Lake Lonely Racing's Backsideofthemoon will look to eclipse a talented field of seven when he returns to defend his crown in Saturday's $100,000 Jazil for 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/8-miles at Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday.
Trained by Leo O'Brien, the now 7-year-old son of Malibu Moon enjoyed the best year of his career in 2018 with a harvest in excess of $160,000 that included a rallying effort to win the Jazil, to go along with a pair of seconds in the Stymie and Artie Schiller. The sturdy bay also finished third in the Flat Out and the Philip H. Iselin in a lucrative eight-race campaign.
Backsideofthemoon arrives at the Jazil from a good third on New Year's Day when traveling nine furlongs over a muddy Aqueduct main track, an effort which may have been hindered when he jumped the harrowed course approaching the final turn.
As a result, O'Brien will make a minor equipment change for Saturday, which he hopes will have a major effect.
“In his last race, he jumped a set of tracks so we'll put a nose band [shadow roll] on him so he doesn't see any tracks,” said O'Brien. “It was a very good effort. Ever since I got him, he just keeps getting better and better.”
Luis Reyes was aboard Backsideofthemoon for a bullet breeze of four furlongs in 47.20 seconds, in company, on Thursday morning over the Belmont Park dirt training track and will pilot the ridgling for the first time in the afternoon out of post 2.
“He is training quite well. His last two works have been quite good. He's an easy horse to train and very willing. I've found that he rather likes to run at a horse, so he needs a target to run at,” beamed O'Brien. “For his last work, we had a horse in front of him and that horse opened up five or six lengths and Backsideofthemoon caught him after going half a mile. I was quite happy with that.”
A steep test awaits Backsideofthemoon on Saturday with multiple Grade 1-placed millionaire Sunny Ridge and the in-form Mr. Buff among the top contenders.
Trained by Jason Servis, the 6-year-old Sunny Ridge took the Grade 3 Withers in 2016 and has also hit the board in a trio of Grade 1 events including a second in the 2015 Champagne, a third in the 2016 Haskell Invitational and another third in his most recent effort when rallying to complete the trifecta in the Cigar Mile.
Owned and bred by Dennis Drazin, the Holy Bull grey boasts a record of 6-5-4 from 21 starts with purse earnings of $1,178,902. Manny Franco will pilot Sunny Ridge, who won this event in 2017, from the outside post.
Chester and Mary Broman, Sr.'s Mr. Buff, a 5-year-old New York-bred son of Friend Or Foe trained by John Kimmel, arrives at the Jazil on a three-race win streak all at nine furlongs on the Big A main track, including open company wins in a November 14 allowance and a November 28 optional claiming tilt.
Last time out, a prominent Mr. Buff outmuscled multiple stakes-winner Twisted Tom to earn a nose victory in the Alex M. Robb for New York-breds. Junior Alvarado has the call from post 5.
Completing the field are Holiday Bonus, with Luis Castro from the inside post for trainer David Cannizzo and owner Woodland Farms; Title Ready from post 3 under Jose Lezcano for trainer Steven Asmussen and owner-breeder Charles Fipke; Hero's Welcome, with Chris DeCarlo up from post 4 for trainer Gary Contessa and owner Vedhya Jagnanan; and Thebigfundamental, who steps into stakes company for the first time out of post 6 under Dylan Davis for trainer Todd Pletcher, who co-owns with Jake Pletcher.
The Jazil is slated as Race 8 on Saturday's 10-race card. First post time is 12:25PM.
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