Winter meet leading trainer Linda Rice is enjoying a solid campaign with three stakes wins at the Big A, including a milestone triumph with Scilly Cay in the Rego Park providing her with a 2,000th career win.
The NYRA mainstay will attempt to build on that success with a plethora of contenders in upcoming Big A stakes events.
Rice established a presence on the Kentucky Derby trail when George E. Hall's Max Player racked up 10 points in taking the Grade 3 Withers on February 1 and she'll saddle two contestants for the Grade 3 Gotham with Montauk Traffic and First Deputy.
Max Player breezed five-eighths in 1:02.40 on Wednesday morning over the Belmont Park training track.
“I bumped up his breeze a few days just because the weather was very nice and we were going to get some rain and some wind and some cold days. He worked alone and went very nicely,” Rice said.
Owned by Chris Fountoukis, Montauk Traffic was a 1 ½-length winner of the Jimmy Winkfield on February 8 following a maiden triumph on December 29 at the Big A.
The gray son of third-crop stallion Cross Traffic settled along the rail throughout the journey having to take back around the far turn as the field inched closer to the front, but was tipped out three wide and found a second gear when in the clear and powered home to victory, registering an 80 Beyer Speed Figure.
Montauk Traffic recently returned to the work tab over the Belmont Park training track when drilling five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Monday. He will see an extra eighth of a mile in distance in next Saturday's Gotham, which is run at a one-turn mile.
“Right now, he's a lightly raced horse. He's run two seven-furlong races at Aqueduct,” Rice said. “I think that the added distance should be no problem at all. It should be very helpful. We're just gaining racing experience as we go along so it's a nice progression for him.”
Bred in Kentucky by Mike G. Rutherford, Montauk Traffic is out of the three-time stakes winning Menifee broodmare Taittinger Rose.
Calumet Farm's First Deputy will face open company for the first time after a 5 ¼-length romp against New York-bred winners on January 23.
The son of Awesome Again broke his maiden at sixth asking and will make a return to the one-turn mile after a distant seventh in his fourth career start, which was his only off-the-board finish in seven starts.
Rice said the added experience is a plus for First Deputy and that one mile should be within his wheelhouse.
“He's bred for the distance. He didn't run well at the mile before but I'm hoping that he's gaining a lot of seasoning and is more suited for it this time around,” Rice said.
Royally-bred La Kara Mia, who has recorded two breezes at Belmont Park for Rice, is training toward her career debut. The 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro is out of 2015 Champion Female Sprinter La Verdad, who also was conditioned by Rice.
“She is doing very well. She's a big filly and we gave her a lot of time to grow up because of her size. We just brought her to New York at the beginning of the month,” Rice said. “She was training very forwardly in Ocala at Wavertree with Ciaran Dunne. So, we decided to leave her there through November and December and get some workouts down there. She's just recently come here, and it's exciting to have here since he's the first foal out of La Verdad.”
Rice said La Kara Mia could have potential to race longer distances than her champion mother.
“She's very kind like La Verdad was, who was an obvious true sprinter,” Rice said. “This filly takes after Medaglia d'Oro and looks like a filly that could get some distance which we're excited about. All of the good fillies he's had, like Rachel Alexandra, get a lot of ground so we're excited about that.”
La Verdad also did not make her career debut until her sophomore campaign.
“She was big and awkward as a two year old,” Rice said of La Verdad. “I didn't bring her along until late in her 2-year-old year.”
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2020 Paulick Report.