Sierra Farm's Nessy made late surges to finish second and third in his two graded-stakes starts at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla., last season, but the Ian Wilkes-trained closer shouldn't run out of ground Saturday in the $100,000 H. Allen Jerkens.
Second in the 1 1/8-mile McKnight (G3) and third in the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida (G2) during the 2017-'18 Championship Meet, Nessy will have two full miles to get the job done Saturday.
“He's just a cool horse to be around. Distance is not a problem with this horse. The further they go the better he is. He never gets tired,” Wilkes said.
The Jerkens, honoring the memory of the legendary Hall of Fame trainer, will headline six turf stakes on Saturday's program, which will also feature the $100,000 Janus, $100,000 Abundantia, the $75,000 Via Borghese, the $75,000 Tropical Park Derby and the $75,000 Tropical Park Oaks.
First race post is noon.
Nessy has competed in nine consecutive graded stakes heading into the Jerkens, his lone victory coming at Santa Anita in the 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano (G3) April 23. He has been unplaced in four subsequent stakes starts, most recently finishing ninth in the Sycamore (G3) at Keeneland Oct. 18.
“I'm very happy the way he's doing. We freshened him up a little bit for this race,” Wilkes said. “We've been pointing to this race. This has been the goal to start the year.”
After coming up a half-length short in a second-place finish behind multiple-stakes winner Oscar Nominated in the McKnight, Nessy overcame bumping out of the gate to finish third behind multiple Grade 1-stakes winner Sadler's Joy in the Mac Diarmida, in which the 5-year-old gelding closed five spots and four lengths in late stretch.
“They went very slow that day. He won't run out of ground, but he's a horse that puts himself wherever he wants,” Wilkes said. “Somedays he places himself closer and somedays he'll come from out of it. He's got his own running style, this horse.”
Julien Leparoux has the return mount.
Arindel's Archer Road, a stakes winner at 1 1/2 miles, should also appreciate the added distance of the Jerkens, but trainer Stanley Gold's confidence is somewhat tempered by the 4-year-old gelded son of Leroidesanimaux's lack of a prep.
“He's doing great, but it's just been a long time since he's run,” Gold said. “He hasn't run since Nov. 10. That's pretty tough to go two miles without any prep in between. I would have liked to have had a race in between, but he wasn't eligible for any race, so we've got to train up to it.”
Archer Road was entered in the Dec. 15 Fort Lauderdale (G2) but didn't draw into the field. The Arindel homebred won four of five starts at Gulfstream, including the 1 1/2-mile Copingaway and the 1 1/8-mile Mecke back-to-back, before finishing third in the Million Turf Preview at Gulfstream Park West last time out.
“We might as well see how good he is, but I wanted something in between,” Gold said.
Jeffrey Sanchez as the return call on Archer Road.
Trainer Michael Maker entered two Wednesday in the Jerkens – Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Soglio and Three Diamonds Farm's Collum Road. Soglio, a 4-year-old son of Scat Daddy was beaten by less than a length while finishing third in both the 1 1/2-mile Stars and Stripes (G3) at Arlington and the 1 3/8-mile Kentucky Downs Turf Cup (G3) and most recently was nosed out of a victory in the off-the-turf Red Smith at Aqueduct. Collum Road lost a photo by a head while finishing second in the Sept. 12 Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs and most recently captured a 1 1/8-mile turf allowance at Aqueduct.
Robby Albarado has the mount aboard Soglio, while Tyler Gaffalione is named to ride Collum Road.
Hillsbrook Farms' Camp Creek, who is coming off a 3 1/2-length victory in a 2 1/4-mile starter optional allowance at Woodbine; Anzor Bifov's Galope Americano, a Group 1 stakes winner in Brazil making his third U.S. start; Augustin Stable's Winter Union, a 1 1/4-mile allowance winner at Belmont Park last time out; and Trinity Farm's Red Knight, a winner of a 1 1/4-mile allowance at Belmont who has won five of 10 career starts; have also performed well at route distances.
Ekhtibaar, Lascaux, Porter Street, Seeking Albert, Unbridled Holiday and Without Remorse round out the field.
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