Flexibility (background) finished second to Mohaymen in the Remsen Stakes – Photo by NYRA/Coglianese Photos/Chelsea Durand
One week before the $1 million Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct, trainer Chad Brown sent out his talented three-year-olds Shagaf and Flexibility to breeze a half-mile together at Belmont Park, completing their preparations for the last and most prestigious of Aqueduct’s Kentucky Derby prep races.
Both Shagaf and Flexibility have already won Derby prep races at Aqueduct this year, with Shagaf claiming the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) and Flexibility winning the Jerome Stakes (gr. III). Working over the training track at Belmont, Shagaf and Flexibility stayed together throughout the exercise and stopped the clock in :48.40 while getting the last three furlongs in :35.20.
“This is the first week that I worked them together,” Brown was quoted as saying on the Aqueduct website. “Shagaf and Flexibility are generally good work horses. They had plenty left and were well within themselves–pretty even work. That would be a normal half-mile work for them.”
Brown also shared some details on Shagaf’s training since the Gotham. “The horse is a little quirky; particularly with tight spots,” Brown explained. “If he decides he doesn’t want to do something, he will stick his toes in there. He won’t get mean or hot or aggressive, he just won’t do it. Going into the starting gate was a problem early on and loading into vans was a problem. Sometimes going into the saddling enclosure is a problem, but we can avoid that by saddling outside of it. But, unfortunately, we can’t avoid the starting gate or the van.
“My staff and the gate crew have been working with him and he has made a lot of progress,” Brown continued. “We’ve been schooling him going into the van since the Gotham, and he has been going right in, and the same with the gate. All in all, I’m proud of the horse’s progress mentally in terms of being agreeable to the stuff we want him to do.”
Shagaf will be ridden in the Wood Memorial by Irad Ortiz Jr., while Flexibility will be ridden by Manny Franco. Flexibility has not run since finishing fourth in the Withers Stakes (gr. III) at the beginning of January.
“I think Flexibility can be competitive in the Wood, particularly with the way he is training–he is training really well,” Brown remarked. “I think the layoff has done him well. As far as where he needs to be numbers-wise to compete with the top group of 3-year-old dirt horses, I think the race will do him well for his next start after that. If he is able to run good enough in the Wood, and grab some more [qualifying] points for the Derby, I think his second start off the layoff will be his best.
“We’re trying to accomplish two things here,” Brown continued. “Obviously, we would love the horse to win, but if he just runs well, and earns his way into the Derby with both a good performance and points, I’m inclined to take him to Kentucky, knowing his second start off a layoff will be his better start.”
One prominent Derby contender that will not run in the Wood Memorial is My Man Sam, runner-up to Matt King Coal in a recent allowance race at Aqueduct. Trained by Chad Brown, My Man Sam breezed a half-mile in :50 flat in company with the talented sprinter Majestic Affair, after which it was reported that My Man Sam will head to Keeneland to run in the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) on April 9th.
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