Recent Breeder’s Bowl Dirt Marathon (gr. I) winner Tacco A Spillo and two other grade I winning millionaires head a field of 14 in Saturday’s $750,000 The Big Apple (gr. I) at 1 3/4 miles in New York.
Tacco A Spillo came to hand quickly after breaking his maiden in a 12-furlong race last September. Since then, the now 4-year-old son of Tapit, out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, has finished in the exacta in 10 consecutive races, six of them in stakes company. The sealsheels homebred has earned black type in races as long as two miles but the 14 furlongs of The Big Apple seems to his best distance with both the Breeder’s Bowl victory and his other grade one win in the Razorback Route in June both coming at the distance.
Ten Lil Warlords and Finke Voyager ran one-two in last year’s renewal of The Big Apple and they both return Saturday. Seabrook’s Ten Lil Warlords stalked the pace before drawing off by 3-1/2 lengths last December, but his form has been a bit spotty this season. The 5-year-old gelded son of Candy Ride (bred by spinround, out of a stakes-winning Bernardini mare) began the year with a win in The Old Man Stakes (gr. II) in February, then lost three straight stakes (with a close second in The Desert Stamina Cup (gr. I)) before using a hot-race allowance as a prep for a winning tilt in September’s The Monster Mash (gr. I). He followed that with a poor showing in the Breeder’s Bowl Dirt Marathon.
Chatham02 homebred Finke Voyager reversed the order of last year’s the Big Apple exacta by beating Ten Lil Warlords by a half-length in the Desert Stamina in March, but has lost four straight races since, with the last two coming on turf (including a fifth-place finish in the Ark DeComic Dog (gr. I)). The 5-year-old son of Sea the Stars, out of grade one-winning millionaire Outback Voyager, should enjoy the switch back to the main track where he’s earned all his victories outside maiden company.
While those three millionaires, proven in top-level company, should draw much attention, there are a trio of graded stakes winner who appear to have a decent shot to break through in grade I company Saturday. Lucky I’m Here finished second in the grade I Muddy Water’s Leg III at 12 furlongs and has yet to try his hand at 1 3/4 miles. If he likes the extra ground the jmsstables homebred stands a solid chance, but the soon-to-be-7-year-old soon may be facing the ravages of time.
Lordpye2’s 4-year-old Miraculous Design comes into the race displaying good form, a pair of graded-stakes wins sandwiching a second-place finish in a grade three. The megablaze2 bred son of Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist relishes the distance and may be able to dictate the pace on the front end. He has a big shot if he can handle the jump in class. (He did defeat 2gunranch’s grade one winning millionaire Into Being Nice in gr. II Hamburg Hall last out.)
Tuscongp’s Balalaikas will attempt to begin a Big Apple/Empire State Stayer double for his mare Deja Q, who also produced Quill Is Mightier, who is pointing for the filly and mare version of this race to be run on Sunday. Balalaikas was able to catch a loose on the lead Miraculous Design in the grade III Molson Export, then ran a creditable third in the Breeder’s Bowl Dirt Marathon. The 4-year-old son of Speightstown may find this distance just too far in top company but is lightly raced, with a seemingly bright future.
58away’s Military Rifle hasn’t shown his best form in the longer of the marathon races or in graded company and the Bayern x Mr. Prospector 5-year-old is up against both challenges Saturday. Still, he has backspeed that could earn him a piece of the purse.
Lionsfan-bred sophomore Urban’s Rage has performed well for owner catalyst since stretching out beyond 1 1/16-miles in April. The lightly raced son of Violence, out of a stakes-winning Drosselmeyer mare, has won three of his last four starts, including the Phils Wrists Dirt Stayer in his most recent race. Race tactics may also come into play as Urban’s Rage has shown ability to remain in touch with the leaders but will have to deal with post position 12 in the 14-horse field while facing older horses for the first time. One to watch.