Sunday’s $100,000 Nashua (G3) at Aqueduct was supposed to be a proving ground for heavy favorite Ten for Ten, a powerful eight-length maiden winner. But potential was ultimately overshadowed by proven form as experienced stakes winner Pickin’ Time came rallying down the stretch to post a 9-1 upset.
Winner of Monmouth Park’s 6-furlong Smoke Glacken S. in his previous run, Pickin’ Time displayed a very relaxed attitude while stretching out over a mile in the Nashua. The son of Stay Thirsty settled in fourth place for much of the journey as Ten for Ten sprinted to the front through fractions of :22.86, :46.10, and 1:11.98.
“We got a great break and that’s what I wanted; get him out and make sure he had a comfortable spot, which he did,” explained winning jockey Trevor McCarthy. “Looking down the backside, I was very comfortable where I was. I wasn’t getting too much kickback and that seems to be a pretty big key this weekend.”
Turning for home, Pickin’ Time unleashed a sharp bid outside of rivals, racing up to seize command from Ten for Ten. While the latter fought on gamely, pulling 10 1/4 lengths clear of the rest, Pickin’ Time was always moving strongest. With jockey McCarthy urging him on, the Kelly Breen-trained colt forged ahead to win by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:39.89.
“I was able to get outside coming to the turn and let him get in his mojo,” continued McCarthy. “After that, he really accelerated strong for me and gave me a great effort through the lane. I was delighted.”
The pace-tracking Isolate faded to finish third, followed by Nova Rags, Civil War, Irish Honor, and Spectatorless. In a race otherwise dominated by speed horses, Pickin’ Time was the only late runner to make a serious impact on the outcome.
“Kelly had him ready today,” said McCarthy. “He was the most experienced horse in the race, so I was really happy looking into that. Everything worked out perfect.”
Bred in New Jersey by owner John Bowers Jr., Pickin’ Time has shown steady improvement across the course of a busy season. Following an easy debut win at Monmouth, the dark bay colt finished eighth with a slow start in the Saratoga Special (G2) and second with a troubled trip in the Sapling S. before rattling off back-to-back stakes triumphs this fall.
“He’s just growing into himself,” Breen said. “He was kind of a big and gawky 2-year old. When he ran in Saratoga, he ran against that real nice horse of Steve Asmussen’s (two-time Grade 1 winner Jackie’s Warrior). We didn’t get off great that day. Today was the right timing and everything worked out well for him.”
A foray on the Road to the Kentucky Derby is next on the agenda for Pickin’ Time. Breen indicated the rapidly-progressing youngster will target the 1 1/8-mile Remsen (G2) on Dec. 5 at Aqueduct, which awards qualification points on a 10-4-2-1 basis to the top four finishers.