McLaughlin covered in Schiller, turf or dirt
Whether Saturday’s $150,000 Artie Schiller is contested on a wet Aqueduct turf course or moved to the main track, Kiaran McLaughlin trains a leading contender.
McLaughlin entered two in the Artie Schiller, one for the grass and another for dirt. His grass representative is Grade 2 Bernard Baruch winner Qurbaan, who finished third over good turf in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile on Oct. 6 at Keeneland, while Exulting, third in a Belmont Park allowance Sept. 22, stands as his main-track-only entrant.
The Artie Schiller, which drew 12 entries, is a more compelling race if it stays on the grass – though that is no certainty given an already damp Aqueduct turf course that is forecast to receive rain from Friday afternoon into early Saturday morning. As of midday Thursday, the National Weather Service was calling for more than an inch of precipitation over that period for the New York area.
The Artie Schiller is a backup race for Qurbaan, a 5-year-old Speightstown horse McLaughlin had hoped to start in last week’s Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs. He was excluded when the race overfilled with pre-entries.
“He’s been just great since he’s come to us,” said McLaughlin, who began training him this year after the horse arrived from Europe.
Although Qurbaan possesses wet-course form – having also run third in a Group 3 stakes in France last year over good-to-soft going – few in the Artie Schiller are as skilled over off conditions as Blacktype.
A 7-year-old French-bred gelding trained by Christophe Clement, Blacktype enters the Artie Schiller following two consecutive wet-course victories, capped by the Oct. 8 Knickerbocker over good turf at Belmont in a race he won for the second consecutive year after taking it over similar ground in 2017. His win that preceded his 2018 Knickerbocker came over a yielding course in a Belmont allowance race Sept. 27.
“He prefers some give in the ground, which it looks like there is a chance we’ll get,” Clement said.
Joel Rosario, a week after winning three Breeders’ Cup races at Churchill Downs, returns in the irons aboard Blacktype, who along with Qurbaan and stretch-out sprinter Proforma carries co-highweight of 124 pounds. They spot the opposition between two and six pounds.
In addition to Exulting, others that would benefit from an off-the-grass scenario in the Artie Schiller are Papa Zula, another main track-only competitor; Backside of the moon, a horse with predominantly dirt experience; and the versatile Proforma, a stakes winner on turf and dirt.
Atlantic Beach Stakes
A couple races before the Artie Schiller, another stakes goes as the sixth race on the Saturday card at Aqueduct – the inaugural running of the $100,000 Atlantic Beach for 2-year-olds, scheduled for six furlongs on the grass.
Six of the seven entrants have already raced on wet turf courses. The exception, Absentee, is unraced on grass altogether. The experienced lot includes Back to his roots, second to eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Uncle Benny over good turf in the Futurity on Oct. 7 at Belmont, as well as Wallace, who led throughout in winning over yielding ground in the Soaring Free Stakes at Woodbine when he last sprinted on grass.
Wallace followed that race by fading to 12th in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes at Woodbine, a mile race in which he set the pace for nearly six furlongs.
If the Atlantic Beach is moved off the grass, Absentee has the most substantiated dirt form, having won his debut at Parx Racing before finishing second in a fast allowance won by Maximus Mischief on Oct. 20. The latter race earned him a race best 86 Beyer Speed Figure, a number 20 points higher than the fastest dirt figure posted by Back to his roots.
Qurbaan will start for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin if the $150,000 Artie Schiller Stakes remains on the turf Saturday.