A well-rested Discreet Lover will make his first start since running eighth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic when he bids to repeat as the winner in Saturday's 107th running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior for 4-year-olds and up at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Discreet Lover received a five-month freshening after finishing eighth-of-14 in the Classic on November 3 at Churchill Downs. Owner and trainer Uriah St. Lewis said the now 6-year-old son of Repent will look to duplicate his success in the Excelsior, which he captured by rallying from seventh for a 2 ½-length score last year.
“He's coming back real strong and has been galloping good,” St. Lewis said. “I think he'll be at his best. I think this will be his best year.”
Since July 7 when he ran third in the Grade 2 Suburban, Discreet Lover has raced three times at 1 1/4 miles and twice at the Excelsior distance of 1 1/8 miles. He has finished on the board in three of those five total starts.
“He loves the distance. The longer, the better,” St. Lewis said. “And he can run at any racetrack. I've run him at Laurel, Charles Town, Penn National, Parx, Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga, Churchill Downs. He doesn't care. He's a good traveler. He's good at everything.”
Discreet Lover, who won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 29 at Belmont at 45-1 odds has amassed more than $1.4 million in earnings despite being a $10,000 purchase. The journey has been special for St. Lewis, who won his first race as a trainer in 1988. Discreet Lover delivered his first graded stakes victories while being competitive in other prestigious races, such as a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Whitney on August 4 at Saratoga Race Course behind Mind Your Biscuits and Diversify.
“He's been the best horse I've ever trained and he's very special because he's easy to train and to get along with,” St. Lewis said. “He doesn't act real studdish. He might nibble at you, but other than that, he's real easy to be around the barn.”
Jockey Manny Franco, aboard for both of Discreet Lover's graded stakes wins, will have the call from post 6.
Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable's Life's a Parlay will make his graded stakes debut following a victory by a neck against optional claimers on March 16 at Oaklawn. The 4-year-old Uncle Mo colt is 3-1-1 in five career starts heading into the step-up in class. Since breaking his maiden at second asking in January 2018 at Gulfstream Park, his only non-winning effort came with a second-place finish in the Gio Ponti on November 23 in his first Aqueduct start.
“I liked his effort at Oaklawn last time. He overcame a tough start and was able to lay down some pretty solid fractions off the layoff and still get the job done,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He came back with a strong breeze and I'm interested to see how he handles the stretch out. He's very consistent and he's always shown up and run well. We like the way he's training leading into this.”
Life's a Parlay, a $725,000 purchase at the 2016 Keeneland Yearling Sale, will have the services of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez from post 8.
Shivermetimbers went from the care of one Hall of Fame trainer to another, with Steve Asmussen taking over conditioning responsibilities from Jerry Hollendorfer following a third-place finish in the Stymie on March 9 at Aqueduct.
A 4-year-old son of Shanghai Bobby, Shivermetimbers is 3-2-5 in 15 career starts. Jose Ortiz will ride from post 7.
Monongahela has finished out of the money just once in his last seven starts since Jason Servis took over the training responsibilities.
A 5-year-old son of K One King, Monongahela will chase his first stakes win in breaking from post 3. Jose Lezcano will be in the irons.
Rounding out the field is Nicodemus, making his first graded stakes start, for trainer Linda Rice out of post 1; Tour de Force, making his first start since Rudy Rodriguez took over the training duties, from post 5; Hit It Once More, the runner-up in the Bernardini last out on March 2 for trainer Gary Sciacca, departing from post 4; and stakes-placed Holiday Bonus, trained by Gregory DiPrima, out of post 2.
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