Sas­si­caia re­turns in tough spot

Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition - - Front Page - By David Gren­ing

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – There are three stakes sched­uled this week­end at Aqueduct, but Fri­day’s multi-con­di­tioned al­lowance sprint fea­ture cer­tainly has the look and feel of a black-type event as well.

Sas­si­caia, win­ner of the Grade 3 Tobog­gan in 2016 when last seen on the in­ner track, and con­sis­tent vet­er­ans Chief Lion and Life in Sham­bles com­prise half of the six-horse field in a $78,000, third-level al­lowance race that also is open to horses who have not won a stakes since March 1, 2016. There also is a $100,000 claim­ing op­tion for which only one horse, Eighty Three, is el­i­gi­ble.

Sas­si­caia, trained by Rudy Ro­driguez for Robert LaPenta, has not been out since fin­ish­ing sixth in the Grade 1 Carter over Aqueduct’s main track last April 9. He has un­der­gone knee surgery since then.

“So far, he looks pretty good. He’s come back pretty good. We got to start some­where,” said Ro­driguez, the lead­ing trainer here this win­ter. “He’s trained very straight for­ward. He’s not missed a day. He’s got to step up be­cause the race is not easy.”

Prior to the Carter, Sas­si­caia won two sprints over the in­ner track last win­ter, in­clud­ing the Grade 3 Tobog­gan. A sec­ondlevel al­lowance win on Dec. 26, 2015, came fol­low­ing a four­month lay­off.

“When we first got him he had a lot of is­sues. He was not easy to keep sound,” Ro­driguez said. “Maybe the cold weather helped his knees.”

Sas­si­caia is well drawn in post 6 but may need some help as Chief Lion looks the pri­mary speed un­der Cor­ne­lio Ve­lasquez. David Ja­cob­son, who trains Chief Lion, also sends out Eighty Three, who is re­turn­ing from a seven-month lay­off.

Life in Sham­bles fin­ished fourth – beaten a length – in the Grade 3 Tobog­gan on Jan. 17. King Kranz, a mul­ti­ple listed stakes win­ner as a 3-year-old, makes his 4-year-old de­but. Ex­pected Ruler tries dirt for the first time in 17 months.


Chief Lion, by Wild­cat Heir Last 3 Bey­ers: 88-92-98

◗ Does his best work when on the early lead, a po­si­tion he was not able to ob­tain in the Fire Plug Stakes, where he fin­ished fourth. “He’ll be right on the pace,” Ja­cob­son said.

◗ His most re­cent vic­tory came in a spot sim­i­lar to this over the in­ner track in De­cem­ber.

Sas­si­caia, by Bernar­dini Last 3 Bey­ers: 86-99-95

◗ A per­fect 3 for 3 at six fur­longs, in­clud­ing two wins over the in­ner track.

◗ Shows 12 work­outs go­ing back to Oc­to­ber in prepa­ra­tion for his re­turn off a 314-day lay­off.

FOR­MU­LA­TOR FACT: Over last five years, Ro­driguez is 5 for 19 over the in­ner track with horses re­turn­ing from a lay­off of 180 days or greater.

Life in Sham­bles, by Bro­ken Vow Last 3 Bey­ers: 97-95-97

◗ Got up by a nose to win the same ex­act con­di­tioned race as this last Novem­ber over the main track.

◗ Comes out of two fourth­place fin­ishes in stakes over the in­ner track, though in the Gravesend two back he was nar­rowly beaten for se­cond.

◗ Breaks from the rail. Last sum­mer, he won three con­sec­u­tive sprints from post 1.

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