Red Smith: Wohler has a knack for fine imports
OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- The German-based trainer Andreas Wohler has done a pretty good job over the years selecting which of his horses would fit in North American stakes. Horses such as Silvano, Paolini, and Simonas have finished first or second in Grade 1 events in North America, with Silvano winning the 2001 Arlington Million.
Wohler is in New York this week to run Lauro in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct. Last month, in his second start off a 16-month layoff, Lauro won the Grade 2 Sky Classic at Woodbine. Lauro's real claim to fame, however, is that he is the only horse to have defeated Rail Link in a race that Rail Link completed. Rail Link, who fell in his debut, won the 2006 Arc de Triomphe.
Wohler took over the training of Lauro in the fall of 2007. Wohler had shipped the horse to the U.S. this past spring and was planning to run in three races in North America, beginning with a race at Keeneland. But the horse developed a back injury and was sent back to Germany.
He returned to North America in September and ran in the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine on Oct. 4, where he finished seventh, beaten only 5 1/2 lengths.
"He ran a terrific race after that long break,'' Wohler said. "Three weeks later, he won that Group 2 race.''
Though Lauro took advantage of being on the lead through slow fractions in the Sky Classic, Wohler said he doesn't feel the horse is one-dimensional.
"He's the type of horse who can come from last position,'' said Wohler, who then added he would anticipate Lauro being "somewhere around the first three'' in the early stages Saturday.
"He's a good horse,'' Wohler said. "We just brought him back into racing; we're hoping he improves race by race. Even last time, he wasn't 100 percent fit. From the International to the Sky Classic he's already improved.''
Wohler said he is concerned that Aqueduct's course has tighter turns than elsewhere Lauro has run.
Wohler said Lauro is scheduled to ship back to Germany on Sunday, but, if all is well, he will return to the U.S. to race next year.
Songster third in return
The multiple graded-stakes winner Songster, away from the races for nearly 18 months, finished third, 3 3/4 lengths behind Grand Champion, in a money allowance race Thursday.
Songster, under Edgar Prado, dueled on the lead with Grand Champion through fractions of 22.81 seconds and 45.76 for the opening half-mile. Outside the eighth pole, Grand Champion, making his second start off a seven-month layoff, began to pull away under Eibar Coa. Grand Champion, winner of last year's Fall Highweight Handicap, defeated He's So Chic by 2 1/2 lengths.
Grand Champion ($8.20), equipped with blinkers for the first time, covered six furlongs in 1:10.00.
Songster had not run since winning the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap at Belmont on May 12, 2007. He was retired after straining a ligament. But Songster was unproductive as a stallion and was put back in training by his owner, Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley Stable.
Garcia to winter in Florida
Alan Garcia, the leading rider this year on the New York Racing Association circuit, plans to ride this winter at Gulfstream Park, his agent, Tony Micallef, said Thursday.
Garcia, 23, was the second-leading rider during last year's Aqueduct inner track meet, at which he won 80 races and his horses earned $3.4 million in purses.
"All of our business is going south,'' Micallef said. "We don't ride for [Gary] Contessa or [Richard] Dutrow. We picked up some new business, Christophe Clement, John Kimmel we're starting to ride for more; Shug [McGaughey] rides us on some horses. It looks good for us down there. We're looking forward to it.''
Of course, Garcia's main client is Kiaran McLaughlin, who keeps large strings of horses in both Florida and New York during the winter.
Garcia will ride in New York for the next several weeks, before riding at Hollywood Park on Nov. 29-30. From there, Garcia heads to Hong Kong to ride in a jockey challenge and will then ride sporadically in December at Aqueduct before heading to Florida for the Jan. 3 opening of Gulfstream.
Through Nov. 4, Garcia was the seventh-leading rider in the country in purse-money won with $13.5 million and was tied for 13th in wins with 208.
Pick six hit 30 times
There were 30 winning tickets sold on Thursday's pick six, each worth $12,395. The wager began with a two-card carryover of $152,918. The consolation payout (5 of 6) was $96.
There were only two winning favorites in the sequence Thursday, but the highest-priced winner returned just $15.20.
The winning sequence of 1-4-9-8-1-1 consisted of Soave ($5.60), Daareb ($14.20), Sir Dunstan ($15.20), Seventh Street ($3.50), Grand Champion ($8.20), and Afleet Aya ($6.70).
Arroyo fined for striking horse
The stewards fined jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. $500 for striking his mount, Hanna Can Fly, twice in the face with his whip in Wednesday's ninth race. Hanna Can Fly was on the lead early in the race, then backed up through the field to finish 10th.
The incident wasn't that much different than the one for which Jeremy Rose received a six-month suspension last summer at Delaware Park. That suspension was reduced to three months.