstream Park in mid-July, the Jonathon Thomas trainee followed with an excellent one-length score in the August 30 With Anticipation (G3) at Saratoga and was flattered when third-placer Untamed Domain came back to win the Summer (G1) next out.
Bet down to 6-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), Catholic Boy was forced to steady in traffic before finishing well at Del Mar, beaten less than two lengths in fourth. Regular rider Manny Franco guides the late-running son of More Than Ready.
A pair of expensive sons of Tapit, Biblical and Tap Rap Strike, could attract support off maiden tallies.
Biblical stretched out to nine furlongs for his third start and graduated by a widening 1 ¾-length margin at Aqueduct on November 17. Purchased for $800,000 as a 2-year-old in training, the gray colt is trained by Todd Pletcher and keeps John Velazquez in the irons.
“He recovered well in his last race,” Pletcher said. “We always felt he had some talent, and going a mile and an eighth is what he’s [suited] for, so we’d like to see him step up.”
Tap Rap Strike, who was acquired for $850,000 earlier this year, will jump straight to stakes company for John Servis following a half-length debut win at Parx on October 14 and receives a positive rider switch to Irad Ortiz Jr.
“He’s a nice horse. We’re real excited about him,” Servis said. “He’s been training great, doing well. We’re hopeful. He’s got to keep getting better.”
Vouch appears likely to add to the pace following an 8 ¾-length, wire-to-wire debut win at Laurel Park. The Arnaud Delacour charge will add the services of Joel Rosario. Bandito invades from Kentucky for Dale Romans following a two-length triumph in an off-the-turf maiden at Keeneland and Luis Saez picks up the mount.